Composer in Focus – Claudio Monteverdi

Name: Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi
Dates: 1567-1643
Country of Birth: Italy
Musical Era: Renaissance/Baroque

Monteverdi was a true revolutionary, seemingly dragging renaissance music kicking and singing into a new era; the brave new world of Baroque.  Born in Cremano, Italy, young Claudio was a published composer by the age of fifteen; his knack for penning tunes with words proven early on.  The composer’s enquiring mind led him to create some of Italy’s most talked about musical works at the time, with his first opera L’Orfeo really turning heads with its daring harmonic language and orchestral frippery.

Like many composers and musicians of the period, Monteverdi found himself a job in the royal court – specifically the court of Mantua, where he performed the viol. And his playing wasn’t merely restricted to the palace; indeed Monteverdi found himself the musical accompaniment to a Turkish conquest in 1595.

Thankfully he survived his battlefield exploits and went on to marry and have three children, two sons and a daughter.  Sadly the daughter died and soon after so did his beloved wife.  The breaking of his family broke his heart, but he continued working and raised his sons.  The heartbreak and depression that followed inspired one of his most famous sacred works, the Vespers of 1610.  They were dedicated to the Pope of the day, seemingly in a vain attempt to curry favour with the Catholic Church in Rome – Monteverdi had itchy feet and fancied a move to the capital.  It was not to be, however.

A move did come, after the death of the Duke of Mantua, and Monteverdi was made Maestro di Capella at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice.  Here the composer would live and work out his remaining years, and with the opening of several new opera houses, he penned further works for the burgeoning genre.

Monteverdi… modernist, trailblazer.  He understood what could be achieved with the orchestra, and the voice, and set about redefining Italian classical music forever.

Key works… Vespers of 1610, L’Orfeo, L’incoronazione di Poppea, Il Ballo Delle Ingrate, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in patria

Did you know?  Monteverdi had to travel with the Duke of Mantua and his troops while they set about conquering Turkey; he played for them to raise their spirits in battle!

Read more about Monteverdi – classicfm.com / Subscribe to Classical Bristol

Monteverdi in Bristol
Sat 1 Apr 2017, 7.30pm /
Exultate Singers – ‘Vespers of 1610’ (St George’s Bristol)
Weds 12 Apr 2017, 7.30pm /
English Baroque Soloists & Monteverdi Choir – ‘Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in patria’ (Colston Hall)
Mon 8 May 2017, 7.30pm /
English Baroque Soloists & Monteverdi Choir – ‘L’incoronazione di Poppea’ (Colston Hall)
Sun 28 May 2017, 7.30pm /
English Baroque Soloists & Monteverdi Choir – ‘L’Orfeo’ (Colston Hall)