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The Silver Swan: Elizabethan Music's Debt to Italian Humanism

Hope Greenberg
History 225
Prof. William Metcalfe

The Silver Swan, who living, had no note
When death approached unlocked her silent throat.
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sang her first and last, and sang no more.
Farewell all joys,
Oh, death, come close mine eyes.
More geese than swans now live
More fools than wise.
- Orlando Gibbons

Edmund Fellowes, twentieth-century compiler of Elizabethan music, said of the English madrigal:

Nothing is more astonishing in the whole history of music than the story of the English school of madrigal composers. The long delay of its appearance, lagging behind the Italian school by no less than half a century,; the suddenness of its development; the extant of its output; the variety and originality as well as the fine quality of the work; the brevity of its endurance, and the completeness with which it finally collapsed; all these features combine to distinguish the madrigal school as the strangest phenomenon in the history of English music." (Kerman 1962, 255).

What was the impetus for such a movement? Arising as late as it did, can it have any connection with the humanist movement that is an integral part of the Renaissance? While it can be supposed that such a movement must be a conjunction of many factors, what traces can we find of Italian humanism in the creation of the English madrigal?

Early theorists as Boethius (ca. 480-524) and Martianus Capella (early fifth century), compiled what knowledge they could of the arts, science, and music of the ancient world. They drew from such sources as Nichomacus, Pythagoras, who saw music as measured, thus mathematical, intervals, Euclid, Aristoxenes, who saw music as pitches recognized and judged by the ear, and Ptolemy, who mixed astronomy with music and developed a tuning system. Though undergoing such mutations as one might expect over the course of a millennium, their ideas were not seriously challenged until the fourteenth century. Martianus Capella defined the trivium­grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric­while Boethius named the other four liberal arts, those related to mathematics­geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and harmonics­the quadrivium. He further divided music into three categories: musica mundana, or cosmic music, the music of the spheres, musica humana, or the music of the body and soul, and, lastly, and of least importance, musica instrumentalis, or audible music, that which we now define as music. In so doing he relegated music to the sciences, away from the creative arts. The connection of music with emotion or the expression of feeling would not occur for some time. This division would later delay the humanists, with their attention to the written arts and the arts that move, from considering music and music theory as an area worthy of study.

Musical theory continued to develop during the medieval period based on interpretations, or misinterpretations, of Boethius. As a means of classifying the chants used in church services, a theory of "modes" was developed that reached its completed form by the eleventh century. These modes were later augmented to include not only tone ranges but also rhythmic patterns. The idea of written music or musical notation was also developed during this period. These developments gradually coalesced in the eleventh century into four areas that determine how we think about music even today: 1) composition, or the idea that a musical work should exist in one form, rather than solely as improvisation; 2) musical notation, or the idea that music should be recorded and transmitted to others in written form; 3) structure, or the idea that music should follow some pre-established patterns; and 4) polyphony, the combination of multiple musical lines.

Tinctoris' statement in 1477, that no music written more than forty years before was worth hearing, may have been applauded by his contemporaries, but even they could not envision the dramatic changes that music would undergo in the next century. The fifteenth century saw a flurry of activity in the realm of music theory's development. Early humanism, as defined by Petrarch and later Boccaccio, Guarino, and Valla, was primarily an interest in the language and eloquence of the ancients. Around 1400 this interest was wedded to civic interests when such leaders of the Italian city-states as Bruni and Salutati found that the humanist fascination with the ancients accorded well with their ideas of a republic. Also, the emphasis on rhetoric as a way to move people provided a natural way of expressing these republican ideals. As a result of this interest in the classics, an interest that focused on the actual, original language of ancient authors instead of on the ideas as they had been transmitted (and transmuted) through the centuries, humanists sought out original or near-original copies of these works.

