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A distinguished musician, born at Cremona, May, 1567; died at Venice, 29 Nov., 1643. He studied under Ingegneri (composer of the "Responsoria", that until recently were regarded as by Palestrina), and at the age of sixteen he published a book of canzonets, followed by four volumes of madrigals. Although the majority of his early works show little trace of the inventive genius which afterwards revolutionized the prevalent system of harmony, one of his madrigals, printed in 1592, is remarkable for its many suspensions of the dominant seventh, and its inversion, as also suspended ninths. He was appointed Maestro di Cappella to the Duke of Mantua in 1602 and in 1613, was elected Maestro at Venice in succession to Martinengo, at a salary of three hundred ducats a year. So highly was he appreciated at St. Mark's that in 1616, the Procuratori increased his salary to five hundred ducats. From that date until his death he produced numerous choral compositions, as also operas, cantatas, ballets, most of which cannot now be traced. Fortunately, the score of his opera "Orfeo", printed in 1609, has come down to us, and is quite sufficient to indicate the inventive powers of a musician who broke away from the trammels of the older school and created a school of his own.
Monteverde not only showed his genius in his dramatic writing but in the employment of new instrumental effects, and the combination of instruments in the theatre band. In his interlude written for the festival at the palace of Girolamo Mocenigo, he employed the device of an instrumental tremolo, till then unknown. Another novel effect was his employment of trombones to accompany the "Gloria' and "Credo" of a Mass, in 1631. At this date he was studying for the priesthood, and he was ordained in 1633. Six years later he composed an opera "Atone" for the opera house of San Cassiano, followed by two others, and a ballet for the carnival at Piacenza, in 1641. His enduring fame consists in his use of unprepared discords, his improvement of recitative, his development of orchestral resources and his revolution of instrumentation. He may justly be claimed as the founder of dramatic music, as we now understand it, and he anticipated Wagner in the employment of Leitmotiv.
EDWARDS, Hist. of the Opera (London, 1862); EITNER, Quellen Lexikon (Leipzig, 1900-04); LEE, Story of Opera (London, 1909).
W. H. Grattan-Flood.