As a literary type, the madrigal of the 16th century is a free imitation
of the 14th century madrigal. This literary movement was a great
stimulus to musical activity. The musicians of the early 16th century ,
at first Netherlands composers working in Italy (Verdelot,
cooperated with the poets in order to achieve a new style of artistic refinement
and expression. Naturally, they did not take their cue from 14th
century music, which was entirely forgotten. In fact, it was only
the literary bond that justified the use of the sold name for the new compositions.
As a musical composition the madrigal of the 16th century is an outgrowth
of the frottole, more specifically, the canzona.
The development of the madrigal
in Italy is usually divided into three phases:
The transition is particularly apparent in the madrigals
The early madrigal (Verdelot,
Festa, Arcadelt, Willaert). The style
is, inspite of considerable imitation,
the writing is in three or four parts;
the expression is quiet and restrained.
The classic madrigal (Willaert,
Monte, Wert). Here the writing is
in four to six (usually five) parts
and the style is more genuinely polyphonic and imitative,
approaching that of the contemporary motet,
the expression being more intense and closely allied
to the text in meaning as well as pronunciation.
The late madrigal (Wert, Marenzio,
Here, the development lead to a
highly elaborate type of music,
even exaggerated and mannered,
manifesting all the experimental tendencies --
virtuosity of the vocal soloist,
The English madrigal
- Outside Italy, the madrigal was cultivated chiefly in England. William
Byrd seems to have been the first English composer to grasp fully the
importance of the madrigal. He, together with Thomas
Morley, represents the earlier period of the English madrigal, whose
style corresponds to a certain extent to that
of the second Italian school.
Nevertheless, the English madrigal soon acquired
native characteristics resulting from
The younger Englishmen, notably Thomas
Weelkes, leaned further toward Italy and exploited the innovations
of Marenzio and Gesualdo,
though somewhat more conservatively.
the peculiarities of the English language,
the frequent use of false relations and other harmonic
and a propensity for an unmistakably English touch
of merriment or melancholy.
Hans Leo Hassler
is the outstanding German
madrigalist, although many of his madrigals have Italian