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Claudio Monteverdi Bibliography

Claudio Monteverdi (May 15, 1567 (baptised) – November 29, 1643) was an Italiancomposer, violinist and singer.

His work marks the transition from Renaissance to Baroque music. During his long life he produced work that can be classified in both categories, and he was one of the most significant revolutionaries that brought about the change in style. Monteverdi wrote the earliest dramatically viable opera, Orfeo, and was fortunate enough to enjoy fame during his lifetime.

He was born in Cremona in northern Italy. In childhood he studied with Marc Antonio Ingegneri, who was maestro di cappella at the cathedral in Cremona. Since there is no record of him singing in the cathedral choir, the music lessons must have been private. Monteverdi produced his first music for publication—some motets and sacred madrigals—in only 1582 and 1583, so he must have been something of a child prodigy. In 1587 he produced his first book of secular madrigals, and shortly thereafter began to look for work outside of his native town.

In 1590 Monteverdi began working at the court in Mantua as a vocalist and viol player, and by 1602 he had become conductor there. Until his fortieth birthday he mainly worked on madrigals, composing nine books of them in all. Book VIII, published in 1638, includes the so-called Madrigali dei guerrieri ed amorosi which many consider to be the perfection of the form. As a whole, the first eight books of madrigals show the enormous development from the Renaissance polyphonic music to the monodic style which is typical of Baroque music. The ninth book of madrigals, published posthumously in 1651, contains lighter pieces, such as canzonettas, probably composed throughout his lifetime and representing both styles.

From monody, with its emphasis on clear melodic lines, intelligible text and placid accompanying music, it was a logical step to begin composing opera, especially for a dramatically inclined composer who also loved grand effect. In 1607 he composed his first opera, Orfeo. It was common at that time for composers to create works on demand for special occasions, and this piece was meant to add some lustre to the annual carnival of Mantua. Indeed it was a great success, fitting so well in the spirit of the times. Orfeo is marked by its dramatic power and lively orchestration. Indeed, this piece is arguably the first example of a composer assigning specific instruments to parts, and it is also one of the first large compositions in which the exact instrumentation of the premiere has come down to us. The plot is described in vivid musical pictures and the melodies are linear and clear. With this opera Monteverdi had created an entirely new style of music, the dramma per musica (musical drama) as it was called. Monteverdi's operas are usually labelled 'pre-baroque' or 'early-baroque'.

It is arguable that Monteverdi's greatest work remains the Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610 (The Vespers of the Blessed Virgin 1610). This is one of his few sacred works of any scale, but it remains to this day one of the greatest examples of devotional music, matched only by works such as Handel's Messiah and J. S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion. The scope of the work as a whole is breathtaking - each part (there are 25 in total) is fully developed in both a musical and dramatic sense - the instrumental textures are used to precise dramatic and emotional effect, in a way that had not been seen in before.

In 1613 Monteverdi was appointed as conductor at San Marco in Venice, where he soon revived the choir, which had withered under his predecessor. Here he also finished his sixth, seventh and eighth books of madrigals. The eighth is the largest, containing works written over a 30-year period, including the dramatic scene Tancredi e Clorinda (1624), in which the orchestra and voices form two separate entities. They act as counterparts. Most likely Monteverdi was inspired to try this arrangement because of the two opposite balconies in San Marco, which had inspired much similar music from composers there, such as Gabrieli. What made this composition also stand out is the first-time use of string tremolo (fast repetition of the same tone) and pizzicato (plucking strings with fingers) for special effect in dramatic scenes.

During the last years of his life Monteverdi became ill, but it did not keep him from composing his two last masterpieces, both operas: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (1641), and the historic opera l'Incoronazione di Poppea (1642). L'Incoronazione especially is considered a culminating point of Monteverdi's work. It contains tragic as well as comic scenes, (a new development in opera), more realistic portrayal of the characters, and warmer melodies than had previously been heard. It requires a smaller orchestra, and has a less prominent role for the choir.

Monteverdi composed at least eighteen operas, of which only Orfeo, l'Incoronazione, Il ritorno, and the famous aria 'Lamento' from his second opera l'Arianna have survived.

Monteverdi died in Venice.

Quick Links

Further Reading


  • Madrigals, Capella Reial, Jordi Savall
  • Madrigals, Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini
  • Madrigals, Delitiae Musicae, Marco Longhini
  • Madrigals, The consort of Musicke, Anthony Rooley
  • Madrigals, Tragicomedia, Stephen Stubbs
  • Selva Morale e Spirituale, Cantus C�lln, Konrad Jungh�nel
  • L'Orfeo, New London Consort, Phillip Picket
  • Vespro della Beata Vergine, Capella Reial, Jordi Savall
  • Vespro della Beata Vergine, Taverner consort, Andrew Parrott
  • Sacred Music, The King's Consort, Robert King