The fervor with which the early humanists ferreted out manuscripts, while initially directed at works related to the studia humanitatis, eventually, almost accidentally at first, did turn up several important works on the subject of music. As these were not of general interest, they ended up concentrated in the hands of a few collectors, awaiting translation and study, until the end of the fifteenth century. The musical humanists were further hampered by lack of training in Greek and limited access to these manuscripts; manuscripts, moreover, which were often inaccurate due to the copyists limited knowledge of the subject and which were neither documented nor dated. Thus, Valla, in his studies makes erroneous assumptions such as concluding that Bryennius, who was in actuality a fourteenth century theorist, predates Aristedes of the third century, because they both draw from Ptolemy and Nichomacus but Bryennius does not mention Aristedes (Palisca, 85). Despite these disadvantages, theories of music based on translations of earlier works continued to evolve. For example, Gallicus (1415-73) concluded that Boethius was writing not about his own time but about the Greeks, and that the Greek modes and medieval church modes were actually different (Palisca, 7).

Giorgio Valla translating (and amending) directly from several Greek sources, was one of the earliest humanists to enter the fray of musical scholarship. His encyclopedic De expetendis et fugiendis rebus opus contained five books on music. It is notable not only for its size but for the fact that it was printed, in 1501, thus allowing for its wider distribution. While it does not contain much in the way of original thought it does combine several ideas of previous theorists. He brings together Ptolemy's ideas of music representing the cosmos, Bryennius' ideas of the correlation between certain music and the seven planets, and Nichomacus' idea that the mass and speed of certain stars revolving around the earth set up specific vibrations in the medium through which they move, thus producing sound.

Following Ficino and the Platonists, Franchino Gaffurio began to replace the Christian view of the cosmos with a classical one. Widely read throughout this period, his works Theorica musice (1480) (recently translated by Walter Kurt Kreyszig), Practica musice (1496), and De harmonia musicorum instrumentorum opus (1518), while not straying far from Boethius and Pythagoras (Fenlon, 5) do begin to challenge ideas about the modes, word-music relationships, and the harmonies. (Grout, 202) He is particularly interested in the Platonic idea of the power of music over the soul, or its ability to be a moral determinant. Thus he advocates early music training for boys saying:

"Now since the nature of boys is restless and desirous of amusements all the time and on that account does not tolerate severe discipline, Plato himself orders that boys be educated in honest music, the pleasure of which most commonly offers the pathways of virtue (Palisca,193)."

In their efforts to perpetuate their ideas about the ancients, the humanists were interested in education. This interest was both a way of training scholars in the new learning and also a way of refuting Aristotelian scholasticism with its emphasis on dry logic. As might be expected, the early humanist educators were training students in rhetoric and persuasive language to be used for the service of the state--a secular education as opposed to the traditional clerical education. Music, as a sub-branch of the quadrivium, did not immediately seem like an area ripe for inclusion in the studia humanitatis. However, as ideas of music and poetry grew closer together and as music came to be seen as a way to move, it became more accepted.

The idea that music could effect human feeling and behavior was not new, but it received new impetus under the musical humanists. Drawing on the idea that the ancients used music in this way, they sought to unlock the secrets of its power. There were several efforts to re-create the actual Greek system. Glarean, a Swiss theorist, mistakenly claimed in his Dodekachordon that he had re-established the tonal system of Aristoxenus by adding four modes to the eight church modes. Nicola Vicentino , in 1555, claimed that he had found a way to "reduce ancient music to modern practice" and created the arcicembalo, a harpsichord with two keyboards capable of dividing the octave into thirty-one parts, in order to reproduce this ancient tone system. (Rome Reborn, music28.jplg)

If the Greek system itself could not be recreated, there was still interest in recreating the supposed power of their music through contemporary means. Bishop Cirillo, in a letter of 1549 summarized contemporary thought on the lack of the power of music to move:

"Music among the ancients was the most splendid of all the fine arts. With it they created powerful effects that we nowadays cannot produce either with rhetoric or with oratory in moving the passions and affections of the soul...In our times they have put all their industry and effort into the writing of imitative passages, so that while one voice says "Sanctus," another says "Sabaoth," still another says "Gloria Tua," with howling, bellowing, and stammering, so that they more nearly resemble cats in January than flowers in May." (Grout, 200)

However, Gioseffo Zarlino, while admitting that music "at present...[is] a jumbled din of voices and divers instrumental sounds, singing without taste and discretion" and thus "cannot have any effect on us worth remembering," admits some hope that "even in our times we see that music induces in us various passions in the way that it did in antiquity."

