This week, we’re looking at a vocal Renaissance piece composed by Bartolino da Padova. Very little is known about the composer – we aren’t even sure where he was born.
This piece is from one of his madrigals. This was another of the kinds of secular music of the period. Madrigals were performed with two to eight voices and no instruments. Italy was essentially the home of the madrigal, though English and German composers also experimented with the style.
Vocal music of this period was quite different than we hear in choirs today. They wanted singing to sound like talking, so it didn’t have the more poetic meter we’re used to – where lines have alternating amounts of syllables to make it smooth and even. It would be similar to the difference between a free meter poem and a sonnet. For example, here is a short free meter poem (Samson Agonistes by Milton):
But patience is more oft the exercise
Of Saints, the trial of their fortitude,
Making them each his own Deliver,
And Victor over all
That tyranny or fortune can inflict.
Here is a poem with a strict meter (God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins):
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.