Emilio De' Cavalieri (1550ca-1602)
Lamentationes Hieremiæ Prophetae cum Responsoriis Officii Hebdomadæ Maioris
Emilio de’ Cavalieri is remembered today primarily as the composer of the Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo... per recitar cantando (Rome, pub. Nicolò Muti, 1600), and for his controversial rôle in the birth of the so-called accompanied monody (from the Greek word monoidia, meaning solo singing), or recitative style, which evolved for the most part in Florentine court circles at the end of the sixteenth century. The exponents of monody - that musical style born at the end of the sixteenth century, considered by Nino Pirrotta to be “the fundamental element of music, both vocal and instrumental, from the baroque to romanticism” - exploited, in the midst of the Counterreformation, the idea that the artful construction of polyphony and counterpoint lacked the capacity to shake and move the listener, that is, to render him participant on a psychological and emotional level of the musical performance. For a theoretical justification of this, they turned to the authority of the ancient philosophers to the Platonic motto, “music is nothing other than speech and rhythm and lastly sound, and not the contrary”. The monodic style was thus characterized as recitative (or rappresentativo) since its task was to project into the imagination of the listener the actions or reactions of one or two characters in a dramatic or pathetic situation or scene. One essential component of this style was the accompaniment, first called basso dell’organo and later basso continuo, born as a single line conceived to coincide with the vocal melody and intended to provide it with appropriate rhythmic and tonal support. Though numerous and contradictory, many contemporary testimonies concerning the creation of this new recitative style mention Cavalieri by name.