Madrigal: Cruda Amarilli
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 3 Tracks 59-63
Amaryllis was cruel in a kind way. Because of her fair service to Euterpe she deserves some credit for Monteverdi's immortality. His madrigal with her name is the Claudio hit that, to my ears, is the foundation of modern instrumental music. Though instruments, by the Camerata's time, have achieved some independence in dance music and keyboard improvisations, it is the heritage of the madrigal informed by recitative that gives instruments the gift to seem, a la Sid Caesar, to speak.
This short masterpiece is the aggregate of several intensely brief episodes. Even though the listener's attention is not stretched over the duration of the piece, each cadence has a gentle inertia that is slowed only by the repetitions of the last line.
What I like about this madrigal is the setting of the sixth line (appearing on track 62). It is in keen madrigal style that the music would quicken when describing someone as elusive. But this is also the turn in the poem toward the final two lines. And the sound of something different this far into the piece is a clear signal to the listener that we are either approaching a change or the conclusion. Monteverdi conveys the text well enough musically that the music can stand alone.