This biography is published under the GNU Licence

Items to buy by Claudio Monteverdi

Vespers (1610) "By Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). Arranged by Jeffrey Kurtzman. For SSTTBB soloists, SATTB chorus, orchestra (2/3 violins, 3 trumpets in D, 1 trumpet in B flat, 2/3 violas, 2 cellos, 1 double bass, 3 trombones, 1 bass trombone, 2 recorders, 2 flutes). M

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Ecco Mormorar L'onde "By Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). Arranged by Conlon. For SSATB choir, a cappella. Octavo. Published by Alliance Music Publications"

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"6 Duets (2 high voices,Pf)" "By Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). Edited by Landshoff. Vocal Duets/Trios. For 2 High voices, Piano. Vocal. Vocal score. Text Language: Italian only. Published by Edition Peters"

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Vespro della Beata Vergine (Vocal Score). By Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). Arranged by Jerome Roche. Schott. Piano reduction. 175 pages. Schott Music #ED12602. Published by Schott Music

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L'Incoronazione Di Poppea "By Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). Edited by Alan Curtis. For Opera (Vocal Score). Music Sales America. Opera, Renaissance. 318 pages. Novello & Co Ltd. #NOV200184. Published by Novello & Co Ltd."

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32 Madrigals Vol.1 By Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). For SSATB choir a cappella. Madrigals. Sheet Music. Text Language: Italian/German. Published by Edition Peters

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Vespro della Beata Vergine (Marienvesper (1610)). By Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). Arranged by Jerome Roche. Study Score. Eulenburg Taschenpartituren (Pocket Scores). Study Score. 292 pages. Hal Leonard #ETP8024. Published by Hal Leonard

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L'Orfeo (Score). By Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). Arranged by Claudio Gallico. Score. Eulenburg Taschenpartituren (Pocket Scores). Study score. 162 pages. Hal Leonard #ETP8025. Published by Hal Leonard

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Love Duet (from Poppea) By Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). For Voice & Piano. Masterworks; Part(s); Song - Secular. Faber Edition. Masterwork; Renaissance. Published by Faber Music

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Vespers "(Vocal Score). By Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). Edited by Denis Stevens. For SATB soli, SATB Choir, Organ (SATB). Music Sales America. Sacred, Renaissance, Choral. 222 pages. Novello & Co Ltd. #NOV070211. Published by Novello & Co Ltd."

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Per Cantare E Sonare/Pj342 (Amor-Lamento Della Ninfa/4 Vx Mxtes Instr/Ptition). By Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). For 4 mixed voices and Instruments. Score. Published by Heugel & Cie

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Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (Tragedia di lieto fine in un prologo e tre atti). By Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). Edited by Rinaldo Alessandrini. For 3 alto voice solos/3 bass voice solos/6 soprano voice solos/7 tenor voice solos/choir/2 violins/2 violas/basso continuo. This edition

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Adams and Kiel 1989 represents an older form of bibliography that must be supplemented with the more recent Monteverdi bibliographies. The bibliography Carter and Chew 2010 includes scholarship published up to 1999, and Leopold 2004 is a bibliography that includes scholarship published through 2002. Surprisingly, a catalogue raisonné of Monteverdi’s works has remained a desideratum until today, with Stattkus 1985 offering a first attempt at a complete catalogue, which, however, has not found international acceptance.

  • Adams, K. Gary, and Dyke Kiel. Claudio Monteverdi: A Guide to Research. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities: Composer Resource Manuals 23. New York: Garland, 1989.

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    An annotated bibliography of writings about Monteverdi and his music with the main sections Monteverdi’s Works; General Background for Monteverdi Research; Monteverdi’s Life; Studies of Monteverdi’s Music; Monteverdi Today; and three indices (Author Index, Index of Compositions by Monteverdi, General Index of Proper Names). Cutoff date is 1986; the guide is not complete and should be used with the bibliographies named below as well as in Fabbri 1994, cited under Continuation and Development.

  • Carter, Tim, and Geoffrey Chew. “Monteverdi, Claudio: Bibliography.” In Grove Music Online. 2010.

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    An extensive yet uncommented scholarly bibliography up to 1999, covering a broad range of subjects divided into categories and integrating a considerable amount of the older Monteverdi literature. Entries are primarily in English, Italian, and German, but there are also “life-and-works” monographs from other countries listed.

  • Leopold, Silke. “Claudio Monteverdi: Bibliographie.” Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Personenteil 12 (2004): 413–421.

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    The most recent extensive bibliography covering most aspects of Monteverdi scholarship up to 2003. The bibliography is international, reflecting the dominance of Anglo-American and, to a lesser degree, Italian and German, research on Monteverdi.

  • Stattkus, Manfred H. Claudio Monteverdi: Verzeichnis der erhaltenen Werke; Kleine Ausgabe. Bergkamen, West Germany: Musikverlag Stattkus, 1985.

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    The only existing Catalogue raisonné of Monteverdi’s works. Though used by some scholars, the somewhat cumbersome Stattkus-Verzeichnis has not become accepted as a tool in international Monteverdi scholarship. The intended larger edition with incipits has never been published. Abridged version also available.

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