martes, 29 de julio de 2014

The Choir Project al día | 26-VII-2014

Philippe Verdelot [c. 1480/85-1530/32]: O dolce nocte à 4.
Alamire | David Skinner.
A little secular gem.

  H. Colin Slim and Stefano La Via worte about:
«I. Life.

  Practically nothing is known of Verdelot's early career; it was presumably spent in northern France before he went to northern Italy at a fairly early stage. He may have been in Venice as early as the first decade of the 16th century. According to Vasari (Le vite, 2/1568, later followed by Vincenzo Borghini in Il riposo, 1584), shortly before leaving Venice for Rome in 1511 the artist Sebastiano del Piombo painted ‘Verdelot franzese musico eccellentissimo’ together with ‘Ubretto suo compagno cantore’. Despite much research this painting has not yet been identified and dated with certainty, nor has any light been shed on the identity of Verdelot's companion. Some (including Freedberg and Slim, later questioned by Pirrotta and by Hirst) believe that Vasari was referring to a painting (once housed at the Kaiser-Freidrich Museum in Berlin, but destroyed at the end of World War II) that portrays Verdelot at a little over 40 years old (30 according to Amati-Camperi) in the company of the younger composer Hubert Naich (fig.1). Others (from Friedeberg to Ramsden), however, believe the painting is the famous Concerto at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, variously attributed to Giorgione and Titian and dating from c1505, in which Verdelot and Jacob Obrecht are depicted together with a younger, anonymous person. Yet there is still no concrete documentary evidence to support these and other hypotheses (e.g. by Prunières; Ravaglia; Einstein, 1949; Quitin, Sidona). In particular, these two attempts to identify Ubretto are hardly plausible: Obrecht, too well-known and influential to be named after Verdelot and simply as ‘cantore’, died of the plague at Ferrara in the summer of 1505 at the age of 52, while Naich, born around 1505–10, seems to have been active in Italy only from the 1530s and outside Venetian circles. It is more likely that the companion in Vasari's picture is a third and less well-known figure, perhaps Verdelot's future colleague in Florence, listed with him in the Libri di cassa of the Opera of S Maria del Fiore as ‘Bruet’ (1 July 1523) or ‘Urbech’ (28 June 1527); later Verdelot himself mentioned his inseparable companion ‘Bruett’ in one of the conversions recalled by Antonfrancesco Doni in I Marmi (1552).

  If he was in northern Italy in the first decade of the century, he seems to have moved south by the 1520s. Two of his madrigals (Torela mo vilan and O singular dolcezza) may indicate that he was in Venice and spent some time at Bologna; his music first appears in sources from the Veneto dating from the early 1520s (Fenlon and Haar). The provenance and dating of the manuscript motet Beati qui habitant, however, suggest that he was already in Rome between 1510 and 1513 (Böker-Heil, and the presence of Non pò far morte ’l dolce viso amaro» in a printed fragment (the Fossombrone fragment, c1520, see Haar, 1981) points to another sojourn in Rome around 1520.

  Verdelot arrived in Florence in May of 1521; he may have taken part in meetings at the Orti Oricellari, where he would have met Machiavelli and other republican intellectuals. It is unlikely, however, that he would have participated in the Oricellari’s anti-Medicean plots against his first and most important Florentine patron, Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici. He was probably offered service at Cardinal Giulio’s court before attaining two of the most prestigious musical positions in the city: maestro di cappella at the baptistry of S Maria del Fiore (from 24 March 1522 at the latest to 7 September 1525) and at the cathedral (2 April 1523 to 28 June 1527). In this period Verdelot seems to have been away from the city at least twice, once between 4 December 1523 and 16 January 1524, when he was chosen together with two singers of the cathedral to accompany Giulio de’ Medici to Rome on the occasion of the latter’s elevation to the papacy (as Clement VII). In the Dialogo della musica (1544) and I marmi, Antonfrancesco Doni showed Verdelot’s assimilation into Florentine social, artistic and political life in the 1520s, citing two seven-part madrigals and a frottola (all of which are now lost), and noting that Verdelot’s name was a byword for superior musicianship.

