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8.553316 - MONTEVERDI: Canzonette
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Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Canzonette (1584)


Claudio Monteverdi was born in Cremona in 1567, the son of an apothecary and physician who had come to occupy a leading position in his profession in the city. Monteverdi was probably trained as a chorister at the cathedral and was certainly a pupil of the distinguished maestro di cappella Marcantonio Ingegneri, a composer of international reputation. Monteverdi's first published compositions, sacred music in the spirit of the reforms of the Council of Trent, appeared in 1582, followed in succeeding years by other collections of madrigals and canzonets, sacred and secular. In 1590 or 1591 he entered the service of Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga of Mantua as a string-player, continuing to work in the musical establishment of the Gonzaga court until Duke Vincenzo's death in 1612, from 1601 as maestro di cappella to the court.

Among Monteverdi's compositions in Mantua, which include further innovative collections of madrigals in the new style of the period, the dissonances of the modern style giving rise to controversy with more conservative musicians, is the court opera Orfeo, first staged in 1607. With a text by Alessandro Striggio based on the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice as recounted by Ovid and by Vergil, Orfeo was a remarkable and significantly successful achievement. It was followed in 1608 by Arianna, a work now lost, except for the very influential lament of Ariadne, reworked by Monteverdi into a five-part madrigal and subsequently published in its original form in a collection of music by various composers.

Duke Vincenzo was succeeded in 1612 by the older of his two sons, Prince Francesco, the initiator of Orfeo, but now, as the ruling Duke, determined to institute various reforms and economies in the court. There had been no reason to suppose that Duke Francesco harboured any ill-will towards Monteverdi, but, for whatever reasons, Monteverdi and his brother Giulio Cesare were dismissed from the service of the Gonzagas during the summer of 1612. The two returned to Cremona, while seeking other employment, which Monteverdi found triumphantly in 1613 with his appointment as maestro di cappella at the basilica of San Marco in Venice, a position that brought opportunity and security of tenure. He remained there for the rest of his life, refusing attempts to recall him to Mantua and instituting various reforms at San Marco, particularly in the employment of instrumentalists.

It was in Venice in 1637 that the first public opera-house was opened and Monteverdi was able to contribute again to this repertoire. In 1640 his Arianna was revived at the Teatro San Moisè, now converted from theatre to opera-house, and in the same year a new opera, Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria was staged at the Teatro San Cassiano. For carnival in 1643 Monteverdi wrote another new opera, La coronatione di Poppea, staged at the Teatro Grimani.

Monteverdi died in Venice on 29 November 1643, after returning from an extended journey through Lombardy, his death widely mourned. He was succeeded at San Marco by one of his pupils, Giovanni Rovetta, who had served as Monteverdi's assistant, while his contemporary fame is witnessed by a series of posthumous publications.

Monteverdi's first publication, in 1582, was his Sacrae cantiunculae tribus vocibus, printed in Venice by Angelo Gardano. The following year saw the publication in Brescia of a set of Madrigali spirituali a quattro voci. In 1584 came the canzonets, Canzonette a tre voci, 21 three-voice compositions, settings of verses by unknown poets, eleven of which had already been used by other composers, notably Orazio Vecchi. The title-page of the Canzonette, printed in Venice by Giacomo Vincenzi and Ricciardo Amadino, advertises the seventeen-year old composer as of Cremona and a pupil of Marc' Antonio Ingegneri and there is a dedication to Pietro Ambrosini of Cremona, described as Monteverdi's master and patron. Although the canzonets are described as libro primo, it was followed not by a second collection but, in 1587, by a first volume of Madrigali a cinque voci.

The canzonets open with a first setting that incorporates a reference to the dedicatee in its mention of Ambrosia, a plant from heaven. This is followed by a second, Canzonette d'amore, a conventional envoi. The settings that come later are in no particular order, but end with Hor care Canzonette, sicuramente andrete, which provides a general textual frame-work. The intervening canzonets include a number of places where there is a play on words, where ma ria suggests Maria, or chiara luce del mondo suggests the name Chiara. These first published secular settings by Monteverdi are relatively conventional, suggesting, however, something of what will follow, as he explores new ground, at first within the existing tradition and then in the world of the seconda prattica.

Ferrara, to which Mantua was later obliged, on occasion, for musical assistance, had its own cultural distinction under the d'Este family. The most famous element in the very rich musical establishment that flourished under Duke Alfonso II and the head of his musical establishment, Luzzasco Luzzaschi, was the so-called Concerto delle dame, who preserved a secret repertory of music for the private delectation of the court. Something of this music is reflected in the collection of three-voice madrigals later published by Luzzaschi. When Monteverdi wrote and published his Canzonette the singing ladies of Ferrara were unrivalled as virtuose, famous throughout Italy.

