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- April 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm #312743Marie Grass AmentaModeratorHello ChoralNetters,I am preparing Gesualdo’s five voice madrigal, “Moro, lasso, al mio duolo” with my chamber choir this concert cycle. A question came up in rehearsal this week and I was wondering if any of you had any insight. We are using the Peters edition if that helps.A word–I guess it’s more of an exclaimation than a “real” word–is repeated throughout and there doesn’t seem to be any consistant way it is treated. The word is “Ahi” and it is noted three different ways– as fp ( with an accent), “hairpins” above and with nothing above. I have sung Gesualdo madrigals before–never directed any, myself, before this–and “ahi” is a word he seems to use quite frequently in his madrigals. One of my directors told us “ahi” should always be sung as an anguished cry but I never noticed (probably because I was singing and not directing) any markings telling that was what it should be. My singers thought there should be a difference between them, as marked. I have listened to about five different recordings of this madrigal–from Deller on down–and just can’t hear any difference between the “ahi”s.What to do?Marie Grass Amenta, founder and music directorthe Midwest Motet SocietyApril 6, 2012 at 6:29 pm #312752Marie: It’s the equivalent in Italian of “Oh!!” or even “Oh my God!” in English, or “Oi veh” in Yiddish, an exclamation that should indeed be given extra energy, always a cry, although the context speaks to the amount of anguish. It’s found often in the poetry of the time, and so turns up often in Monteverdi and the other late period madrigalists. If it’s set so that it CAN be emphasized, it should be emphasized. But it’s an interjection, not part of the sentence structure.But keep in mind that Gesulado didn’t put in those markings, because his singers would have spoken native Italian and understood exactly what he wanted. The markings are by a modern editor and represent one person’s opinion, with perhaps subtle differences that might not make any sense to you or your singers. So my suggestion is to go with the language rather than the editor’s finicky micromanaging.All the best,JohnApril 7, 2012 at 3:52 pm #312785Michael McGlynnParticipantIf it is the Peter’s edition I would suggest ignoring most of the dynamics [and some of the notes, as I have seen some very odd “re-interpretations” by whoever did that one…] go to the urtext. Sing the music as relates to the line rather than isolating it as a dramatic exclamation. This is not early opera, it is academic music : )April 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm #312793Michael!!!! Academic music? Hardly!! Monteverdi, Gesualdo, Marenzio, de Wert, Luzzaschi, and the rest of the guys were hardly academics! They were working musicians (OK, Gesulado was a Prince, whatever that meant, and a murderer, BESIDES being a musician), and madrigals were the pop entertainment music of the upper class!! The emotions are in the text and therefore in the music, and were absolutely intended to be brought out by the singers.They were also often used in Intermedii, musical court entertainments, which happen to have been one of the immediate predecessors of early opera, and of all of them Monteverdi is the one who DID write operas–and very successful ones–as well as book after book of madrigals. In a very real sense it was early opera that was “academic,” since it was based on the theory of how ancient Greek drama was performed according to Corsi, Peri, and Caccini, among others associated with the Florentine Camerata.Or did you mean something else by “academic”?Al the best,JohnApril 8, 2012 at 3:33 am #312803Michael McGlynnParticipantYes : ) As we know Gesualdo paid for his music to be performed. As a composer I surmise that his reaction to his own compositions would be similar to my own – the over-indulgence of singers would take second-place to the accuracy of pitch. Gesualdo played with homophony, so again I would assume that his desire, in the absence of popular dissemination in his lifetime, was for accuracy. He can’t really be compared to his contemporaries in that respect who were jobbing composers.“Moro Lasso” is an interesting piece. When I conducted it first I didn’t use a keyboard to pitch the opening and noticed at a tender age that the chords, when left to their own devices, aren’t really chords, but colours. Singers are able to bend the colours so that they alter even within a repeat, of which Gesualdo is, as we know, very fond . I would have to say also that Gesualdo is the single biggest influence on my own composition, as I also have really problems with tempered pitch : )April 8, 2012 at 12:27 pm #312815Thom BakerParticipantIf I may be so bold, gentlemen, it seems that the term you seek might be “Mannerist.” Alex Blachly, director/founder of Pomerium, musicologist, Director of Choral Activities at Notre Dame, directs Pomerium in plenty of Gesualdo, using his own editions, stripped of anything not found in the manuscripts. Mannerist music is that in which the dramatic nature of the music paints a picture of the meaning of the text. One might say that the tone poems of Richard Strauss are mannerist, in this sense.I don’t have “Moro, lasso” at hand, but did sing “Judas mercator pessimus” and “In monte Oliveti” just yesterday, and must say that there is less polyphony in the madrigals than the motets. Of course, this is a feature of madrigal style. The madrigals, however, are less manneristic, ergo less dramatic.“Judas mercator pessimus” can be heard here: http://www.pomerium.us/index3.html Reading the text and translation while listening will bring the mannerist feature to the fore. (Just in case anyone cares, I’m the guy on the far left.)Judas mercator pessimus osculo petiit dominum: ille ut agnus innocens non negavit Judae osculum: denariorum numbero Christum Judaei tradidit.VERSUS. Melius illi erat, si natus non fuisset.Judas, the most evil merchant, obtained the Lord with a kiss. He, like an innocent lamb, did not refuse the kiss of Judas, [who], for a number of coins, betrayed Christ to the Jews.VERSE. It would have been better for [Judas] if he had never been born.April 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm #312822Michael: Thanks; the discussion is getting interesting! Your comments sent me back to reread about Gesulado’s life and music (New Grove I Article, signed by Lorenzo Bianconi). And what I got from a quick reading is that there are a great many ideas and interpretations of his music, often diametrically opposed, and most of them