  During the Florentine republic (1527–30) Verdelot probably allied himself against papal and imperial forces seeking to return Florence to the Medici. Doni observed in I marmi: ‘I know that Verdelot did not willingly suffer these praises given to the Spanish, as the partisans quickly discovered!’. Several of Verdelot’s motet texts refer to the war, famine and pestilence which afflicted the last republic. Like Michelangelo, Verdelot was apparently forgiven, perhaps posthumously, for his anti-Medici position: the staunch supporter of the Medici, Cosimo Bartoli, in his Ragionamenti of 1567 described Verdelot as ‘amicissimo’ (probably referring to the period before 1527, when Bartoli fled Florence).

  It is not known whether Verdelot was in Florence during the siege (1529–30), whether he survived it and, if so, whether he remained in Florence afterwards or went elsewhere. It has been suggested (Hersh, 1963) that the madrigal Italia, Italia, ch’hai sì longamente refers to Rome under Paul III (1534–49), although like Italia mia benché ’l parlar and Trist’Amarilli mia it could equally well refer to the sack of Rome in 1527. There is no evidence for dating any other of Verdelot’s music after about 1530. He was definitely dead some time before 1552 for Ortenzio Landi (Sette libri de cathalogi, 1552) wrote: ‘Verdelot, the Frenchman, was singular in his time’.

  A passage in Doni’s Dialogo della musica seems to imply that by 1544 Verdelot’s music (at least his celebrated setting of Petrarch’s Passer mio solitario) was already regarded as old-fashioned; but other 16th-century commentators testify that it was still performed and highly appreciated throughout the 1550s and 60s. His madrigals continued to be reprinted almost without interruption until 1566. In 1534 Pietro Aretino wrote approvingly of a performance of four singers and a lutenist of Divini occhi sereni which, although first published in 1533, did not appear in an arrangement for lute and voice (by Willaert) until 1536. Andrea Calmo (c1544, in 1548, and c1560) mentioned Verdelot among great madrigal composers, including Arcadelt, Willaert, Rore and Perissone Cambio. Around 1549 Antonfrancesco Grazzini (‘il Lasca’) spoke of young people, presumably in Florence, who were singing ‘certain five-voice madrigals by Verdelot and Arcadelt’. Lodovico Guicciardini (Descrittione, 1567) included Verdelot among those composers between Josquin and Clemens non Papa ‘who restored music to its true perfection’, while Bartoli (Ragionamenti, 1567) believed Verdelot's madrigals capable of expressing the ‘propriety of words’ with impressive faithfulness and power.

II. Works.

  Both of Verdelot’s extant masses are related to Richafort’s four-voice motet Philomena praevia. The Missa Philomena parodies it and quotes its opening point of imitation as a head-motif in the superius at the beginnings of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo and Sanctus, and the motet’s opening motif appears in the tenor of the five-voice Agnus Dei. The other mass borrows for its Kyrie several motifs from the secunda pars of Philomena praevia. (Böker-Heil conjectured that the scribe may have added Verdelot’s name to the piece in the belief that he was copying Missa Philomena.)

  Verdelot wrote about 58 motets, displaying the early 16th-century preference for this genre. Böker-Heil proposed three main stylistic phases. In the earliest he included Sancta Maria succurre miseris and Gaudeamus omnes in Domino; their melodic style with conjunct progressions, considerable melismas, narrow-range and short, closed phrases resembles that of Mouton (particularly his Non nobis Domine and Ave fuit prima salus, both composed around 1510) and led Böker-Heil to suggest dates for Verdelot’s early style period as from about 1510 to about 1520. Tanto tempore vobiscum sum honours Verdelot’s name saint, Philip, and its opening motif, re re sol, corresponds to the vowels in ‘Verdelot’. Gaudete omnes et letamini is also written in this ‘early’ style. Dunning believed that it was written in celebration of Giulio de’ Medici’s election as Pope Clement VII in November 1523.

  The motets of Böker-Heil’s ‘middle’ period (c1520–25) reveal a more declamatory style and a concern that the melody should adequately express textual rhythms. Examples of this later style are Ad Dominum cum tribularer and Gaudent in celis.

  A final mature phase is evident, chiefly in motets for more than four voices, including O dulcissime Domine Jesu Christe and Si bona suscepimus and particularly the motets such as Congregati sunt and Letamini in Domino which celebrate Florentine revivals of Savonarola’s theological and political doctrines during the last republic or relate to the plague, famine and strife that beset Florence between 1527 and 1530. All are characterized by fewer rhythmic contrasts and melismas in non-imitative passages, longer note values, short phrases often emphasizing one note and rarely exceeding a 5th or a 6th in compass, and close attention to the unifying of text and music, both accentually and symbolically.

