Vecchie letrose


from, Vecchie Letrose by Timothy Dickey:

In Renaissance Venice, the imported Neapolitan style of popular music known as the villanescha achieved the status of a fad, though its place in society is unclear. On the one hand, both rival printers in the city, Gardane and Scotto, produced numerous editions of the music, some imported from the faraway kingdom of Naples itself, some written by Adrian Willaert, and other local composers in learned imitation of the Neapolitan style. Willaert's villanesche, in fact, may have figured into the entertainments he gave to earned academies meeting at the homes of his noble patrons Neri Capponi and Marco Trivisano. On the other hand, there were many thinkers of the time who agreed with philosopher Alessandro Piccolomini that Neapolitan music makes the soul "effeminate and soft." They might complain with Thomaso Garzoni da Bagnacavallo that "lascivious madrigals and empty, ridiculous Neapolitan vilanelle are more fit for performance at the homes of prostitutes." Indeed, in Venetian society, the higher-class courtesans often featured music and poetry as foreplay in their salons. Either side of the Venetian courtly society could have accepted a piece such as Willaert's Vecchie letrose non valete niente.

Many of Willaert's villanesche and other canzoni in the Neapolitan style are direct four-part arrangements of the three-voiced popular music of others, especially the villanesche of Gian Domenico da Nola. Vecchie letrose has no surviving model, though the melody in the tenor could easily derive from a now-lost example in the Neapolitan style. The text speaks of the "worthless" and "spiteful old hags." Much of the musical realization proceeds in homophonic phrases supporting the mostly stepwise motion in the tenor; the rhythms alternate between duple and sprightly hemiola-triples. The composer includes, however, more contrapuntal interest at two points: the second line of text, which imagines the objects of the poet's scorn lying in wait in thickets, incites a brief point of imitation in most voices, and the refrain's image of them beating someone with canes is led, dance-like, by the top voice, who leaps out first!

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