Composing did not wait upon the theorists but continued apace. While Lodovico Fogliano was defending the importance of the ear as opposed to mathematical intervals as the true way to determine consonance and dissonance, Pietro Aron was providing guidance to composers on how to actually work with multiple lines of music simultaneously. Even as early as 1497 Josquin was writing Absolon fili mi for Pope Alexander VI (in mourning for murder of his son Juan Borgia) using what would later be called musica reservata or enhancing the effect of the words through music. [Play]

The combination of music and words was the focal point of discussion among several Florentine musical humanists. In a letter from Girolamo Mei to Vioncenzo Galilei (1572) there is a discussion of the presumed power of Greek music to move the emotions. Mei (1519-1594) saw music as the natural language of emotions. Galilei later used this idea in his Dialogo della musica antica at della moderna where he also attacks the idea that the Greek modes and tonal systems were the same as those interpreted by the church. He along with Giovanni de Bardi, founder of the Florentine camerata, a group of theorist/composers dedicated to the study of ancient music for purposes of composition. Their "choice of tonality for a vocal composition [was] made according to the sentiments of the words." (Fenlon, 6) This wedding of music to poetry as a means of expressing that poetry finally brought together the humanists' dedication to the word with the composers ideas of music.

As the theory and composition of music engendered discussion and controversy, so to did the role of music in everyday life, particularly in courtly society. While Castiglione was defining music's place in courtly life, the leading Italian families were practicing it. The d'Este's, notable patrons of all the arts, helped music flourish at both Ferrara and Mantua (Fenlon,152). They brought musicians from France and Flanders, at the same time supporting the work of native composers. As described by Castiglione, a courtier (or his lady) should be able to sing at sight, to dance, and to improvise declamatory song. These abilities are to be developed not for the edification and entertainment of the masses, but as part of elegant society. This idea of a cultivated amateur was new at the time but quickly captured the imagination of the courts. Il libro de Cortegione went through many printings and became the manual for civilized behavior both in Italy and abroad. It coincided with the development of printing music with moveable type, thus working to supply the increased demand for music. It is interesting to note that the first music books printed in this manner were a book of Josquin's Masses and a book of frottole, thus showing the humanist balance between the secular and the sacred.

In 1525 Pietro Bembo published Prose della volgar lingua. In it he postulates that Petrarch had revised his poetry on occasion, not to change the thought or image of a line, but to change its sound (Palisca 1985, 355). Thus he concluded that the sounds of the words could themselves help set the tone of the poetry, not simply the descriptive powers. Zarlino concurred with this idea in a chapter of Institutioni harmoniche, where he says of Vergil:

He adapts the sonority of the verse with such art that it truly seems the sound of the words places before the eyes those things of which he speaks. (Palisca 1985, 356)
As a way of further defining the nature of poetry, Bembo suggested two categories: gravita or serious, dignified, majestic poetry, and paicevolezza or pleasing graceful, charming poetry. These divisions served to define the greatest musical form that developed in the sixteenth century, the madrigal. While there were obvious overlaps, the madrigal proper tended toward the gravita, while other forms such as the balletti and canzone, with their roots on dance music, tended toward the paicevolezza. There was a strophic musical style in the fourteenth century called a madrigal, but it seems to have had nothing to do with the style that developed so quickly and fully during this century. This form seemed to develop from three threads: northern polyphony combining with simple Italian secular songs, and given impetus by the renewed interest in Petrarchan poetry.

