9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


Sin, Salvation and Divine Grace in the Madrigale Spirituale of the 16th and Early 17th Centuries

Paolo Cecchi

This paper deals with the topics of sin and divine salvation in the Italian madrigale spirituale of the sixteenth century. In part one I discuss how the themes of sin, penitence, and grace inspired many poetic texts, set by madrigalists, with a devotional character. In these texts different poetic and ideological traditions converge,
exemplified by such phenomena as: a) the reconsideration of Petrarch's moral or devotional lyrics in Rerum
vulgarium fragmenta and in I Trionfi, in accordance with the new Counter-Reformation doctrine; b) the imitation or the paraphrasing of biblical poetry (especially the Psalms) and certain Gospel passages; c) the use of contrafactum to transform the madrigal from a secular to a devotional work; and d) the re-elaboration of literary images and themes of the polyphonic lauda tradition.

In the context of the above-mentioned topics, I also consider the sixteenth-century production of rime sacre and the Italian translations of the Psalms. I illustrate the importance of the themes of sin and penitence in the tradition of poesia spirituale of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, particularly in the works of Vittoria Colonna, Bernardo Tasso, Gabriele Fiamma, Angelo Grillo, and Giovan Battista Marino.

In part two of my paper, I comment on a selection of madrigale spirituale books (Le lagrime del peccatore by Ludovico Agostini, Le lagrime di San Pietro by Orlando di Lasso, Quattordici sonetti spirituali di Vittoria Colonna by Pietro Vinci, and Penitenza. Madrigali spirituali a cinque voci, by Leone Leoni) from the various angles of religious function, ideological meaning, and the choice of poetry. In these works, the themes of sin and divine salvation are common to all of the texts, and indeed form the expressive cores of the books.

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Last updated on 21 March 2000 by Yo Tomita