Thursday, January 13, 8557

Thomas Morley (1557-1603) - Madrigals

Thomas Morley (1557-1603)

April Is in my Mistris Face (1594)

My Bonnie Lasse She Smyleth (1595)

Now Is the Month of Maying (1595)

Hard by a Crystal Fountain (1601)

Thomas Morley (1557 or 1558 – October 1602) was an English composer, theorist, editor and organist of the Renaissance, and the foremost member of the English Madrigal School. He was the most famous composer of secular music in Elizabethan England. He and Robert Johnson are the composers of the only surviving contemporary settings of verse by


Morley was born in Norwich, in East Anglia, the son of a brewer. Most likely he was a singer in the local cathedral from his boyhood, and he became master of choristers there in 1583. However, Morley evidently spent some time away from East Anglia, for he later referred to the great Elizabethan composer of sacred music, William Byrd, as his teacher; while the dates he studied with Byrd are not known, they were most likely in the early 1570s. In 1588 he received his bachelor's degree from Oxford, and shortly thereafter was employed as organist at

St. Paul's in London. His young son died the following year in 1589.

In 1588 Nicholas Yonge published his Musica transalpina, the collection of Italian madrigals fitted with English texts, which touched off the explosive and colorful vogue for madrigal composition in England. Morley evidently found his compositional direction at this time, and shortly afterwards began publishing his own collections of madrigals (11 in all).

Morley lived for a time in the same parish as Shakespeare, and a connection between the two has been long speculated, though never proven. His famous setting of "It was a lover and his lass" from As You Like It has never been established as having been used in a performance of Shakespeare's play, though the possibility that it was is obvious. Morley was highly placed by the mid-1590s and would have had easy access to the theatrical community; certainly there was then, as there is now, a close connection between prominent actors and musicians.

While Morley attempted to imitate the spirit of Byrd in some of his early sacred works, it was in the form of the madrigal that he made his principal contribution to music history. His work in the genre has remained in the repertory to the present day, and shows a wider variety of emotional color, form and technique than anything by other composers of the period. Usually his madrigals are light, quick-moving and easily singable, like his well-known "Now is the Month of Maying"; he took the aspects of Italian style that suited his personality and anglicised them. Other composers of the English Madrigal School, for instance Thomas Weelkes and John Wilbye, were to write madrigals in a more serious or sombre vein.

In addition to his madrigals, Morley wrote instrumental music, including keyboard music (some of which has been preserved in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book), and music for the uniquely English consort of two viols, flute, lute, cittern and bandora, notably as published in 1599 in The First Booke of Consort Lessons, made by diuers exquisite Authors, for six Instruments to play together, the Treble Lute, the Pandora, the Cittern, the Base-Violl, the Flute & Treble-Violl.

Morley's Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (published 1597) remained popular for almost two hundred years after its author's death, and remains an important reference for information about sixteenth century composition and performance.

Thomas Morley's compositions include (in alphabetical order):

April is in my mistress' face
Arise, get up my deere,
Cease mine eyes
Crewell you pull away to soone
Doe you not know?
Fantasie: Il Doloroso
Fantasie: Il Grillo
Fantasie: Il Lamento
Fantasie: La Caccia
Fantasie: La Rondinella
Fantasie: La Sampogna
Fantasie: La Sirena
Fantasie: La Tortorella
Flora wilt thou torment mee
Fyre and Lightning
Goe yee my canzonets
Good Morrow, Fair Ladies of the May
Harke Alleluia!
Hould out my hart
I goe before my darling
I should for griefe and anguish
In nets of golden wyers
It was a lover and his lass
Joy, joy doth so arise
La Girandola
Ladie, those eies
Lady if I through griefe
Leave now mine eyes
Lo heere another love
Love learns by laughing
Miraculous loves wounding
My bonny lass she smileth
Nolo Mortem Peccatoris
Now is the month of maying
O thou that art so cruell
Say deere, will you not have mee?
See, see, myne own sweet jewel
Sing we and chant it
Sweet nymph
VI. God morrow, Fayre Ladies, (down a fourth)
What ayles my darling?
When loe by break of morning
Where art thou wanton?

Additionally, The Triumphs of Oriana, in honor of Queen Elizabeth and edited by Morley, was published in 1601.


Now Is the Month of Maying is one of the most famous of the English madrigals, by Thomas Morley published in 1595. It is based on a text used by Orazio Vecchi in 1590.

The first verse of the soprano lyrics are:

Now is the month of maying,
When merry lads are playing,
Fa la la la la,
Each with his bonny lass,
Upon the greeny grass.
Fa la la la la.