The rise of secular courts in Italy as well as the secularized Renaissance church, infused as they were with new wealth, became not only patrons of architecture, sculpting, painting and literature, but also patrons to music, which was beginning to be accepted as one of the fine arts. Most of these musicians were Flemish, the area that produced acknowledged masters of polyphony. Tinctoris, in 1477, praises Ockegham, Regis, Busnoys, Caron, and Fauges, all northern musicians (Fenlon 1989, 61). As late as 1558, Zarlino in his Le Institutioni harmoniche praises Adrian Willaert as "one of the rarest intellects that ever exercised musical practice...a new Pythagoras" who began to "restore music to that honor and dignity it once had." (Grout l 988, 201 ) Bishop Cirillo, who had complained so bitterly about polyphonic music, praised Arcadelt, another Flemish composer, for his expressive style in the madrigal Ahimeèdov'è 'I bel viso.

The humanist's acceptance of the combination of music and poetry as a reflection of ancient practice together with the support of patrons produced an atmosphere that allowed the madrigal, as well as other forms, to develop quickly. The madrigal itself was a through-composed piece, usually based on a Petrarchan sonnet, with lines of seven or eleven syllables. It was written for four voices, with the melody in the topmost voice. A single voice with instruments playing the other parts was also an accepted practice. Like much of the secular art of the period, the themes often depicted pastoral settings filled with allegorical characters in various stages of requited or unrequited love. As mentioned, it was dominated by non-Italians until about the middle of the sixteenth century. From that point until it's metamorphosis and replacement with other forms early in the seventeenth century, it was dominated by Italian composers. These composers were increasingly experimental in their approach.

A typical example of a mid-century madrigalist's work can be found in Luca Marenzio (1553-1599). He writes first for four voices, later for five and six, apparently no longer needing Aron's advice about how to compose for more than one voice at a time. His madrigals are filled with obvious musical allusions to the words such as running streams, chattering nymphs, etc., but they also contain musical subtleties, images and moods set by the music to bring greater expression to the words. For example, in the piece Cantate Ninfe the Cupids, joking and laughing together, are aptly portrayed by the music which bounces up and down between the voices. In another work, Passando con pensier, the mood goes from a quiet and thoughtful opening, to mirthful as ladies pass by picking flowers and berries, to terror as a thunderstorm and a snake arrive simultaneously, to panic as they flee dropping their prizes, to wonder and admiration as the originally thoughtful narrator is "so transfixed that day, looking at them" that he doesn't "notice that [he] was completely soaked." (Concerto Delle Donne l990, 13)

As can be seen in the works of Luzzasco Luzzaschi (1545-1607) the madrigal become increasingly chromatic. Partly as a way to achieve greater expression for the gravita poetry, and partly through exploration of such tonal systems as those created by Vincentino, Luzzaschi's work is often surprising and sophisticated. In particular, his works written for the famous Ladies of Ferrara, the Duke of Ferrara's personal professional singing group, are amazingly expressive pieces where the voices, despite being closely interwoven, never seem clumsy. Influenced by Luzzaschi and fascinated by Vincentino's arcicembalo, Gesualdo explored chromaticism to the full. With text filled with passion, death, love, and sorrow, Gesualdo's excruciatingly lovely madrigals wring the most out of harmonies and modulations that, like a much later Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, never seem to resolve. While Gesualdo may say in his madrigal Non T'amo, O Voce Ingrata that "Alas, one cannot die of sorrow and pain," he, through the music, brings one as close to those states as any composer can.