Keith Anderson









Qual si può dir

Qual si può dir maggiore
pianta dal ciel discesa in terra nata
Ch’Ambrosia dolce tanto delicata.

Ma se in un verde ramo
si vedon le virtud’insieme a gara
unirsi, e a tutti dar vivanda rara,

Ben è forza ch’io dica,
che delle sue virtù altro non piove,
sol Ambrosia del Ciel datta da Giove.



What greater plant from Heaven,
born on the earth can there be
than sweet Ambrosia, so delicate.

But on a green branch
are seen united virtues together in rivalry,
giving rare sustenance to all.

I tell you
of its virtues no other bestows
only Ambrosia of Heaven, given by Jove.



Canzonette d’amore

Canzonette d’amore
che m’usciste del Cuore
contate i miei dolori
le man baciando a la mia bella Clori.

Ivi liete, e vezzose,
coronate di rose,
contate i miei dolori
le man baciando a la mia bella Clori.

Poi mirando il bel seno
e il suo viso sereno
contate i miei dolori
in sen vivendo a la mia bella Clori.



Songs of love
stemming from my heart
tell of my sorrows
kissing the hand of my fair Chloris.

Go happy and graceful,
crowned with roses,
tell of my sorrows
kissing the hand of my fair Chloris.

Then, seeing her fair bosom
and her serene face,
tell of my sorrows
living in her heart to my fair Chloris.



La fiera vista

La fiera vista e’l velenoso sguardo
del Basilisco a l’huom toglie la vita
et voi con gl’occhi per virtù d’amore
a chi vi mira li togliete il core.

L’Aspide pien di morte e di veleno
chiude l’orecchio all’efficace incanto,
e voi Aspe crudel con voglia ria
vi fate sorda all’aspra pena mia.

Con dolcissimo canto le Sirene
a naviganti fan sentir la morte,
e voi con gli occhi per virtù d’Amore
a chi vi mira Ii togliete il core.

Tal che privo di speme in questa vita
vivrò sempre amando e lagrimando,
ch’Amor per far eterna la mia pena
v’ha Basilisco fatta Aspe e Sirena.



The proud sight and poisonous look
of the basilisk take a man’s life,
and you with your eyes through the power of Love,
take the heart of whoever you look at.

The asp, full of death and poison,
shuts its ear to the charmer’s music,
and you, cruel asp, as the fancy takes you,
are deaf to my harsh suffering.

With the sweetest song the Sirens
make sailors suffer death,
and you, with your eyes through the power of Love, take the heart of whoever you look at.

Although deprived of hope,
I will live, ever loving and weeping,
that Love, to give eternity to my suffering,
has made you basilisk, asp and Siren.


Raggi dov’è il mio bene

Raggi dov’è il mio bene
non mi date più pene
ch’io me n’andrò cantando dolce aita questi son gl’occhi che mi dan la vita.

Soli del vostro foco
non m’ardete per gioco,
ch’io me n’andrò cantando a tutte i’hore
questi son gl’occhi dove alberga Amore.

Lumi vivaci alteri
non mi siate sì feri
ch’io me n’andrò cantando ad hora ad hora
questi son gl’occhi donde il ciel s’indora.



Rays where my love is
give me no more pain
that I go singing, sweet aid,
that these are the eyes that give me life.

Suns in your fire
do not burn me for sport
that I go singing always
that these are the eyes where Love sojourns.

Proud lively eyes
are not so savage to me
that I go singing always
that these are the eyes where heaven is golden.



Vita de I’alma mia

Vita de l’alma mia cara mia vita
mille cose per dirvi ho nel pensiero
ma na voi siete ond’io tacendo pero.

Che se fuste ver me benigna e pia
vi scoprirel l’ardor che per voi sento
ma ria voi siete sol per mio tormento.

Voi co i begl’occhi vostri almi lucenti
potreste dar soccorso al mio martire
ma ria voi siete, ond’io bramo morire.

Non posso (ohimé) narrarvi le mie pene
et farvi noto l’Amor ch’io vi porto
ma ria voi siete, e pur havete il torto.



Life of my soul, my dear life,
I have in my thoughts a thousand things to tell you
but you are cruel and I am silent.

If you were kind and pitied me
I would show you the ardour I feel for you,
but you are cruel only for my torment.

You with your fair eyes, shining bright,
could give succour to my pain
but you are cruel and I want to die.

I cannot, alas, tell of my pains
and make known to you the love I have for you, but you are cruel and so wrong me.