A Renaissance madrigal is a type of secular vocal music composition, written during the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Throughout most of its history it was polyphonic and unaccompanied by instruments, with the number of voices varying from two to eight, but most frequently three to six. The earliest examples of the genre date from Italy in the 1520's, and while the center of madrigal production remained in Italy, madrigals were also written in England and Germany, especially late in the 16th and early in the 17th Centuries. Unlike many other strophic forms of the time, most madrigals are through-composed, with music being written to best express the sentiment of each line of a poetic text. The madrigal originated in part from the frottola, in part from the resurgence in interest in vernacular Italian poetry, and also from the influence of the French chanson and polyphonic style of the motet as written by the Franco-Flemish composers who had naturalized in Italy during the period. The madrigal is related mostly by name alone to the Italian trecento madrigal of the 1300's.

The madrigal was the most important secular form of music of its time. It reached its fullest development in the second half of the 1500's, losing its importance in the early 1600's, when forms such as the solo song became more popular. After the 1630's it merged with the cantata and the dialogue, and the solo madrigal was replaced by the aria due to the rise of opera as an important genre.

[Pietro Bembo in a painting by Titian. Madrigals came about in part because of Bembo's advocacy of the Italian language as a vehicle for poetic expression -- although certainly only partly, as the vernacular had been a vehicle for artistic expression in late medieval times as well.]

In the early 16th Century, several humanistic trends converged which allowed the madrigal to form. First, there was a reawakened interest in use of Italian as a vernacular language. Poet and literary theorist Pietro Bembo edited an edition of

Petrarch, the great 14th-century poet, in 1501, and later published his theories on how contemporary poets could attain excellence by imitating Petrarch, and by being carefully attentive to the exact sounds of words, as well as their positioning within lines. The poetic form of the madrigal, which consisted of an irregular number of lines of usually 7 or 11 syllables, without repetition, and usually on a serious topic, came into being as a result of Bembo's influence.

Second, Italy had long been a destination for the superbly-trained composers of the Franco-Flemish school, who were attracted by the culture as well as the employment opportunities at the aristocratic courts and ecclesiastical institutions – Italy was, after all, the center of the Roman Catholic Church, the single most important cultural institution in Europe. These composers had mastered a serious polyphonic style suitable for setting sacred music, and also were familiar with the secular music of their homelands, music such as the chanson, which differed considerably from the lighter Italian secular styles of the late 15th and very early 16th centuries.

Third, printed secular music had become widely available in Italy due to the recent invention of moveable type and the printing press. The music being written and sung, principally the frottola but also the balleta, canzonetta, and mascherata, was light, and typically used verses of relatively low literary quality. These popular music styles used repetition and soprano-dominated chordal textures, styles considerably more simple than those used by most of the resident composers of the Franco-Flemish school. Literary tastes were changing, and the more serious verse of Bembo and his school needed a means of musical expression more flexible and open than was available in the frottola and its related forms.

The first madrigals were written in Florence, either by native Florentines or by Franco-Flemish musicians in the employ of the Medici. The madrigal did not replace the frottola right away; during the transitional decade of the 1520, both frottole and madrigals (though not yet in name) were written and published. The earliest madrigals were probably those by Bernardo Pisano, in his 1520 Musica di messer Bernardo Pisano sopra le canzone del Petrarcha, which was also the first secular music collection ever printed containing only the works of a single composer. While none of the pieces in the collection use the name "madrigal", some of the compositions are settings of Petrarch, and the music carefully observes word placement and accent, and even contains word-painting, a feature which was to become characteristic of the later madrigal.

The first book of madrigals labeled as such was the Madrigali de diversi musici: libro primo de la Serena of Philippe Verdelot, published in 1530 in Rome. Verdelot, a French composer, had written the pieces in the late 1520's, while he lived in Florence. He included music by both Sebastiano and Constanzo Festa, as well as Maistre Jhan of Ferrara, in addition to his own music. In 1533 and 1534 he published two books of four voice madrigals in Venice; these were to become extremely popular, and indeed they were, in their 1540 reprint, one of the most widely printed and distributed music books of the first half of the 16th Century. They sold so well that Adrian Willaert made arrangements of some of these works for single voice and lute in 1536. Verdelot published madrigals for five and six voices as well, with the collection for six voices appearing in 1541.