While the Italians were dominating the musical scene of the sixteenth century, the stage was being set in quite another part of Europe for an outpouring of musical creativity in many ways never equaled since. England had a reasonably strong musical heritage, and like other European states, had it's own national musical characteristics and peculiarities. Music was accepted as an area of study in the universities before it's counterparts on the continent. Certain practices, such as the use of thirds and sixths, were accepted as consonances early in the English style. Long melismatic passages over single syllables were another characteristic of the music. Also, sacred music was being written to five or six voices, as opposed to the predominant continental practice of writing for four voices. [Play]

The War of Roses, the founding of what Henry Tudor hoped would be a new and lasting dynasty, and the religious and political vicissitudes of early sixteenth century England all took their toll on the support of music. However, as befitted a Renaissance prince, Henry VIII's household included a number of musicians. The stories of his own prowess as a composer and performer, even if exaggerated, suffice to show that music was deemed a necessary part of a gentleman's and lady's list of accomplishments. Despite the fact that Hoby's translation of The Courtier did not appear in England until 1561, the ideas and precepts that he recorded were not unfamiliar to the English.

English secular music of the mid-century is light in character. There are hunting songs with amorous allusions, or songs celebrating aspects of social life. There is processional music or "outdoor" music with it's open sound played by louder instruments such as brass and drums, and there is music for dancing. There is also "indoor" or individual music, lute playing and virginals. But the greatest music of the early-mid century was the church music. Composed in the English style, it is both melodic, polyphonic, and often quite complex despite the admonition accredited variously to Archbishop Cranmer and Edward VI to sing one note per syllable . Such composers as Thomas Tallis, John Taverner, and later William Byrd composed in the English style throughout the bewildering religious changes, although Byrd's few forays into the madrigal realm made it obvious that he could easily have done otherwise. [Play]

In 1588, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, died, the Armada foundered off the coast, and the Italian's invaded England. This last was, of course, no physical invasion, but rather an invasion of style. There had been a growing interest among the merchant and upper classes of England, for things Italian. This might have been due to the perceived brilliance of the secular Italian courts by new nobility and a rising, wealthy merchant class. In any case, Italian music was definitely in vogue. 1588 is the year of the publication of Byrd's Psalms, Sonnets and Songs [Play] which are not directly in the Italian style, and which did not sell as well as the composer could have wished. But 1588 is also the year that Nicholas Yonge published a collection of Italian madrigals translated into English, the Musica Transalpina. In the dedicatory letter he describes his reasons for this publication, citing the "great number of gentlemen and merchants of good accounts, as well of this realm as of foreign nations" who meet daily in his house to sing. Their preference is for Italian music, for whose "sweetness of air" are "very well liked of all." (Kerman, 51) However, not all the gentleman are conversant in Italian and so an English version of these "very well liked" works is in order.

Thus, Musica Transalpina was not the introduction of Italian music to England, but rather served as a catalyst. English musicians were familiar with Italian styles both through manuscripts that filtered into the country and through the works of the highly praised Ferrabosco, a transplanted Italian much feted in England but considered rather second rate in Italy. In addition, English instrumentalists travelled and were known on the continent for their virtuosity. But the English madrigal was almost completely based on the Italian model. In the twelve years following Musica Transalpina there were four more Italian madrigal collections published. The next one, Italian Madrigals Englished, translated by the poet Thomas Watson, was more a work in praise of Marenzio, from whom the bulk of the madrigals were drawn. According to Kerman, Watson was "doing his best to nationalize foreign models for English consumption." (Kerman, 57) Kerman does question Watson's translation of the poetry seeing it at times as more concerned with meaning over music and at other times as more concerned with music over meaning.

The reliance of the madrigals on poetry, so integral to the Italian madrigal, is somewhat absent in the English version. Despite Bruce Pattison's attempts in his Music and Poetry of the English Renaissance to show links between the "New Poets" of the late Elizabethan era and the madrigalists, the fact remains that the English set very few of the wealth of great poems being written by the likes of Spenser and Sidney to music. Whether it was the result of a lack of a poetical tradition in England like that of Italy and its veneration of Petrarch, or whether it was simply an outgrowth of the strong instrumental tradition, the poetry of most English madrigals is obviously not meant to stand on its own. The English seem quite happy to follow the Italians to a point but no further.