Il mio martir

Il mio martir tengo celat’al cuore:
se lo dimostr’ohimè puoco mi giova.
Nessun cred’il mio mal se non ch’il prova.

Tutto n’è causa quest’iniquo Amore
ch’in hora e in ponto il mio martir rinova
Nessun cred’il mio mal se non ch’il prova.

Dalla mia bocca nasce un vivo ardore
e questo afflitto cor pietà non trova
Nessun cred’il mio mal se non ch’il prova.

Dunque se il mio martir nissun lo crede
io son ferito ahi lasso e non si vede,
questa piaga mortal ne faccia fede.



I keep my suffering hidden in my heart.
If I show it, alas, it helps little,
no-one believes my pain, if he does not suffer.

Unfair Love is the cause of all this
that always renews my suffering.
No-one believes my pain, if he does not suffer.

From my mouth comes living ardour
and this afflicted heart finds no pity.
No-one believes my pain, if he does not suffer.

If no-one believes my suffering,
I am sore wounded and it is not seen,
this mortal blow is not believed.


Son questi i crespi crini

Son questi i crespi crini e questo il viso
ond’io rimango ucciso?
Deh dimelo ben mio
che questo sol desio.

Questi son gli occhi che mirand’io fiso,
tutto restai conquiso?
deh dimelo ben mio
che questo sol desio.

Questa la bocca e questo il dolce riso,
ch’allegra il Paradiso?
deh dimelo ben mio
che questo sol desio

Ma se quest’è che non mi par bugia,
godianci anima mia
et l’alma al duolo avvezza
mora de la dolcezza.



These are the curls and this the face
that kills me.
Ah, tell me, my love,
that this is all my desire.

These are the eyes that I stare at,
conquered by them.
Ah, tell me, my love,
that this is all my desire.

This is the mouth and this the sweet smile
that brings life to paradise.
Ah, tell me, my love,
that this is all my desire.

But if this is true,
rejoice, my life,
and my soul, used to sorrow,
dies of sweetness.



lo mi vivea

Io mi vivea com’Aquila mirando
sempre del mio bel sol il lume adorno
soavemente ohimé la nott’e’l giorno.

E pascea st’alma afflitta, e questo core
come na Salamandra in ogni loco
dentro la fiamma del mio dolce foco.

Hor vivo come Nottula infelice
anzi come na Talpa ogn’hor sotterra, poich’Amor e Fortuna mi fan guerra.

E tra pianti, sospiri, doglie, e pene
vo tutta la mia vita consumando
e come Cigno poi moro cantando.



Like an eagle I lived, seeing
always the fine light of my fair sun shining,
gently, alas, night and day.

And I fed this afflicted soul and this heart
like the salamander in every place
in the flame of my sweet fire.

Now I live like an unhappy night creature
like the mole ever underground,
since Love and Fortune war with me.

And through plaints, sighs, mourning
and suffering my life is consumed
and like the Swan I then die singing.



Su su su che’l giorno

Su, su, su che’l giorno è fore
su, su, su pastori uscite
et gli augelletti udite
che fan cantando a la bell’Alba honore.

Udite i rami e l’ore
et per l’herbe le chiare
acque, che nel passare
fan mormorando a la bell’Alba honore.

Ecco la bianca suore
di Febo et l’altre belle,
vaghe, et lucenti stelle,
che fan partendo a la bell’Alba honore.

Su, su, su ch’il sol s’inalba
tutti cantiam d’Amore
et con dovuto honore
facciam cantando riverenza all’Alba.

Così, mentre sorgea
Alba, Damon cantava
e i compagni invitava
afar cantando honore a la sua Dea.



Now day is here,
up shepherds,
out and hear the birds
that sing in honour of fair Dawn.

Hear the branches and the breezes
and through the grass the clear
waters that in passing
murmur in honour of fair Dawn.

Here is the pale sister of Phoebus
and the other fair wanderers,
and the shining stars,
that as they go salute fair Dawn.

Above, the sun rises
let us all sing of Love
and with due honour
let us sing in reverence of Dawn.

So, as Dawn rises,
Damon sang
and invited his companions
to sing in honour of his Goddess.


Quando sperai

Quando sperai del mio servir mercede
e’l guidardon de la mia pura fede
altri il mio ben m’ha tolto
e’l frutt’ohimé de mie fatiche ha colto.

Speravo ahi lasso posseder mia diva
altri hor di speme, e del mio ben mi priva baciando il caro volto
e’l frutto ohimé de mie fatiche ha colto.

Credevo pur in fin di tante pene
godere il caro mio bramato bene
hor altri me l’ha tolto
e’l frutto ohimé de mie fatiche ha colto.

