Flexi Quintet – Monteverdi, 6th Book of Madrigals (1614) – Sestina


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As part of my continuing project to transcribe Monteverdi’s
madrigals onto instruments, here is the 6th book. In this book we see a much
greater development towards dramatic representation. In a way, this book
is divisible into two Scenes with a number of single items in between.
The vocal lines are all much more complex and we can also see the
beginnings of monodic writing appear in the semi-recit sections of some
of the songs.

Also clearly developing are delineations of the voices into soloists
and chorus. Several songs in this book are almost akin to arias, with
clear soloistic writing for the higher voices (Cantus/Tenor).

The songs starting from no 8 form a set of 6 to which Monteverdi gave
a separate title “Sestina”. Sestina contains nearly 20 minutes of music!  Within this set of songs Monteverdi creates a
little dramatic episode which foreshadows many of the developments that
we find in his early operas: Monody/recitative, dialogue between chorus
and soloist, a tendency to give the high parts strong melodic lines and
a clear division of the roles of the singers.

For the time being, until someone asks, I am not going to release the
separate songs from Sestina individually as some of them are a little

A sestina is a complicated verse form of six stanzas each of six
lines with rules about repeating the last line of the first stanza. The
poetic form is of little use to us as instrumentalists, but the dramatic
mourning, cries of anguish and the feelings of loss embodied in the
music will come through regardless of the lack of words.

As with all things madrigalian, the lyrics are rife with double entendres.

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Ensemble Type

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Flexible Instrumentation

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Medieval and Renaissance


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