Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Magdalena Żuradzka (Jagiellonian University of Cracow, Poland)

The aspect of the concertato technique in the primo libro di madrigali concertati (1624) of Tarquinio Merula

There are some incomplete pages in the history of the 17th-century Italian madrigal.  One of them is the life and work of Tarquinio Merula (1595–1665) – composer, violinist and organist connected with central Lombardy.  For a long time Merula’s name has been primarily associated with instrumental, and in some cases religious, music, while his secular output fell into oblivion.  For this reason my research is mostly dedicated to this field of his heritage, in particular to Il primo libro di madrigali concertati (1624), together with a critical edition.  In the process of analysis I took into consideration all the most important components of musical structure.

  1. Different kinds of melody are distinguished according to three criteria: as regards the way the text is treated (syllabic/melismatic); as regards the kind and the range of pitches (scalar/leaps motion, repetition, leads over chord pitches); and as regards selection of pitch types (diatonic/chromatic).
  2. Rhythm and its relation to the canzoni.
  3. Contrapuntal structure.
  4. Rhetorical aspects (emphatic figures, imitazione della natura, Augenmusik, holistic interpretation of the text.

Nevertheless I pay more attention to the concertato technique, which defines the whole output of Merula.  In this book of madrigals for 4 to 8 voices he presents a kaleidoscope of multiple ways of treating the concertato principle (the last madrigal, written for two choirs, amounts to a kind of homage to Venetian polychoral practice).  The very flexibility of the term concertato, and the variety of its applications, confirm the fact that concertato may be generally summed up as a principle of contrast.

I distinguish four characteristics of concertato technique in Merula’s book:

  1. Antithetic construction of phrases.
  2. Progressive structures.
  3. Variation elements.
  4. Changeability of texture and voices.

The madrigali concertati reflect important developments probably introduced in the early Italian cantata.  In the 30s, 40s, and 50s of the 17th century there was a proportionate number of composers who made their personal contribution to this genre (Monteverdi, Rovetta, Crivelli, Pesenti, Turini).  Therefore my study not only enhances our knowledge of this prolific composer, but also enriches the field of study of the north Italian concertato madrigal tradition.

Last updated on 26 May 2004