As Vesta was from Latmos hill descending - Weelkes

As Vesta was from Latmos hill descending - Weelkes


Thomas Weelkes (1576-1623) was an important English composer in the late Renaissance period. I chose the madrigal: "As vesta was" which formed part of an Anthology of Madrigals composed in honor of Queen Elizabeth, the compilation was called:  The Triumphs of Oriana" written in 1601 approximately.


This madrigal is set in 6 voices.  With the imitative polyphony, he created a great relationship between text and music, example of this is the part in which the maiden queen is climbing the hill and the music represents that scene with the utilization of ascending scales or descending, then the music is set with a descendent melodic motive; another example is the part in which one voice is singing "All alone" by the soprano and so on. This technique was called word painting. 

Musically it is denoted with a freely use of the harmony to give expressivity to the composition. The use of the suspended discord at the cadence in the middle of the phrases was an innovation made by him. This is clear, the influence of the Italian chromaticism, although there is a strong desire to avoid diatonic bases through the use of the discord.  


Thomas Weelkes was a contemporary with Carlo Monteverdi, which was the greatest composer of madrigals at that time and also a transitional composer from the Renaissance to the Baroque period. Weelkes and his generation did not follow Monteverdi's innovations and he preferred to keep his style intact with a few innovators elements such as the discord and the artificial relation that he created of the major and minor third enclosing them simultaneously. They are important characteristics of his music as well as the passionate character. But Monteverdi used the word painting through his all music too and also he incorporated the use of dissonances qualities that make his music even more dramatic and passionate than Weelkes who avoided dissonances as much as he could. Technically Weelkes madrigals are easier to interpret than Monteverdi's because of the simplicity of the musical lines. Monteverdi’s harmonies are clearly more innovators than Weelkes because he was working in his treatise “seconda prattica” in which he discusses the idea of making the words “the mistress of the harmony” example: "Cruda Amarilli". On the other hand, Thomas Weelkes felt more comfortable working with madrigals with 4, 5 and 6 voices than with the others because of the sound which is fuller and because he found this set a way to introduce his innovations. The truth is that the madrigals composed by him in 6 voices have longer phrases than the others with incredible effects made by him with the discord. The utilization of repetition of motives within voices was more evident, also the alternation of group of voices in contrast to each other. These particularities are defining his style within the period.


I choose this madrigal because it resulted attractive to me to see how Weelkes was influenced by Monteverdi although he could express his innovations in the English way of composition. Using chromaticism, his discords, intervals of 2nds and 7ths without showing a specific tonality. His style is romantic to me because of the passion that he gave in order to express in the music what the text is setting. 


Fellowes, Edmund H, Proceedings of the Musical Association , 42nd Sess., (1915 - 1916) , pp. 117-143.Edit
Morphthing1 "As vesta was from Latmos hill descending-Weelkes"; youtube: As Vesta was from Latmos hill descending - Weelkes - YouTubeEdit

Thomas Weekles. As vesta was. http://