Particularly popular was the first collection of madrigals by Jacques Arcadelt. Originally published in Venice, in 1539, it was reprinted throughout Europe for many years after, becoming the most often reprinted madrigal book of the entire era.[11] Stylistically, the music in both Arcadelt's and Verdelot's books was more akin to the French chanson than either the Italian frottola or the sacred music of the time, such as the motet. This may be unsurprising considering that the native language of both Arcadelt and Verdelot was French, and both had written chansons themselves when in their homeland; however, they were carefully attentive to text setting, in keeping with the ideas of Bembo, and they through-composed the music, writing new music for each line of text, rather than using the refrain and verse constructions that were common in French secular music.

While the madrigal was born in Florence and Rome, by mid-century the centers of musical activity had moved to Venice and other cities. The mercenaries of Charles V sacked Rome in 1527, and a period of related political turmoil in Florence, culminating in the Siege of Florence (1529-30), in which Verdelot himself may have perished, reduced that city's significance as a musical center. In addition, Venice was Europe's center of music publishing; the grand Basilica of St. Mark's was just beginning the period in which it attracted musicians from all over Europe; and Pietro Bembo himself had returned to Venice in 1529. Adrian Willaert and his associates at St. Mark's -- younger men such as Girolamo Parabosco, Jacques Buus, Baldassare Donato, Perissone Cambio, and Cipriano de Rore -- were the primary representatives of madrigal composition at mid-century. Willaert preferred more complex textures to Arcadelt and Verdelot; often his madrigals were similar to motets, with their polyphonic language, although he varied texture between homophonic and polyphonic passages as necessary to highlight the text. For verse he used Petrarch in preference to Petrarch's 16th-century imitators; many of his madrigals set Petrarch's sonnets.

Cipriano de Rore was the most influential of the mid-century madrigalists after Willaert. While Willaert was restrained and subtle in his text setting, striving more for homogeneity than sharp contrast, Rore was one to experiment. He used extravagant rhetorical gestures, including word-painting and unusual chromatic relationships, a trend encouraged by visionary music theorist Nicola Vicentino.

It was from Rore's musical language that "madrigalisms," so distinctive of the genre, first came about; and it was also with Rore that five-voice texture became the standard.

The later history of the madrigal begins with Rore. All of the different trends in madrigal composition, which by the early 17th century had diverged into many different forms, are present in embryonic form in Rore's enormously influential output.

Many thousands of madrigals were written in Italy in the 1550's; the entire repertoire is yet to be studied exhaustively. Some famous names of the period, besides Rore, are Palestrina, who wrote some secular music early in his career; the young Orlande de Lassus, who wrote many well-known examples, including the highly experimental and chromatic Prophetiae Sibyllarum, and who, on moving to Munich in 1556, began the history of madrigal composition outside of Italy; and Philippe de Monte, the most prolific of all madrigal composers, whose first publication dates from 1554.

In style, the madrigals of the 1550's varied from the conservative and elegant style of Palestrina and some of the others working in Rome, to the highly chromatic and expressive work by Lassus, Rore, and others working in the cities of northern Italy.

Late in the 16th Century, while "classic" madrigals continued to be written throughout Italy, different styles of madrigal composition developed somewhat independently in different geographic areas. In Venice, composers such as Andrea Gabrieli continued to write madrigals in the classic tradition, but with the bright, open, polyphonic textures for which he was famous in his motets and other works. At the court of Ferrara, the presence of three uniquely gifted female singers -- the concerto delle donne -- attracted a group of composers who wrote highly ornamented madrigals, often with instrumental accompaniment, to be performed by members of this group. These composers included Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Giaches de Wert, and Lodovico Agostini, but the fame of the group was so widespread that many composers visited Ferrara both to hear and write for them, and in some cases founded similar groups of their own in other cities (for example, the Medici attempted to imitate the group in Florence, and had Alessandro Striggio write madrigals in a style like Luzzaschi's).[23][24] Rome, the ostensibly conservative center of the Roman Catholic Church, was itself the home of one of the most famous madrigal composers of the era, Luca Marenzio. Marenzio came closest to unifying all the different stylistic currents of the time, writing madrigals which attempted to capture every nuance of emotion in the poems using every musical means then available. Marenzio wrote over 400 madrigals during his short life.

Yet another trend in madrigal composition after mid-century was the re-incorporation of lighter elements into the form, which had been predominantly a serious genre since its inception. Where verse by Petrarch had been the standard, and themes of love and longing and death had been typical, by the 1560s composers had begun bringing back elements of some lighter Italian forms, such as the villanella, with their dancelike rhythms and verses on carefree subjects. Some of the composers who wrote in this manner included Marc'Antonio Ingegneri, the teacher of Monteverdi, Andrea Gabrieli, and Giovanni Ferretti. The canzonetta was a specific offshoot of the madrigal in this vein.