  Although not as prolific as Josquin, Mouton, Gombert, Clemens non Papa or Willaert, Verdelot nonetheless influenced his contemporaries and later motet and mass composers. Among others, Arcadelt, Palestrina, Gombert, Lassus and Morales parodied his motets. Si bona suscepimus appeared frequently in 16th-century sources: it is found in at least six printed anthologies, 27 manuscripts and 11 intabulations. In 1545 it even served as theatrical music in a German play.

  The surprisingly small number of chansons by Verdelot seems to confirm his early departure from France. Seule demeure et despourvue is closer stylistically to Josquin than to the later Parisian chanson and Qui la dira la peine, a virtuoso quadruple canon (8 ex 4), resembles the work of Mouton. The addition of a voice to an existing work, Janequin’s chanson La guerre, is another retrospective trait.

  Verdelot’s most important contribution is as a pioneer of the genre of the madrigal. His partial setting  of Petrarch’s sonnet Non pò far morte ’l dolce viso amaro appeared in the first printed book of madrigals (the Fossombrone fragment) around 1520. The piece bears the hallmarks of the earliest madrigals: largely homophonic texture and syllabic text setting with a heavy reliance on melodic and rhythmic repetition. In these features Haar (1981) saw traces of the frottola, the improvisatory tradition and also the French chanson of the early 16th century (as represented in the early Petrucci prints) – all genres that have been thought to be sources for the early madrigal style. Two Florentine manuscripts (I-Bc Q21, copied c1526, and the Newberry-Oscott partbooks, c1528), both copied by Giovanpietro Masaconi, together with a single alto partbook of Northern Italian provenance (US-NH Misc.Ms179, c1525), contain many other early settings for four to six voices. Many were composed in Florence and Medicean Rome around 1520–27, although called madrigals only in collections printed from 1530.

  Occasions and composition dates can be conjectured for several of the madrigals. The homophonic setting of Panfilo Sasso’s strambotto Quando madonna io veng' a contemplarte may have been composed as early as around 1520: not only are some of its stylistic features typical of strambotto settings in Petrucci’s and Antico’s early books, but its cantus part is included together with a lira da braccio in a female portrait (Rome, Spada Gallery, no.52) by an unidentified artist of north central Italy, perhaps Paolo Morando (‘Il Cavazzola’) who died in 1522 (Slim, 1988). Haymè ch’abandonato and Mandàti qui d'Amor may have been carnival songs for Florence, and if so, would date from about 1522–7. Ardenti miei sospiri and Non mai donna più bella, naming the courtesan Tullia d’Aragona, and «Tu che potevi sol» may have been inspired by Verdelot’s visit to Rome in 1523–4. Amor io sento l’alma, a setting of Machiavelli’s ballata to his mistress Barbera Salutati, dates from about 1523–7.

  Five madrigals in the Newberry-Oscott partbooks have texts by Machiavelli, four of them setting canzoni from his plays, La Clizia and La Mandragola, first performed with their canzoni in 1525 and 1526 respectively. (Machiavelli, in a letter of 3 January 1526, mentioned that the canzoni of La Mandragola had already been set to music.) Verdelot also set choruses to two Florentine tragedies, Orfeo’s lament by Poliziano and Tullia by Ludovico Martelli; Slim (1983) suggested that the latter chorus, Quante lagrime, aimè, quanti sospiri, was probably composed ‘in the mid-1520s when Martelli and Verdelot were both in Florence’. Three pieces (Italia, Italia, ch’hai sì longamente, Italia mia benché ’l parlar and Trist’Amarilli mia) date from after the sack of Rome in 1527.

  There are many problems in the attribution of these pieces to Verdelot. Out of a corpus of about 147 madrigals, ten bear unsolved conflicting attributions to leading contemporaries and another 48 appear anonymously in printed and manuscript collections in which, admittedly, Verdelot is the best represented composer. Of the anonymous works, six survive only in manuscript (three uniquely in the Newberry-Oscott partbooks), 29 are mostly in printed anthologies of various genres, and the remaining 13 are unique in the so-called Primo libro a cinque, of which only two parts are extant (without frontispiece, index or attributions) and only seven pieces of 21 can be confidently attributed to Verdelot based on concordances with other sources. Similarities of style among the early madrigalists make definitive ascriptions difficult, but it is possible to be reasonably certain about authorship in some cases.

