Monday, April 05, 2010

Sweet torment

Si dolce e'l tormento has become one of Monteverdi's greatest hits, simple yet affecting, recorded by Philippe Jaroussky with L'Arpeggiata and by many others. But it's surprisingly difficult to find the music for it. Look in the 9th book of madrigals, as suggested by the BBC. It's not there. An online search turns up only a sadly unreliable modern transcription which confuses E flats and D sharps.

It turns out that the song comes not from one of Monteverdi's own books but from a 1624 collection by Carlo Milanuzzi, the Quarto Scherzo delle Ariose Vaghezze. And, deep inside a master's thesis by Cory Gavito of the University of North Texas, there's a facsimile of the original song.

Surprise: above the voice part, there are chords for guitar, just like a modern pop song. The chords are in the Alfabeto system, widespread at the time, in which each common chord is rather arbitrarily assigned a letter of the alphabet. The song opens with chords E, D, H, G which in today's terms are chords of D minor, A minor, B flat major, F major. I'd love to hear what Joni Mitchell would make of it.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you very much for sharing this. What do you think of the refrain signs on this score? Could it be played with the repetition of one or both the two parts, for example when played instrumental?