The Englishman most credited with developing the Italian style in England is Thomas Morley (1558-1603). He received his B.Mus. from Oxford in 1588 and, after four years as organist at St. Giles and later at St. Paul's, he was appointed to the Chapel Royal in 1592. (Fellowes, 100) His publications are evidence of his interest with the Italian model. In 1593 he published Canzonets to Three Voices, a collection of songs for three voices, which he dedicated to Mary, Countess of Pembroke, Sidney's sister. The following year he published Madrigals to Four Voices, the first English collection to use the word madrigal in its title. He was also responsible for publication of two of the five anthologies of Italian madrigals. In addition his two publications in 1595 of The First Book of Ballets to Five Voices and The First Book of Canzonets to Two Voices were published in both English and Italian.

Morley preferred the lighter variations of the Italian madrigal, called the ballett, or fa-la, due to its use of those syllables as a refrain, and the canzonet, which he describes as "little short songs which is in composition of the music a counterfeit of the madrigal." (Morley 295) However, his works under these titles show much greater originality and development than their Italian counterparts. The Italian fa-la's as can be heard in such examples as those of Gastoldi, treat the fa-la section as an imitation of the worded portions of the piece. Morley is quite different. His fa-la's even in a relatively simple piece like My Bonnie Lass She Smileth are intricately woven. [Play] In Fyer, Fyer they are almost instrumental-like flights of complexity. [Play]

In addition to his compositions, Morley is known for his textbook of Elizabethan music, the Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practical Music, published in 1597. Written in the dialog form favored by humanists, it sets out to provide the reader with a thorough grounding in musical practice of the time. The dialog occurs between several characters who sport properly Greek names, of whom the student, Philomathes, embarrassed by his inability to sight-read on request at an after dinner gathering, seeks out Master Onorimus to instruct him, and thence the reader, in these matters. The book, while obviously not meant, as Morley would infer, for the general reader, is nevertheless a wealth of information about musical practice of the time. He draws from "all who ever wrote of the art of music" (Morley, 121) such as Franchinus Gaffurio, Peter Aron and Glarean, in his attempt to reconcile their theories of the modes with practice. He also instructs the reader to have the music follow the meaning of the words, a sentiment of which Bishop Cirillo would have no doubt approved.

The English madrigalists all show interest in the use of music to highlight the meaning of the words. This can be as obvious as word painting or very subtle. For example, in Dowland's Sorrow Stay the passage "down, down, down I fall" is a descending line of notes while "down and arise" brings the line back up again. [Play] Another often used example is that of Weelkes in As Vesta Was from Latmos Hill Descending. In it he speaks of nymphs running down a hill and the music follows suit with quick descending passages in each of the voices. The words "two by two," are sung by two voices, then "three by three" requires three voices and "all alone" is a single voice. Other examples abound. Morley's ballett Fyer, Fyer is a striking example of words and music that instantly evoke leaping flames. [Play] A later passage "O cast, cast water" seems to toss the notes out, while his Ay Me and Alas follow the madrigalesque convention of a slowed tempo, minor key, and generally dolorous sound. [Play]

Following Morley in the exploration of the Italian madrigal were several composers, the acknowledged greatest of whom were John Wilbye (1574-1638) and Thomas Weelkes (1575-1623). Weelkes is unusual in that he did not use any Italian verse, concentrating solely on native poetry. He does, however, use many of the Italian techniques, such as word painting, as mentioned above. He also experiments with chromaticism. A particularly fine example can be heard in O Care, Thou Wilt Dispatch Me, where even the fa-la section becomes mordant and passionate. But he is not above using chromaticism to parody the excesses of some of the madrigals. In Ay Me, Alas, Hey Ho he sets to a mournful, despairing piece the subject of a girl's dying pet monkey. His light and amorous Hark, all ye lovely saints above is an examplar of these techniques. [Play]

