Musica Spirituale, Libro Primo (Venice, 1563)

By Stoycos, Sarah M. | Notes, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Musica Spirituale, Libro Primo (Venice, 1563)


Stoycos, Sarah M., Notes


Musica spirituale, libro primo (Venice, 1563). Edited by Katherine Powers. (Recent Researches in the Music of the Renaissance, 127.) Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, Inc., c2001. [Acknowledgments, p. vi; introd., p. vii-xxix; texts and trans., p. xxx-xxxvii; 3 plates; score, 151 p.; crit. report, p. 153-55. ISBN 0-89579-472-1. $80.]

Spiritual madrigals had been composed and published long before Venetian printer Girolamo Scotto issued Giovanni del Bene's anthology Musica spirituals, libra primo, di canzon et madrigali, a cinque voci in 1563, four years after Del Bene's death. Yet this was the first collection comprised exclusively of spiritual madrigals and the first to describe its contents specifically as "spirituale." Until this time, isolated spiritual madrigals appeared in publications side by side with their secular counterparts. In her introduction to the new edition of the Musica spirituale published by A-R Editions in its series Recent Researches in the Music of the Renaissance, Katherine Powers convincingly connects the overt recognition and promotion of the spiritual madrigal with the renewed religious fervor stimulated by the Counter-Reformation. Del Bene (ca. 1512-1559), a priest and author, compiled this landmark collection long before its publication, probably for his followers in Verona, but certainly the posthumously printed anthology of twelve spirituai madrigals reached a much larger audience. In fact, Powers suggests that this compilation "may be credited with giving the spiritual madrigal recognition as a distinct type" (p. viii) and may have inspired other similar collections that started appearing in print during the following decade. Given the pivotal place of the Musica spirituale in the development of the spiritual madrigal, this modern edition is long overdue.

David Nutter was the first to write about the Musica spirituale. at length ("On the Origins of the North-Italian 'Madrigale Spirituale'," in Atti del XIV congresso delta Società intemazionale di musicologia: Trasmissione e recezione delle forme di cultura musicale, 3 vols., ed. Angelo Pompilio et al., 3:877-89 [Turin: EDT, 199O]). More recently, Powers has placed the collection in a broader context in her Ph.D. dissertation "The Spiritual Madrigal in Counter-Reformation Italy: Definition, Use, and Style" (University of California, Santa Barbara, 1997). Since the Musica spirituale was never reprinted after its initial publication, the basis for Powers's edition is almost entirely the sole extant complete copy of the 1563 imprint held by the Archive Musical, Catedral de Valladolid, complemented by a few concordances for the works that occur in other publications. In keeping with what we have come to expect from A-R Editions, the physical features of the publication are of a high quality, and Powers provides readers and performers with side-by-side English translations of the Italian texts, incipits preceding each madrigal to show the original notation, critical notes, facsimile reproductions, and an extensive introduction.

Powers's command of the subject matter is readily apparent throughout the introduction to the edition, which in five sections offers a general overview of the spiritual madrigal; the historical background of the Musica spirituals; a short discussion of each of the composers represented in the publication-Giovanni (Jan) Nasco (ca. 1510-1561), Lambert (Lamberto) Courtois (fl. 1542-1583), Vincenzo Ruffo (ca. 1508-1587), the obscure Grisostimo da Verona, Giovanni Contino (ca. 1513-1574; "Vereine santa, immaculata e pia" is attributed to Grisostimo in the anthology but to Contino in his Primo libra de' madrigali à cinque voci [Venice: Scotto, 156O]), Adrian Willaert (ca. 1490-1562), and Maistrejhan (Jan) da Ferrara (ca. 1485-1538); a description of the texts and their authors; and a substantial discussion on the music itself wherein Powers briefly discusses most, though not all, of the twelve works. Tacked on to the end of this final section is a partial list of other settings of the texts found in the Musica spirituale, as well as a discussion of the historical performance venues for these works. …

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