Wednesday, May 1, 8582

Marco da Gagliano (1582-1643) - Dafne

[Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) - Apollo e Dafne]

Marco da Gagliano (May 1582, Florence - February 25, 1643) lived most of his life in Florence.

After early study both with a religious confraternity and with Luca Bati, he was employed beginning in 1602 at the church of San Lorenzo for six years as a singing instructor. In 1607 he went to Mantua, where he wrote music for the Gonzaga family, including his impressive operatic setting of Dafne, and in 1609 returned to Florence to become maestro di cappella at the Compagnia dell'Arcangelo Raffaello, the organization from which he had received his boyhood musical training. Later that same year the Medici made him maestro di cappella of their court, a position he held for 35 years.

Gagliano wrote an enormous quantity of music, both sacred and secular, for the Medici, and in addition he was a singer and instrumentalist who entertained them privately. His works include the opera, Dafne (1608) which was praised as the best setting of the libretto by Rinuccini -- even by Jacopo Peri, the first to write an opera on the text. Meanwhile Gagliano or another altered Rinuccini's poetry so strongly that sometimes it is impossible to recognize traces of the original.

Peri indicated that Gagliano's way of setting text to music came closer to actual speech than any other, therefore accomplishing the aim of the Florentine Camerata of decades before, who sought to recapture that supposed aspect of ancient Greek music.

Other music by Gagliano includes secular monodies and numerous madrigals. While the monody was a Baroque stylistic innovation, most of the madrigals are a cappella, and written in a style reminiscent of the late Renaissance (in the first decades of the 17th Century, the continuo madrigal was becoming predominant, for example in the works of Monteverdi). This mix of progressive and conservative trends can be seen throughout his music: some of his sacred music is a cappella, again in the prima prattica style of the previous century, while other pieces show influence of the Venetian School.

Gagliano was extremely influential in his time, as could be expected of the Medici's own appointed head of all musical activities at their court; however his popularity waned after his death, and his music has since been overshadowed by contemporaries such as Monteverdi.

Related Reading:
Piero Weiss and Richard Taruskin
Music in the Western World: A History in Documents
Marco di Gagliani
Dafne: Preface (Pages 174-177)


[Antonio Pallaiuolo (1429-1496) - Apollo e Dafne]

Apollo and Daphne is a story from ancient Greek mythology, retold by Hellenistic and Roman authors in the form of an amorous vignette; Thomas Bulfinch drew on those late sources in the following manner:

The curse of Apollo was brought onto him when he chided the young Eros for playing with bow and arrows.

Apollo was a great warrior and said to him, “What have you to do with warlike weapons, saucy boy? Leave them for hands worthy of them. Behold the conquest I have won by means of them over the vast serpent who stretched his poisonous body over acres of the plain! Be content with your torch, child, and kindle up your flames, as you call them, where you will, but presume not to meddle with my weapons.”

The petulant Eros took two arrows, of gold and one of lead. With the leaden shaft, to incite hatred, he shot the nymph Daphne and with the golden one, to incite love, he shot Apollo through the heart. Apollo was seized with love for the maiden, and she in turn abhorred Apollo. In fact, she spurned her many would-be lovers preferring instead woodland sports and exploring the woods. Her father demanded that she get married so that she may give him grandchildren.

She begged her father to let her remain unmarried.

He consented warning her, “Your own face will forbid it.”

Apollo continually followed her, begging her to stay, but the nymph continued her flight. They were evenly matched in the race until Eros intervened and helped him gain upon her.

Seeing that Apollo was bound to catch her, she called upon her father, “Help me, Peneus! open the earth to enclose me, or change my form, which has brought me into this danger!”

Suddenly her skin turned into bark, her hair became leaves, and her arms were transformed into branches. She stopped running as her feet became rooted to the ground. Apollo embraced the branches, but even the branches shrank away from him. Since Apollo could no longer take her as his wife, he promised to tend her as his tree, promising that he would use his powers of eternal youth to make sure that she would always stay green, and since then the leaves of the Bay laurel tree have never known decay.

[Titian (1485-1576) - Apollo and Daphne]

Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted a very famous baroque, life-sized marble entitled Apollo and Daphne.

In recent literature it is argued that The Kiss of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) is a symbolic picture of the kissing of Apollo to Daphne at the same moment she is transformed into a laurel tree.

[8583 Frescobaldi / 8582 Marco da Gagliano / 8582 Ravenscroft]