Così per sé far l’ape ogn’anno crede
misera il mele, e mai non lo possiede
che altri le fura e toglie
il dolce frutto e le sue care spoglie.



When I hoped for reward for my service
and recompense for my pure faith,
others took my own away from me
and took the fruit, alas, of my labours.

I hoped, ah, weary, to possess my goddess,
but others deprived me of my hope
and my beloved, kissing the dear face
and took the fruit, alas, of my labours.

I trusted, after such suffering
that I might enjoy my beloved, so desired,
but others took her away from me
and took the fruit, alas, of my labours,

As the bee every year thinks to make honey
for itself and never has it;
others steal it and take away
the sweet fruit and dear spoils.


Come farò cuor mio

Come farò cuor mio quando mi parto
se sol pensando a la crudel partita
mi sento venir men l’alma e la vita.



What shall I do, my heart, when I part
only thinking of the cruel parting
my soul and my life feel the less.


Corse a Ia morte

Corse a la morte il povero Narciso
per rimirarsi il viso
et io che tosto veggio il tuo bel viso
corro voland’e viv’in paradiso.

Helena bella pose Troia in terra,
cagion di tanta guerra,
et io che sto per voi sempre nel foco,
di questa fiamma ho gran piacer e gioco.

E Ganimede per lo suo bel volto
da Giove in ciel fu tolto,
così son io rapito dal mio sole
mentre contemplo il viso e le parole.

O mio bel viso, o sol dogni mortale
pietà del mio gran male
et poi che sol per voi ho questa sorte
corro volando a voi per haver morte.



Poor Narcissus met his death
through looking at his face
and I, as soon as I see your fair face,
run flying and alive to paradise.

Fair Helen laid Troy low,
the reason for such a war,
and I that through you am always in the fire
of that flame have great delight and joy.

And Ganymede through his fair countenance
was seized by Jove up to heaven,
so I am rapt by my sun
while I contemplate her face and her words.

O my fair face or sun of all mortals
pity my great pain and since only through you
do I have this fate,
I run flying to you for my death.


Tu ridi sempre mai

Tu ridi sempre mai
per darmi pene e guai;
fingi volermi bene
crudel per darmi pene.



You ever smile
to give me pain and trouble.
You pretend to wish me well,
to give me pain.


Chi vuol veder

Chi vuol veder d’inverno un dolce aprile
pieno di varii fiori e fresche herbette
dove Amor scherza ogn’hor con le saette,

Venga a mirar del ciel sta luce bella
che de là è scesa acciò col viso adorno
facesse più lucente, e chiaro il giorno.

Del sol più bella in un prato fiorito
si pose, e gli augelletti a schier’a schiera
gli fan sempre d’intorno Primavera.

Correte dunque voi ninfe e pastori
gridate ad alta voce Chiara Chiara
Luce del Mondo avventurosa, e cara.



He who wants to see, during winter, sweet April,
full of many flowers and fresh blooms,
where Love always sports with his arrows.

Must see fair light of heaven,
descending with bright face
to bring more light and make bright the day.

Fairer than the sun, in a flowery meadow,
comes Spnng, and the birds in order
surround her.

Nymphs and shepherds, come running,
cry aloud the name of the bright
light of the world, brave and dear.


Già mi credea

Già mi credev’un Sol esser in Cielo
ma son quest’occhi tuoi duoi altri soli
intorno a cui par ch’Amor scherzi e voli.

Anzi ch’ha fatto quivi un dolce nido
e tira, e indora, i velenosi dardi
per ciò dai vita e morte coi tuoi sguardi.

Angelico vestir credeva in Cielo
ma coi leggiadri vestimenti tuoi
Angelo tu pan infra di noi.

Però chi mira esso leggiadro viso
vede Amore, e dui Soli, e nel bel riso
e nel vestire in terra il Paradiso.



I once believed there was one sun in the heaven,
but these eyes are equal to two other suns,
where love duly sports.

Or rather he has made here his sweet nest
and shoots and gilds his poisoned darts,
giving life and death through your looks.

I believed the angels in their robes
to be in heaven, but with your graceful robes
you appear as an angel to us.

He who sees your graceful face
sees Love, and two suns, and in your fair smile
and in your dress paradise on earth.



Godi pur del bel sen

Godi pur del bel sen felice pulce
per dove ad hor ad hor ne vai saltando
e dolcemente sempre pizzicando.

Godi dell’amorose alme mammelle
ove t’annidi, e lieto poi saltando
pià dolce fine ancor ne vai cercando.

Hor godi di quel ben di ch’io son privo e torna un’altra volta a lei saltando
ch’a gioia tal non men god’io pensando.

