[Pt. I Proj.1] ~Research point 1.0: Renaissance madrigals

[Pt. I Proj.1] ~Research point 1.0: Renaissance madrigals

[Pt. I Proj.1] ~Research point 1.0: Renaissance madrigalsListen to these five madrigals composed around the turn of the Seventeenth Century.

Links to Listening Log Entries below;

Choose two to compare and contrast. Write around 200 words about your chosen composers in your learning log. With reference to the scores, write a further two hundred words comparing the styles and features of the compositions you choose.

Check the Renaissance Listening Log entries for full logs of the Madrigals listed above. See below for the two chosen composer comparison.


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.

For a longer Monteverdi biography please go here.

Thomas Morley (1157-1602) was born in Norwich, where he began his career as a chorister at the local Cathedral. He left to study for a bachelor’s degree in music at Oxford. Once completed he moved to London and became the organist at St Paul’s. He studied under William Byrd and considered him somewhat of a mentor. Byrd’s influence is scarcely noticeable in Morley’s music who is primarily known for his 11 collections of ’catchy’ singable Italian influenced madrigals. He also wrote some sacred music and instrumental music for keyboards and for the English type of ensemble called ‘broken consort.


‘Ah, Dolente Partita’ is from Monteverdi’s fourth book of madrigals, published in 1603, making it and 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’.

For a more extensive listening log entry for ‘Ah! Dolente partita‘ go to Listening Log section.

Thomas Morley published ’Now is the month of Maying’ in ‘First Book of Ballets to Five Voyces’ in 1595. It is in fact a ‘ballett’ designed to dance to, with a stereotypical ‘fa-la-la’ chorus and a strophic structure (rather than through-composed like a madrigal). It has a chordal/homophonic texture rather than favouring imitational polyphony. Although Morley uses some word painting techniques, the piece is much more ‘music driven’ than Monteverdi’s madrigal. The dance-y nature also makes it quicker and lighter and the textual subject matter is altogether cheerier, celebrating spring and frolicking, with very English ‘tongue in cheek’ sexual innuendoes.

For a more extensive listening log entry for Now is the month of Maying’ go to Listening Log section.