Cruda Amarilli

Cruda Amarilli

"Cruda Amarilli" is a madrigal by Claudio Monteverdi published in the Fifth Book of Madrigals. The book was published in 1605. The madrigal is dramatic and portrays the relationships between lovers. The characters, Amaryllis and Mirtillo, were used in many musical settings at the time but originated in Guarani's play Il pastor fido (Golden 2010). In some ways, this madrigal becomes somewhat of a precursor for opera. The work was heavily critiqued by Giovanni Artusi, who said that Monteverdi broke the traditional rules of the prima prattica (Bonds 2013). This particular piece would be considered a bridge between the Renaissance and Baroque periods.


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In "Cruda Amarilli," Monteverdi shows his interest in the seconda prattica through his interest in text, meaning, drama, and affect rather than with traditional ideas of consonance, dissonance, and rules of counterpoint like Artusi (Golden 2010). The text in this work is seen as the most important aspect. The simple music shows that Monteverdi was influenced by the push for simplified text during the Renaissance, and that he carries the practice into the Baroque period. The "ahi laso" phrase beginning in measure 40, translates into "alas," uses dissonance, not shearly for the sake of using dissonance, but because the dramatic text and character's extreme emotion called for this use of dissonance. In this example, it is evident that the text controls the music, a key characteristic of the transition into the early Baroque style. The rhythms are simple with a steady tempo, both common characteristics of Baroque music. The voices primarily move together with a simplified polyphonic style, also a carry-over from Renaissance to early Baroque. 


Monteverdi's madrigal "Zefiro torna" from his Ninth Book of Madrigals was composed later in the early Baroque period than "Cruda Amarilli." "Zefiro torna" is more ornamented, with the two tenor parts singing text at different times and alternating back and forth. This is unlike the "Cruda Amarilli" where all the voices sing the same text together at relatively the same time. Ornamentation is coupled with text painting. For example, the phrase "mormorando," meaning "to murmur," begins in measure 35 and uses runs and wavering scales to convey the text. The same concern that Monteverdi demonstrated in "Cruda Amarilli" is demonstrated in this piece through text painting and dramatic shifts in music to convey the text. A large difference in the two works is the function of the bass. The bass part in "Cruda Amarilli" functions similarly to its above parts and is sung, whereas the bass in "Zefiro torna" is very planned out as a basso continuo and played by an instrument, extremely common in early Baroque music.


I enjoyed studying this piece because it is such a pivotal piece for this period. I thought it would help me delve more into the differences between late Renaissance and early Baroque because of "Cruda Amarilli's" transitional elements. This piece is interesting not only musically, but also politically as it played an important role in determining and reestablishing rules for musical composition.

Works CitedEdit

"Cruda Amarilli." YouTube video, 2:41. Posted by "umlmusichistory," upload November 4, 2012.

Mark Evans Bonds. A History of Music in Western Culture. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice-Hall, 2013.

Rachel Golden. (2010, September) Renaissance Period. Musicology 210. Lecture conducted from University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Luigi Torchi (editor). Cruda Amarilli. Creative Commons Attribution.,_SV_94_(Monteverdi,_Claudio)