• academy;
  • Artusi;
  • Ferrara;
  • madrigal;
  • Mantua;
  • Monteverdi;
  • seconda pratica;
  • Tasso

Claudio Monteverdi's Il quarto libro de madrigali a cinque voci (1603) ends with a setting of ‘Piagn’e sospira: e quand’i caldi raggi’, a text from Tasso's Gerusalemme conquistata (1593). Nicea, a Muslim in love with a Christian, wanders through the forest carving her beloved's name in the trees, and weeps as she re-reads what she has scored in the bark. Monteverdi's Fourth Book of madrigals is an odd collection. Fifteen months before, the composer had been appointed maestro della musica to Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga of Mantua. However, instead of responding in what might seem the normal way – by printing something in the duke's honour – Monteverdi chose to dedicate a madrigal book to the Accademia degli Intrepidi of Ferrara. Even stranger is the fact that he makes no direct mention of what must have been uppermost in his mind, the recent attack on his madrigals by the Bolognese theorist Giovanni Maria Artusi. Artusi's diatribe against the moderns eventually forced the composer to come up with the defence of his ‘second’ practice. However, re-reading ‘Piagn’e sospira’– as the text tells us to do – suggests that before Monteverdi put his theoretical brain in gear, he had already come up with a musical response.