Claudio Monteverdi is arguably the most innovative composer of the early Baroque period. Known for his vocal works, Monteverdi’s most notable musical characteristic is how he matched music with text. His madrigal Lamento della Ninfa, which was written any time between 1614-1638 (exact date not known) is no exception. The musical elements of this madrigal are pure Monteverdi/baroque style full with text painting and creative expression.
Monteverdi’s madrigal Lamento della Ninfa is first and for most as it says in the title, a lament. A lament is “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow” usually used in mourning. The text is divided into three parts with the solo soprano line acting as the nymph who is lamenting. Monteverdi’s musical style of text painting is seen all over this piece. For example, around 0:48 in the video, the 4 voices sing the line “On her pale face grief could be seen.” The music suddenly modulates into a minor mode and when the word “grief “ or in Italian “scorgeasi” is said the music really condenses into what sounds like a very diminished chord. As previously stated, this is true Monteverdi/baroque form. Matching the music with what is going on in the text was what Monteverdi was known for. The text painting in this madrigal really helps the listener feel the emotion of the lament – the sense of loss and grief.
When comparing Monteverdi’s Lamento della Ninfa to another one of his works Possente spirto from L’Orfeo, one can see many similarities as well as differences. Both works have basso continuo and Monteverdi’s musical style of text painting is seen in both as well. A difference is there is more ornamentation in the Possente spirto than in the Lamento della Ninfa. Both are great works by Monteverdi and his baroque musical style is seen in both pieces.
I’ve always liked Monteverdi’s compositions because I especially like his use of text painting. Many critics believe that Lamento della Ninfa is one of Monteverdi’s most emotionally moving works so I was curious to study it more. I enjoyed listening and analyzing Lamento della Ninfa and finding where Monteverdi matched the music with the text.
Burkholder, J. Peter, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. A History of Western Music. Eighth Edition. (W.W. Norton and Company, New York, New York). 2010.
Lamento della Ninfa. “The Semi Classical Limit.” Updated August 19, 2013. Accessed February 25, 2014. http://semiclassicallimit.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/lamento-della-ninfa/
“Monteverdi – Lamento della Ninfa – Kirkby.” Youtube video. Posted by “civileso.” Uploaded October 3, 2008. Accessed February 25, 2014. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3ZX5hFN-is
“The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archieve.” Lamento della ninfa. Accessed February 25, 2014. http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=24171