Texas Tech Collegium Musicum
Dolcezza – Program Notes
For approximately the last 40 years of the sixteenth century, the Italian city of Ferrara was ruled by Duke Alfonso D’Este (II). His reign was marked by religious conflict, war, and a serious earthquake; but his court was also famous for its extravagant patronage of arts and literature. In particular, Alfonso cultivated a musical team that included several virtuoso female musicians, all both singers and instrumentalists, directed by the court organist and composer Luzzasco Luzzaschi (Cor mio, deh non languire; I’ mi son giovinetta; O dolcezz’ amarissime d’amore). Professional female musicians were a rarity, and Luzzaschi’s group of singers, dubbed the “Concerto delle Donne,” became sixteenth-century rock stars of a sort.
Also in the last decades of the sixteenth century, there arose a new musical style known as “monody,” characterized by the use of a solo voice, accompanied usually by solo or small group continuo. This style was described at length by composer Giulio Caccini in the preface to his famous collection of songs called Le Nuove Musiche (The New Music). The dominant aesthetic was tied to the notion that the “music should be the servant of the words,” and the vocal ornamentation, which was sometimes fast and incredibly virtuosic, was tied to rhetorical function – not virtuosity for its own sake, but for the expression of text. This style lent itself very well to dramatic purpose, and paved the path for the development of recitative, and of opera itself. Caccini was famous in his time, and his role in the birth of opera has given him a place in just about every standard music history textbook—but interestingly, in his own time, his daughter Francesca Caccini (Che t’ho fatt’io; Chí desía dí saper) was at least as famous as her father. Composer, vocalist, teacher, and lutenist, Francesca spent her entire career working for the Medici in Florence, despite the fact that the King of France unsuccessfully tried to steal her away from them. While there were gaps in her performing career during her marriages--it would not have been accepted for a well-to-do Italian to have a wife who was professional performer--Francesca was as accomplished and as prolific a composer as many of her well-known male peers, and especially known as a composer of what we might describe as sixteenth-century musical theatre. However, although we still have many of her songs and one complete dramatic piece, La Liberazione di Ruggiero, much of her staged musical work is sadly lost, as so often happened with women composers prior to the twentieth century—even the famous ones.
Francesca’s lifetime overlapped with one of the most famous Italian composers of any era, Claudio Monteverdi (O Rosetta; Dolci miei sospiri; Damigella tutta bella; Zefiro torna). Monteverdi is often somewhat incorrectly identified as the pioneer who wrote “the first opera,” L’Orfeo—actually, both Giulio Caccini and Jacopo Peri beat him to the punch—but his importance goes way beyond his great operas alone. Monteverdi was an innovator, a bridge between the madrigal style of the late Renaissance and the new concerted, more dramatic styles, with harmonic language characterized by a willingness to break earlier rules in the service of expression. Monteverdi’s skill at blending the old and the new styles is evident in masterpieces such as the 1610 Vespro della beata vergine, and he was equally at home with major, multi-movement works and lighthearted canzonette. Three of our Monteverdi pieces fall into the latter category—simple, strophic songs from his 1607 Scherzi musicali. The fourth, Zefiro torna, is from his 1632 Scherzi musicali (republished posthumously in the Ninth Book of Madrigals), and is certifiably one of the “greatest hits” of the seventeenth century, with breathtakingly virtuosic vocals over a repeating “ground bass” harmonic progression.
The fourth composer represented in this concert is Biagio Marini. A generation younger than Monteverdi, the two probably knew each other, since Marini was a young violinist at Saint Mark’s in Venice during the time when Monteverdi was the maestro di cappella there. Marini wrote both vocal and instrumental music, and is more well-known for the latter, although his vocal works included sacred music, monody, concerted madrigals, and strophic songs such as Novello Cupido and O dolci brine, which we will hear tonight. The original prints of these songs include a kind of guitar chord notation called alfabeto, in which a chord is signified by a letter of the alphabet and the actual left hand position is indicated in tablature. The horizontal lines represent the 5 strings of a baroque guitar (with the top line representing the equivalent of the fifth string on a modern guitar—upside-down from modern tab) and the frets indicated by the numbers. Here’s an alfabeto chart from a publication by seventeenth-century composer Carlo Calvi:
Guitarists sitting in the audience may wonder why the chord that is obviously our modern C chord is marked B, and why our D chord is marked C. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italian guitarists would have thought in terms of do, re, mi, and so on—NOT C, D, E, as we do. The designation “A” therefore had nothing to do with our A chord, but was simply the chord played most often--G. Therefore, A, B, and C are actually the chords G, C, and D. Confused yet?
The instruments you will hear in this concert include recorder, violin, viola da gamba, harpsichord, and two baroque guitars. The harpsichord was built by Gerald Self, based in San Antonio, and is used tonight courtesy of Caprock Early Music, who acquired the instrument by way of a generous grant from the Helen Jones Foundation. The viola da gamba is one of five owned by the School of Music. The other instruments belong to their respective players, including the two baroque guitars, which were commissioned by Roger Landes and the Collegium’s director Angela Mariani from luthier Timothy G. Johnson, who is based in Hewitt, Texas, and specializes in historical instruments.
Thank you very much for coming to our performance! Our heartfelt thanks to St. John’s Methodist Church, Justine Halamicek, Clint Barrick, KTTZ Texas Tech Public Broadcasting, Dr. Chris Smith and the TTU Vernacular Music Center, Caprock Early Music Associates, Roger Landes, Dr. Kim Pineda, and Dr. Quinn Patrick Ankrum. A very special thanks tonight also goes to TTU School of Music Director William Ballenger, for all the years of support, shared vision, enthusiasm, and willingness to purchase instruments with names like “gamba” and “sackbut.” We could not have done it without you.
O rosetta Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Cor mio den non languire Luzzascho Luzzaschi (1545-1607)
I’ mi son giovinetta Luzzascho Luzzaschi
Novello Cupido Biagio Marini (1594-1663)
Chí desía dí saper che cosa è amore Francesca Caccini (1587- after 1641)
Dolci miei sospiri Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643
O dolcezz’ amarissime d’amore Luzzascho Luzzaschi
O dolci brine matutine Biagio Marini
Che t’ho fatt’io Francesca Caccini
Zefiro torna Claudio Monteverdi
Damigella tutta bella Claudio Monteverdi
Texas Tech Collegium Musicum
Dr. Quinn Patrick Ankrum, voice
Justine Halamicek, voice
Robin Phillips, voice
Leslie Ratner, voice
Jennifer Townsley, voice
Rob DeVet, harpsichord
Prof. Roger Landes, baroque guitar
Dr. Angela Mariani, baroque guitar
Dr. Kim Pineda, traverso, recorder
Oryana Racines, violin
Stephanie Rizvi-Stewart, viola da gamba