The change in the social function of the madrigal at the end of the 1500'S contributed to its development into new dramatic forms. Since its invention, it had served two principal roles: as a pleasant private entertainment for small groups of skilled amateur musicians; and as an adjunct to large ceremonial public performances. The first use, the private one, was by far the most common throughout the life of the madrigal, and it was through these enthusiastic gatherings of amateurs that the madrigal acquired its fame. However, in the last two decades of the century, virtuoso professional singers began to replace amateurs, and composers wrote music for them of greater dramatic force. Not only was this music harder to sing, but the sentiments expressed tended to require soloists rather than equal members of an ensemble in order to be dramatically convincing. Also during this period a division between performers and passive audiences – not the large audiences present at a public ceremonial spectacle, as seen earlier in the century, but relatively small, intimate gatherings, with performers and listeners, a situation recognizably modern – began to be seen, especially in such progressive cultural centers as Ferrara and Mantua. Much of what was once expressed in a madrigal in 1590, could twenty years later be expressed by an aria in the new form of opera; however, the madrigal continued to live on into the 17th century, in several forms, including old-style madrigals for many voices; a solo form with instrumental accompaniment; and the concertato madrigal, of which Claudio Monteverdi was the most famous practitioner.

Naples was the home of the notoriously murderous nobleman Carlo Gesualdo, who not only killed his wife and her lover in flagrante delicto but wrote some of the most extravagantly expressive and harmonically experimental music prior to the 19th century.

Gesualdo's style followed directly from Luzzaschi's, and he named the older composer as his mentor: the two worked together at Ferrara in the early 1590s, giving Gesualdo ample opportunity to absorb the chromaticism and textural contrasts of the Ferrarese, including Luzzaschi and Alfonso Fontanelli. Gesualdo published six books of madrigals during his lifetime, as well as some sacred music in madrigalian style (for example the Tenebrae Responsories of 1611). No one followed Gesualdo down this path of mannerism and extreme chromaticism, although composers such as Antonio Cifra, Sigismondo d'India, and Domenico Mazzocchi selectively used some of his techniques.

Of all the composers of madrigals of the late 16th century, none was as central a figure as Claudio Monteverdi. Often credited as a central actor in the transition from Renaissance music to Baroque music, he integrated, in 1605, the basso continuo into the madrigal form. Much later he composed the book Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi (1638) (Madrigals of War and Love), which is, however, an example of the early Baroque madrigal. Some of the compositions in this book bear little relation to the a cappella madrigals of the previous century.

In England, the madrigal became hugely popular after the publication of Nicholas Yonge's Musica Transalpina in 1588, a collection of Italian madrigals fitted with English translations; this publication initiated an entire school of madrigal composition in England. The unaccompanied madrigal survived longer in England than in the rest of Europe. There, composers continued to produce works in the late-16th-century style of the genre after the form had gone out of fashion on the Continent.

Late madrigalists in particular were ingenious with so-called "madrigalisms" -- passages in which the music assigned to a particular word expresses its meaning, for example, setting riso (smile) to a passage of quick, running notes which imitate laughter, or sospiro (sigh) to a note which falls to the note below. This technique is also known as "word-painting" and can be found not only in madrigals but in other vocal music of the period.

Nowadays, madrigals are often sung by high school or college madrigal choirs often in the context of a madrigal dinner which may also include a play, Renaissance costumes, and instrumental chamber music.


Jacques Arcadelt - author of the most reprinted book of madrigals

Francesco Corteccia - court composer to Cosimo I de' Medici

Costanzo Festa - the first native Italian composer of madrigals

Bernardo Pisano

Cypriano de Rore

Philippe Verdelot - one of the first madrigalists, also associated with the Medici court

Adrian Willaert - Franco-Flemish composer, founder of the Venetian School

Andrea Gabrieli

Orlando di Lasso

Francisco Leontaritis

Philippe de Monte - author of the largest number of madrigal books

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina - famous mostly for his sacred music, he also wrote at least 140 secular madrigals

Carlo Gesualdo

Sigismondo d'India

Luzzasco Luzzaschi

Luca Marenzio

Claudio Monteverdi

Giaches de Wert

Adriano Banchieri

Giulio Caccini

Hans Leo Hassler

Claudio Monteverdi

Johann Hermann Schein

Heinrich Schütz

Orazio Vecchi

Thomas Bateson

William Byrd

John Dowland

John Farmer

Orlando Gibbons

Thomas Morley

Thomas Tomkins

Thomas Weelkes

John Wilbye


György Ligeti

George Crumb


Mark Alburger

[8560 Voelckel / 8557 Morley / 8556 Caroubel]