9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


Emulation and Development: Giovanni Antonio Rigatti's "Messa e salmi, parte concertati" (1640) and the "Selva morale e spirituale" (1640/41) of Claudio Monteverdi

Linda Maria Koldau

Shortly before his death Monteverdi compiled a collection of sacred music which may be seen as a summa of his sacred works composed during his service as maestro di capella at St. Mark's in Venice. In the same year, another Venetian composer, born the year Monteverdi came to Venice, published a print virtually unknown today that he may have conceived as a counterpart to the "Selva morale e spirituale". Rigatti's "Messa e salmi, parte concertati" (1640) bears striking resemblance to Monteverdi's print, and it may be seen both as an emulation of the elder's works and as a self-conscious statement of Rigatti's own achievements in the modern concertato style.

In this paper the common aspects of both collections as well as their differences will be discussed. Large-scale concertato settings, sectional organization, recurring refrains, elements of the "stile concitato", and an inclination toward duets and ostinato-like passages are common to both composers and correspond to the up-to-date concertato idiom, whereas Monteverdi's works for solo voice in the "Selva morale" bear closer resemblance to the compositional procedures of the 10s and 20s and have no counterpart in Rigatti's print. Both collections were printed in 1640 by Magni and are dedicated to the highest members of the imperial family in Vienna. Both composers provide multiple settings of the standard Vesper psalms (multiple settings of individual psalms are rare in 17th-century prints of Vesper music), yet Rigatti's greater predilection for small-scale ostinato compositions reveals an emphasis on a North Italian concertato idiom which will become common practice only after Monteverdi's death.

The character of this new idiom will be demonstrated by a closer examination of Rigatti's "Nisi Dominus a 3 voci et 2 violini": the continual vocal-instrumental flow of this salmo arioso, its sensual sonority, and the ceaseless return of the tetrachord ostinato contribute to a highly unified character of the extensive setting. Rather than translating the textual contrasts into music, as it has become typical of the concertato settings of this psalm in the 1620s and 1630s, Rigatti turns the text into an intense adoration of divine "dulcedo". Thus, his setting demonstrates that the new, popular aria idiom is well capable of reflecting current religious concepts: the sensual musical flow appears as a literal translation of the ecstatic outpourings of Seicento mystical literature.

The results presented in this paper are part of the research done for a modern edition of Giovanni Antonio Rigatti's "Messa e salmi, parte concertati" (1640), to be published by A-R-Editions in 2000.

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Last updated on 21 March 2000 by Yo Tomita