Madrigal: Fenice fu
Jacopo da Bologna (14th century)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 2 Track 7
Jacopo, with serious aspect, changed gender for the narration of this poignant writer's madrigal. The symbols in this text -- the phoenix, turtledove, transformation, flying, orchards, muddy waters, etc.-- are grouped in twos. The combination of these symbols deserves a quiet contemplation that only music can provide.
A discussion about meaning runs the danger of reducing the beauty of the concepts by taking away the mystery. However, with controlled counterpoint Jacopo is able to delve into these symbols helping our understanding of the text without committing us to a particular meaning. For instance, when the bird in the poem flies through the orchard the music memorably extends the first syllable of the word "orchard." The text continues but the music repeats. When we return to the music that carried the word "orchard" it now presents the word "quickly." In this way Jacopo's presentation of the text gives us time to feel the meaning of these words and to feel a connection between words that we may otherwise not make.
What I like about this madrigal is the conclusion. It reminds me of the Meistersinger we encountered earlier in this survey. Like the German Bar form, this madrigal is structured AAB. However, this form is used more effectively here than it was in Herr Sachs' worthy contribution. The change in rhythm and counterpoint style at conclusion embrace the declamation of the final couplet.