Ma quando dimmi Amor fia mai ch’anch’io
a sì bel petto intorno stia scherzando,
ahi non so come mai m’arrivi, o quando.



Delight, happy flea, in the fair bosom
where you leap
and ever sweetly bite.

Delight in loving gentle breasts
where you make your home and happily leap,
seeking a still sweeter death.

Now delight in the pleasure that I am without
and return, leaping again,
that I delight none the less in thinking of it.

But tell me, Love, if I too
may sport on so fair a breast,
Ah, I know not how or when.



Giù lì a quel petto

Giù lì a quel petto giace un bel giardino
ov’ogn’hor con lascivia scherz’Amore
e a quest’e a quel ogn’hor trafigge il cuore.

Giù lì A quel collo d’Alabastro fino
si scorge neve, e fiori a schier’a schiera
e una fiorita eterna Primavera.

Giù lì A la bocca tua Perle e Rubini
si vedono ad ogn’hor bianche et ardenti
e con dolce armonia soavi accenti.

Giù lì A la fronte, agl’occhi, a quel bel viso,
al petto, al collo, a quel giocondo riso
si scorge la beltà del Paradiso.



There on down that breast lies a fair garden
where ever Love sports
and pierces this one or that one.

There on down that neck of fine alabaster
is seen snow, and flowers in ranks
and eternal blossoming Spring.

There on down your mouth are pearls
and rubies seen, ever white and shining,
and gentle accents with sweet harmony.

There on down the brow, the eyes and that fair face,
the breast, the neck, that pleasant smile
is seen the beauty of paradise.

*The opening words of each stanza echo the name Giùlìa.



Sì come crescon

Sì come crescon alla terra i fiori
così a voi la bellezza o mio tesoro
et a me’l foco ond’io mi strugg’e moro.

Sì come crescon à gl’augelli il canto
così a voi la virtude o mia speranza
eta me un dolor tal ch’ogn’altro avanza.



As flowers grow on the earth
so for you beauty oh my treasure
and for me the fire that consumes me, in which I die.

As the song of the birds grows
so for you virtue oh my hope
and for me a sorrow that ever increases.



lo son Fenice

Io son Fenice e voi sete la fiamma
che m’arde a dramm’a dramma.
Ma la morte m’è sì dolc’e sì gradita
che per anco morir ritorno in vita.

Voi sete il sol ed io liquida cera
onde convien ch’io pera,
ma la morte m’è sì dolc’e sì gradita
che per anco morir ritorno in vita.

Voi sete bella, et sì ye n’avvedete
ch’ogni hor più m’accendete.
Dunque ben mio non è miracol s’io
sempre rinnovo et struggo il piacer mio.



I am the phoenix and you are the flame
that burns and consumes me.
But death to me is sweet and welcome,
that dying I may return to life.

You are the sun and I the melting wax,
and for that I must perish,
but death to me is sweet and welcome
that dying I may return to life.

You are fair and you know because
you burn me the more,
then it is no wonder that I always renew
and consume my delight.


Chi vuol veder

Chi vuol veder un bosco folto e spesso
veng’a mirar il misero mio cuore
quante saette ci ha tirato Amore.

Chi vuol veder duo fonti d’acqua viva
venga a veder quest’occhi egri e dolenti
ch’Amor gli ha fatti duo fiumi correnti.

Chi vuol veder com’arde una fornace
venga veder me sol ch’in ogni loco
Amor m’ha fatto tutto fiamma e foco.

Chi vuol saper di questo la cagione
miri costei, che sua rara beltade
m’infiamma ogni hora e in lei non è pietade.



He who wishes to see a dense, thick wood,
come to see my wretched heart
where Love has shot so many arrows.

He who wishes to see two founts of living water
come to these bitter, grieving eyes
that Love has made into two running streams.

He who wishes to see how a furnace burns
come to see how Love has made in every place
flame and fire for me.

He who wishes to know the reason for this,
must see how her rare beauty
sets me always afire and in her is no pity.


Hor care Canzonette

Hor care canzonette
sicuramente andrete
lietamente cantando
et sempre ringraziando
chi vi vorrà ascoltare
baciandoli le man senza parlare.

Dolce mie canzonette
andrete pur solette
e sempre ringraziando
chi vi andarà cantando
e se perdon vorrete
de vostri errori lo dimanderete.



Now dear songs you will go in safety,
happily singing,
and always grateful to the one
who will hear you,
kissing the hand without speaking.

My sweet songs,
you will go alone
and always grateful
to whoever will go singing
and will pardon
your mistakes and dismiss them.


English versions by Keith Anderson

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