Claudio Monteverdi was a late Renaissance composer who was born in Cremona on May 15th 1567 and died in Venice on November 29th 1643. His emergent writing style had significant influence on the musical transitions from the Renaissance to the Baroque era. He was an employed musician most of his life who spent much of his work challenging the popular artists of his time to venture out into new variations of the traditional styles. Alongside many of his contemporaries such as Giaches de Wert and Prince Gesualdo di Venosa, he was a part of subtle change throughout the culture he lived in which made a large impact for the future.
In his early years Monteverdi was taught to play the piano and also taught about musical composition by Marc’Antonio Ingegneri, who was the Cathedral choir director in his town. It was not long before Monteverdi began to catch on to what was being taught. In fact, his first piece was written at the young age of 15, foreshadowing his passion that would be a life lived in dedication and enjoyment of writing music.
Although he was not recorded to have been involved in the public worship choir, Monteverdi was surrounded by musical performance and worship on a regular basis. His lessons, taught by Ingegneri, were stepping-stones to what he would be learning throughout his time. In Cremona, he was taught to be controlled and traditional, as was noted by George J. Beulow in Chapter three of his book, A History of Baroque Music. He said, “Monteverdi’s art was nurtured in a musical environment that was more conservative than experimental.”(P.57)
While Monteverdi was learning the basic principles of composition and music theory, one such concept was particularly important and that was counterpoint. Throughout the Renaissance, the use of two or more voices of music moving at individual rhythms and tones while working together was prominent in many styles of instrumental and vocal. In the same way, this use of relating multiple voices together was an important attribute of the popular music of his time. Monteverdi used this in his later work in non-traditional compositions.
In 1590 Monteverdi began working at the court in Mantua as a vocalist and viol player, and by 1602 he had become a conductor there. Until his fortieth birthday he mainly worked on madrigals, composing nine books of them in all. Book VIII, published in 1638, includes the so-called Madrigali dei guerrieri ed amorosi which many consider to be the perfection of the form. As a whole, the first eight books of madrigals show the enormous development from the Renaissance polyphonicmusic to the monodic style which is typical of Baroque music. The ninth book of madrigals, published posthumously in1651, contains lighter pieces, such as canzonettas, probably composed throughout his lifetime and representing both styles.
One of the most important styles that Monteverdi learned in his youth was the Madrigal, which was a popular secular vocal work in the Renaissance and the...