  The madrigals are set to a wide variety of poetic forms: ballatas, canzoni and their derivatives, 16th-century madrigals, sonnets (sometimes shortened), ottave rime, Trecento-like madrigals and villottas; there is one capitolo (O pessimo destino), one hybrid form similar to that of a canto carnascialesco (Haymè ch’abandonato) and two works are in prose (O singular dolcezza and Chi bussa?). The early madrigal was sometimes strophic. Five canzoni and two ballatas have more than one stanza in their poetic sources; La bella donna a cui donasti’ il core requires its ensuing stanzas in order to make grammatical sense. The majority of the poetic texts are of a clear petrarchist bent and are dedicated to the sufferings of love, they make generous use of antithesis, oxymoron and more or less obvious sexual metaphor.

  It is possible to identify two opposing tendencies in Verdelot’s musico-poetic exegesis: one formalist and little interested in a deep ‘reading’ of the poetic text, and the other more experimental and already modern in expression. (These two approaches cannot, however, be associated with distinct ‘phases’ of a linear stylistic development like that reported by Böker-Heil in regards to the composer’s sacred production.) In many ways Verdelot’s compositional practice is not very different from that of his contemporaries active in Florence and Rome. Homophonic chordal writing, sometime with textual declamation lightly staggered, is employed with the same frequency as imitative counterpoint, with ample display of florid melismatic figuration and decorated cadences (especially in the five- and six-voice madrigals); not infrequently the two types of writing alternate in the same setting. Each poetic line is set by a single musical phrase, delimited more or less clearly by cadences; similar cadential figures, or cadences on the same pitch, are often used to emphasize textual assonance (Dentr’al mio cor is one of the most notable examples). A high degree of tonal coherence, a tendency towards a restricted melodic ambitus, a straightforward harmonic language, substantial rhythmic uniformity and the recurrence of small rhythmic and melodic fragments (or even entire phrases and sections, which in some pieces give a semi-strophic character) are among the expedients adopted to assure unity of form and affect. Also typical is the adoption of cadential extensions in a function of closure, a technique already found in the motet and chanson of the period, but used here to expressive as well as structural ends. The use of musical pictorialism, dissonance and false relations is still contained and usually involves only a few key words, never seriously disturbing the unity of the overall affect. While usually showing an acute sensibility to the poetic text, Verdelot does not always demonstrate an interest in preserving its intelligibility. The text of Donna la fiamma sete, for example, is obscured by the pervasive superimposition of different verses. Indeed, he sometimes seems little interested in the poem's content, as, for example, in the unusually restrained settings of two laments, Occhi infelici and La dolce vista e ’l bel sguardo soave. Often the demands of superficial formal symmetry or textual metre and prosody take precedence over expressive considerations.

  Elsewhere Verdelot experimented with every possible compositional technique to exegetical and expressive ends. He had at his disposal a rich cadential vocabulary – innovations such as the deceptive and ‘evaporated’ cadence as well as the established plagal, phrygian and half cadences – which he used in a highly expressive manner. He also made extensive use of contrasting textures, especially in the five- and six-part madrigals. Even in the four-voice works, sudden reductions to a three-voice quasi-fauxbourdon texture are used in a way that looks forward to the madrigals of Rore and even Monteverdi. Also forward-looking is his treatment of syllabic declamation with an attention to the text that approaches the later ‘recitative’ style, most evident in the four-voice works (La bella man mi porse is a good example).

  Like his motets, Verdelot’s madrigals were widely known throughout the 16th century. In the Intavolatura of 1536, Willaert edited personally the arrangement for lute of 22 pieces from the Primo libro; Claudio Merulo, in the last, 1566 edition of Verdelot’s first two four-voice collections, tried to adapt them to later taste. Parody by other madrigalists, including Arcadelt, Berchem, Scotto, Gero and Doni, was also frequent. Razzi used «Quanto sia lieto il giorno» for several laudi. There are parody masses by Berchem, Guerrero, G. Alberti and Monte and A. Rosso.»

  This little madrigal is an absolutely masterwork. The beggining is fantastic, with homophonic witting.
His four-parts are imbricated in wonderful manner. On only few bars, this pieces borns and ends in an unique melodic arc.

  The performance of Alamire | David Skinner is absolutely amazing. All lines are delicate and elegant in highest degree. The character of this piece is easily assumed.
A wonderful example of music can be brief but incredibly intense.

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