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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Claudio Monteverdi


Claudio Monteverdi was born in 1567 in Cremona, Duchy of Milan (now Lombardy, Italy), the oldest of five children.

Claudio was baptized on May 15, 1567, in Cremona.

His father was Baldassare Monteverdi, a doctor, apothecary and amateur surgeon.

During his childhood, Claudio was taught by Marc'Antonio Ingegneri, the maestro di cappella at the Cathedral of Cremona.The Maestro’s job was to conduct important worship services in accordance with the liturgy of the Catholic Church. Claudio learned composition, singing and how to play string instruments such as the viol and viola da braccio.

Claudio Monteverdi has been proposed as the subject of this Portrait of a Musician by a Cremonese artist (c. 1570–1590

Claudio was very talented as a young boy and was only 15 when he published his first pieces of music. a book of three part motets.


Monteverdi was one of the most significant composers in the transition from the Renaissance to the baroque era and may justly be claimed as the founder of dramatic music, as we now understand it. He did this by developing a new musical style. The old style was known as prima pratica (“first practice”) and the new style was called the seconda pratica (“second practice”). With the prima pratica, the music was thought to be more important than the words. This meant that the music could be very contrapuntal, with several things going on at once so that the words could not be clearly heard. The prima pratica continued to be used for church music. However, in the seconda pratica the words were more important than the music, i.e. it was important to be able to hear all the words clearly, and the music had to be simple enough for this to happen. This was particularly important in opera and in madrigals.

Madrigals were vocal pieces that put the message of the poetry ahead of musical convention. By the time Monteverdi got his first job he had already published two books of madrigals. By his death, he had written nine books full of them.

Monteverdi was once criticized by fellow composer Giovanni Artusi for the licentious use of dissonance in his madrigals. Monteverdi's response was: "Oh, you're talking about the prima pratica, but I'm composing according to the seconda pratica; you might as well compare apples to oranges!"

Monteverdi's first job was working at the court of the Duke of Mantua, joining the orchestra about 1590. The musical director was the famous Giaches de Wert.

By 1601 Monterverdi was recognized as a distinguished composer, and he was appointed maestro di cappella at the Court of Mantua in Italy.

Monteverdi had published four books of madrigals by the time of his first opera, L'Orfeo, in 1607. Based on the Greek legend of Orpheus, L'Orfeo tells the story of Orpheus' descent to Hades and his fruitless attempt to bring his dead bride Eurydice back to the living world. L'Orfeo was premiered on February 24, 1607 in the The Ducal Palace, a group of buildings in Mantua, Lombardy.

Front cover of the score of L'Orfeo, published in Venice in 1609

In 1610 Monteverdi wrote his famous Mass and Vespers of the Virgin. It contained tone colors and harmonies well in advance of his time.

Although not primarily a church musician, Monteverdi was appointed music director of St. Mark's, Venice, in 1613. He revitalized the basilica's music and wrote much church music, madrigals using new devices, and stage music for Mantua.

Monteverdi by Bernardo Strozzi, c. 1630[1]

Venice's first public opera houses opened in 1637 and although Monteverdi was now in his 70s, he wrote four new operas within about three years for Venice. including Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (1640) and L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642). They formed a brilliant end to his career.


In 1599 Monteverdi married the court singer Claudia Cattaneo who died in September 1607.

They had two sons (Francesco and Massimilino) and a daughter (Leonora). Another daughter died shortly after birth

The only certain portrait of Claudio Monteverdi, from the title page of Fiori poetici, a 1644 book of commemorative poems for his funeral

He dabbled in alchemy. An exchange of letters dating from the year 1625-26, includes (in Monteverdi's own writing) a formula for bonding gold to lead, Also in a sonnet written in 1643, the late Claudio Monteverdi is eulogized as a "Gran proffessor della Chimica".


Monteverdi died, aged 76, in Venice on November 29, 1643. He was held in the highest esteem by his Venetian employers and was buried in the church of the Frari.

Sources Compton's Encyclopedia,

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