Listening Log – [Pt. I- Proj.1]- Claudio Monteverdi’s ‘Ah, Dolente Partita’ from the fourth book of madrigals, published in 1603

Research Point: 1.0 Claudio Monteverdi’s ‘Ah, Dolente Partita’ from the fourth book of madrigals, published in 1603

Claudio Monteverdi (Cremona, 1567 – Venice, 1643). Monteverdi’s motets were first published when he was 15 years old. A couple of years later he started publishing secular music, completing five books of madrigals before his opera Orfeo, in 1607. Orfeo is generally considered the first opera. Opera emerged in Florence around 1600 and started out as a re-imagining of ancient Greek drama. Monteverdi used this dramatic structure but emphasised the words and put emotions in the foreground. Opera was born and this ‘new’ genre can be seen as a forerunner of our modern concept of a song.

‘Ah, Dolente Partita’ is from Monteverdi’s fourth book of madrigals, published in 1603, making it a transitory piece between the old style ’prima prattica’(counterpoint in the style of Palestrina) and the ‘seconda prattica’(which broke with counterpoint rules of how to prepare a dissonance). Emphasising text became Monteverdi’s calling card. He used various compositional devises for word painting, expressing meaning and emotional content, describing a very painful separation from a lover. Opening with the quintos and quantos singing in unison, the intervals gradually widen to a minor second, minor third and then a major third during the words of ‘dolente partita’.

Fig. 1. ‘Ah, fin de la ma vita’ Bar 1-5 (2019)

There is extensive word painting throughout the madrigal. For example, the lyric ‘Ah, fin de la ma vita.’ Is generally accompanied by a stepwise descending line perfectly illustrating the descent into despair, and perhaps even the descent into hell (see Fig. 1. above).


Figure 1. Lazic, S.  ‘Ah, fin de la ma vita’  Bar 1-5 (2019)


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