missing very important things, including the fact that his madrigals were extensions of existing practices in most ways, not revolutionary at all except to OUR eyes and ears.I’m afraid there’s no hint that he “paid for his music to be performed.” I’m curious where you got that idea. The high quality madrigals of the time were definitely an upper class, sophisticated entertainment, the nobility themselves took part on a regular basis, Carlo was described as a performing musician, and the famous three ladies of Ferrara for whom he wrote several madrigals were in fact noble women who happened to be excellent singers. We would need “positive negative evidence” to show that he paid for performances! If you simply mean that he was impressed by the musical establishment at Ferrara and tried to establish his own at Gesualdo, that’s simply what wealthy noblemen did, but that never kept them from taking part in the music themselves. And of course Carlo was often described as being obsessed with music, not exactly the description of a dillitante.He was also described as favoring not the light poetry of his time, but the very poetry that allowed him to indulge in detailed emotional text painting, which suggests to me that he would have been especially interested in singers understanding and being faithful to those emotions.I think we can assume that not just Carlo but EVERY good musician of the time was concerned with accuracy of pitch, much more so that we, whose ears have been battered into submission by constant exposure to equal temperament! But by accuracy I mean exact, pure tuning of intervals so that his chords would ring, not adherence to Pythagorean, Meantone, or any other kind of artificial keyboard temperament. His special interest in Vicentino’s gravicembalo, and his failed attempt to build one like it, suggests that, but does NOT suggest any desire to put emotional content in second place. (And “overindulgence” is in the ear of the beholder, is it not?)As to popular dissemination, let’s not forget that madrigal collections were published AFTER the fact, often bringing together several years’ production; that publishing one’s madrigals was something that the nobility DID to prove their competence in the social graces; and that while music printing did bring down the cost of printed books the prices were still guaged to the wealthy, and a set of partbooks would have been an extravagance for a middle-class family. There WAS no “popular dissemination” in the modern sense.Now for the opening of “Moro lasso,” which is indeed an excellent examplar. Of COURSE the chords are colors! All chords are. But you can’t say they aren’t also chords. In fact they are perfectly normal triads, largely (but not always) in root position, and there isn’t even an added 7th until the E7 in bar 5. The harmonic wonder comes from their complete lack of what WE perceive as an expected harmonic progression, and that is indeed so creative that we still respond to it. But let’s not forget that we’re still about a century before the common practice period and the codification of functional harmony, and that vertical harmonies were still considered to be the resultants of individual voice leading. Most late-period madrigal composers who wrote in “chromatic” style did use many pure triads, did use them in non-functional ways for effect, did alternate with phrases in conventional style, and did not emphasize unprepared dissonances. THAT was what got Monteverdi in trouble with Artusi!!!What makes Gesualdo difficult for modern singers (in my opinion) is the need to divorce oneself from the equal tempered keyboard and make the necessary micro-adjustments to actually sing the intervals and chords in tune, especially when there are no common tones in the progressions (as in the movement from the first to the second chord). Singers who are locked into equal temperament often can’t do that. And yes, the pitch will tend to drift during a performance as a result of all those micro-adjustments, as it tends to do in really good barbershop singing.Thanks again for the discussion.JohnApril 9, 2012 at 1:12 am #312837Matthew D. OltmanParticipantMy dear Marie… and Michael and John..This is a favorite composition of mine, and my opinions of it may be swayed by American sensibilites… but the word “Ahi’ is the crux of the entire madrigal. Regular Italian pronunciation would dictate that the the first vowel, (ah) gets emphasized. However, why shouldn’t a composer like Gesualdo play with his language to make an even more dramatic impact? The word “Ahi” can be divided any number of ways… either moving immediately to the ‘i’ vowel: ah-EE, or moving through the ‘AH’ to the ‘EE’ at a performance-appropriate speed. “Ahi” isn’t exactly a word… similar to “helas”, “alas”, “ah”, “oh” etc… The important thing to remember is that Gesualdo meant to instill in the listener a certain amount of stress and pain. I am no expert in renaissance Italian pronunciation, but it isn’t hard to deduce the desired affect: whatever instills the most pain and unease in the listener is the desired affect.Ergo, I profess pronouncing it “AhEE”, lingering on the “ee.” No, this is not standard Italian pronunciation, but Gesualdo’s setting doesn’t lend itself to standard Italian pronunciation. What do we conclude from this? Drama!!!April 9, 2012 at 8:14 am #312855David JanowerParticipantI agree with Matthew; I emphasize the ee. This is not a distrotion at all, but a decision similar to holding the s of “ala” or “helas” for dramatic effect rather than the vowel. Hard to believe Gesualdo wouldn’t have preferred anything to make his piece work better. Or any composer, for that matter. (:-)DavidMay 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm #315201Marie Grass AmentaModeratorThank you, gentlemen all, for your comments and ideas. We are ignoring most of the dynamtics in the Peters and, as David has suggested, emphasizing the ee of “ahi”. I am trying to let the phrase and lines dictate to me and the more I direct it, the more comfortable I feel doing so. I hear it in my sleep! My singers are loving it, though several were shocked initially by Gesualdo’s “sound world”–it’s coming along and it gets better every week.Thank you again for your thoughts. They are, as always, appreciated.MarieMay 5, 2012 at 7:20 am #315218Sig RosenParticipantInteresting indeed!Also of note they may find the work of Nicolo Vicentino who, a generation earlier, took the enharmonic genera sound world even farther in his Petrarch settings. Although available in CMM, no one recently has seen fit to make them widely available.SIR
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