was born in Cremona, Italy in 1567. When he was young, he
became a viola player in the orchestra of Duke Gonzaga of
Mantua and studied counterpoint with the well-known
composer Ingegneri. At 17 and at 20, he published
canzonette a3 and madrigals in which appeared the harmonic
innovations for which he is famous and which led Rockstro
to call him "not only the greatest musician of his
own age, but the inventor of a system of harmony which has
remained in uninterrupted use to the present day."
His progressions include the
unprepared entrance of dissonances and the dominant
seventh and ninth chords. He was bitterly assailed in
pamphlets, particularly by Artuso, and Monteverdi replied
in kind. The outcome was his complete triumph and the
establishment of a new school of song and accompaniment
and the ushering-in of the Baroque Era in music.
His victory, while salutary
for art in general and dramatic song in particular,
spelled the end to the polyphony of the Renaissance Era
that had been brought to perfection in the music of Victoria
Therefore, one hand we must morn the loss of one of the
greatest spiritual music styles of all time with the
replacement of a perhaps more mundane style, but on the
other we welcome the opportunity to usher in a new style
of music that will continue for more than a century,
reaching perfection in the music of J.S. Bach.
In 1603, Monteverdi became
Ingegneri's successor as maestro to the Duke and composed
for the wedding of the Duke's son to Margherita of Savoy
the opera Ariadne, in which Ariadne's grief moved
the audience to tears. Never had there been a dramatic
music such as this! Little did they know that they were
witnessing the birth of Opera, an art form that would
continue unto the present day.
In 1608, Monteverdi
produced his glorious opera Orfeo with the
then-unheard-of orchestra consisting of 36 pieces. Orfeo
was published in 1609 and in 1615 and the score shows
great modernity, Rockstro comparing its prelude with the
one bass-note sustained throughout to the introduction to
Wagner's Das Rheingold, and its continual
recitative also to that of Wagner.
In 1608, appeared
Monteverdi's mythological spectacle Ballo delle Ingrate
appeared. The Vespers and motets published in 1610 gave
him such fame that he was in 1613 made maestro di Cappella
at San Marco in Venice, at the unprecedented salary of 300
ducats, but is was raised to 500 in 1616 and a house and
traveling expenses given to him.
In 1621, his very romantic
Requiem was given with effect. In 1624, he introduced the
then startling novelty of an instrumental tremolo (which
the musicians at first refused to play) into his dramatic
interlude Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. In
1627, he composed five dramatic episodes including
Bradamante and Dido for the court at Parma, in 1630, the
opera Proserpina Rapita, then in 1637--in the first
opera-house ever that opened at Venice (the Teatro di St.
Cassiano operas having hitherto been performed at the
palaces of the nobiliy)--Monteverdi produced the operas Adone, Le
Nozze di Enea con Lavinia, Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria,
and L'Inoronazione di Poppea. He earned the title of
"the father of the art of instrumentation" and
was the most popular and influential composer of his time.
Among his great works are
his books of Madrigals, the Eighth Book embodying music of the
In 1636, Monteverdi joined
the pristhood and that is the last that we hear about him
in the history of music.
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