May 15, 1567 - Cremona (Italy) — November 29, 1643 - Venice (Italy)
© Tyrolean State Museum Ferdinandeum
One of the major composers in Western music, a musician between Renaissance and Baroque era, Claudio Monteverdi left a great musical heritage that deeply marked the history of music, from the renewal he gave to the genre of the madrigal, to the first opera masterpieces he composed when the genre appeared.
Monteverdi, the ambassador of madrigal
One of the composers of the golden age of madrigals, doted with a brilliant literary culture, Claudio Monteverdi truly contributed to renew the genre of these small musical poems, with the highly expressive power of his music and scores he really put to serve poetic words. He published his first madrigals aged only 16, the Madrigali Spirituali, and composed dozens of madrigals during his life. Among them are some of his most beautiful scores. He firstly composed his madrigals according to the conventional polyphonic shape and then introduced in it the shape of accompanied monody. He also perfectly mastered musical counterpoints. Claudio Monteverdi was the last composer of the genre of the madrigal.
Monteverdi's sacred music
Although Monteverdi composed numerous religious work commissioned by his masters, some important facts make us better understand the central role of sacred music in his life. After having studied with Marcantonio Ingegneri, director of music at Cremona's cathedral, the young Claudio Monteverdi composed aged only 15 a remarkable collection of small sacred canticles he dedicated to his mentor. Afterwards, he was appointed maestro di cappella at St Mark's Basilica in Venice, a position he kept until his death in 1643. The Vespro della Beata Vergine (Vespers for the Blessed Virgin) he composed in 1610 remains one of his major works in sacred music. Lastly, the composer was ordained priest in 1632 after the death of his wife.
Monteverdi and the birth of opera
Above all, Claudio Monteverdi is one of the first composers who left masterpieces of the operatic genre that was appearing at that time. In a way, he was a kind of precursor in introducing ballo (small musical pieces staged) in his madrigals. On this point, one of his most popular ballo is the Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. From the first opera L'Orfeo he composed that was the first masterwork of the repertoire, to the last he composed in 1642, L'Incoronazione di Poppea one year before his death, Claudio Monteverdi left to posterity remarkable operas and became the most popular composer of his times.