Monteverdi, Claudio 1567–1643 Italian Composer
Claudio Monteverdi was a leading Italian composer of the late Renaissance. His music marks a transition from Renaissance styles to the new forms of the Baroque* movement. Some music historians have labeled him the first modern composer.
Monteverdi was born in Cremona, Italy. As a young man he studied composition with a well-known musical director. From about 1590 to 1612 Monteverdi worked in the court of Mantua, first as a member of the instrumental group and later as maestro di cappella (chorus master). In 1613 he became chorus master at St. Mark's church in Venice, a position he held for the rest of his life.
Monteverdi's career spanned 61 years, and musical styles changed profoundly during this period. Throughout the 1500s, Renaissance music focused on melodic lines, blending several independent melodies together in a technique called polyphony. Around the end of the century, however, a new, grander, and more complex style of music emerged. This new Baroque style featured instrumental support beneath solo vocal lines of one or more parts. It also focused more on emotional expression and less on "correct" technique.
Monteverdi's music reflected these changes. Before 1605, most of his works were madrigals* for five equal voices. After that point, he experimented with new combinations of voices and instruments, as well as with new forms such as opera. Monteverdi raised this form to new heights, creating two of the earliest operas that are still performed—Orfeo (1607) and The Coronation of Poppea (1642). However, Monteverdi never fully abandoned the principles of Renaissance music. He produced some of the finest madrigals of the Renaissance, and toward the end of his career he also wrote motets (religious vocal pieces without instruments) and other sacred music.
- * Baroque
artistic style of the 1600s characterized by movement, drama, and grandness of scale
- * madrigal
piece of nonreligious vocal music involving complex harmonies, usually for several voices without instrumental accompaniment