The five-part madrigals of Luzzasco Luzzaschi
Spiro, Arthur Gerald
MetadataShow full item record
Luzzasco Luzzaschi belongs to that group of late sixteenth century Italian composers concerning whom we know practically nothing. Investigation seems to indicate that he was born c. 1545 and that he studied with Rore in Ferrara. By 1571 or earlier, Luzzaschi was organist to Duke Alfonso II, a position he held until the Duke's death in 1597. Active as a composer, organist, and teacher at one of the most cultivated courts in Italy, Luzzaschi's name is most frequently associated with the "Concerto della Dame," that group or lady singers at the Ferrara court whose fame was spread by the chronicles of the period and for whom Luzzaschi wrote his often mentioned volume, the Madrigali ... per cantare et sonare. Upon the death of his patron and the dissolution of the court at Ferrara, little information regarding the composer is available. Evidence is ample that he was the teacher of Frescobaldi, and it is likely that his life came to a close in Ferrara c. 1607. Luzzaschi's five-part madrigals, to which this study is limited, are contained for the most part in his seven madrigal books published between the years 1571 and 1604. Of the Primo libro, Sesto libro (long considered totally lost), and Settimo libro, no complete copy is extant. However, a posthumous volume entitled Seconda Scelta...reprints some madrigals from Luzzaschi's last three madrigal publications, that is from the Fifth through the Seventh books. Thus this collection is extremely valuable, for it contains our only known source for Luzzaschi madrigals from his Sixth and Seventh books. (Unfortunately, no evidence to date has uncovered any complete madrigals from the First book.) A few madrigals not contained in any of the seven books were published in various anthologies of the period, and a complete source list of all known Luzzaschi madrigals together with other bibliographical information is contained in Appendix I. In all, Luzzaschi's total output of five-part madrigals numbers at least 186. Beginning with the Secondo libro, the largest of the complete madrigal books and written when the composer was in his very early thirties, the reader is immediately confronted with a volume noted for its balance and clarity and one revealing an understanding of the common practice type of madrigal characteristic of the period. The usual madrigalisms on textually important words are to be found together with other melodic and harmonic peculiarities that go into the making of a personal and individual style. Probably the most significant aspect of Luzzaschi's madrigal writing in his use of what this writer has termed "melodic interchange of parts," that is the substitution of melodic material among the voices which results in effect in a kind of Stimmtausch. This device is not limited to Luzzaschi's early writing but is employed throughout all of his madrigal volumes. One does not find in Luzzaschi's madrigals indications pointing to a departure from tradition. Individual madrigals such as his tortuous setting of Dante's Quivi sospiri may stand out and focus attention upon themselves, but on the whole, these represent isolated examples of departure from the norm. Luzzaschi is a stable madrigalist, perhaps even retrospective in outlook and method, and one will have to look well among his works to find signs of a Wert, a Marenzio, or a Monteverdi.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University.