One of the most musical families of the age were the Kystons of Hengreave Hall. And it is there that John Wilbye lived and composed. His madrigals are noted for their sophistication and smoothness. He does not rely on word painting but rather experiments with purely musical devices. His most often heard work is numbered among the works collected by Morley in 1597 in praise of Elizabeth, The Triumphs of Oriana, based on a similar idea titled Il Triomfi di dori. Wilbye's piece, The Lady Oriana, ends with the same words as all the pieces in the collection "Thus sang the shepherds and nymphs of Diana, Long live fair Oriana," but they are fantasy of phrases caught up from one voice to the next across six voices interweaving the words "Long live fair Oriana."

Much of the music of the period, with the exception of fantasies written to show off the virtuosity of instrumental players, was originally written for voices. These parts could also be played by consorts or broken consorts of instruments, either playing all parts or accompanying a soloist. The development of the piece written specifically for a soloist, usually accompanied by a lute, followed hard on the heels of the madrigal. Lute songs, or lute airs as they were known, covered a broad range of subjects but seemed to focus on the more serious subjects of love and rejection, passion and death. Their plan was simple, strophic and chordal, with occasional touches of counterpoint. John Dowland (1562-1626), lute virtuoso and composer of the greatest of these lute airs, exemplifies the tone of the genre. With such titles as Flow My Tears, originally written in the form of a pavin for solo lute [Play] and later rewritten for four voices (played here by a broken consort: [Play]); and Sorrow Stay, [Play] the dolorous tone is obvious.

The subjects of the madrigals and the later lute airs are drawn from the Italian. They include pastoral themes replete with nymphs, shepherds, and satyrs gaily tripping among the flowers. There are themes from the classics, as Venus and Mars, Diana and Cupid, as well as Jove and others. They range from the frivolous descriptions of morris dancing and maying to solemn death. While perhaps less passionate than the Italian, they have no lack of shining, darting eyes, tormented and anguished hearts, violets and lilies, and weeping. But whether the poetry is fine or execrable the madrigal and related forms is still a medium of the words. While this is more true in the Italian school than in the English, with its emphasis on the music, it is nevertheless the vehicle which drives the madrigal.

The English madrigals debt to humanism was not as obvious as might have been assumed. While there are clear threads connecting the two, the relationship is more one of grandchild than child. The Italian madrigal clearly owes a debt to the humanists. Its emphasis on the language, the power of the word, its classical themes, and its desire to move the listener all accord with humanists ideals. The English madrigal took as its model the Italian madrigal and so, by default, followed these humanist practices. However, its insistence on musicality over poetry, while it resulted in glorious music, cannot be seen as a solely humanist manifestation.

The continued development of music expressing language in Italy could eventually lead through recitative to opera. In England, there was no concomitant development. The religious and political disturbances culminating in the Civil War saw to it that the English would not follow the Italians along this path. The Eglish madrigalists put their indelible stamp on the form by tying it closely to Elizabeth. As we have seenm she appears as Oriana in a collection written expressly for her, but throughout the period she is the Diana Goddess figure, Queen of second Troy, [Play] Faerie Queen and more to both poets and musicians. With her death the madrigalists lost both an icon and a patron. As Orlando Gibbons so poignantly expressed in The Silver Swan, the English madrigal school sang its first, sweetest, and last in a brief but shining moment. What followed, while it may not have been the music of "geese" as Gibbons animadverts, [Play] was quite different than the "music with her silver sound" of the English madrigalists.


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Baird, Julianne. Greensleeves: A Collection of English Lute Songs. CD DOR 90126. Dorian Recordings, 1989.

Cambridge Singers. Flora gave me fairest flowers. COLCD 105. Collegium Records 1987.

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Deller Consort. Madrigal Masterpieces. CD OVC 2000. Vangaurd Classics, 1992.

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