Cyprien de Rore

Was born in Ronse (Renaix) in 1515 or 1516 and died in Parma between 11–20 September 1565. Rore was one of the most important composers of the middle decades of the 16th century. Although he lived to be only 49 years old, his music, particularly his Italian madrigals, underwent profound changes in style from his early to his late works. His innovations both in harmonic language and in texture created a dramatic style intensely expressive of the text and very important for later developments in the madrigal.

De Rore’s birthplace can now be established as Ronse (Renaix), a small town in Flanders, west of Brussels and at the linguistic border between Flemish and French-speaking areas (Cambier). The name de Rore (and variant forms de Rodere, Roere) can be found in Ronse documents from as early as c1400. It is a proper Flemish name, not a Latinized version like De Monte for Van den Berghe. The family used a coat of arms with crossed scythes within an oval frame; the composer used this as his seal and it is found on his memorial plaque in Parma. Cyprianus, a saint who was celebrated at St Hermes, the collegiate church in Ronse, was the namesake of a number of members of the family. A 1564 notarial document in Parma identifies the composer’s father as the late Celestinus. According to Cambier Cipriano was the son of Celestinus (dead before 1564) and Barbara van Coppenolle; he had two brothers: Franciscus and Celestinus (1510–58). The ‘Ciprianus de Rodere, Rotornacensis Celestini’ found in the matriculation records for the University of Louvain in 1550 was not the composer, but the son of a cousin. The composer signed his own name ‘Cipriano de Rore’ when he was writing in Italian, and a Flemish document of 1558 refers to him as ‘Cup[r]iaen De Rore’. During the 16th century he was often referred to simply by his first name, not infrequently modified by the adjective ‘divino’, or occasionally as Cipriano Rore (or the Latinized Ciprianus Rorus).

No evidence about de Rore’s early musical training has surfaced. Cambier and others have speculated that he could have been in the retinue of the young Margaret of Parma. Meier argued that a phrase in Alma real, se come fida stella, a madrigal de Rore composed in her honour, probably in 1559, suggested a long-standing connection with her. Margaret, an illegitimate daughter of Charles V, was born in Oudenaarde, just 6 km from Ronse. In 1533 she traveled to Italy and took up residence in Naples, and three years later married Alessandro de’ Medici; it is not impossible that the young Cipriano could have been in her entourage. The precise date of his arrival in Italy is unknown. Ever since Caffi’s claim that de Rore had been a singer at S Marco, a Venetian sojurn in the 1530s and early 1540s has been assumed, but there is no evidence to support the claim.

De Rore is usually described as a pupil of Willaert’s, though the evidence is scanty. Paolo Vergelli’s dedication of the Scotto edition of the composer’s third book of madrigals to Gottardo Occagna includes the phrase ‘con alcuni [madrigali] del divinissimo Adriano Villaerth, et de altri suoi discepoli’ and he is again referred to as Willaert’s disciple on the title page of Fantasie, et recerchari a tre voci. ‘Discepolo’ may, however, simply mean ‘a follower of Willaert’s practice’. (It is worth noting that the two composers’ three-voice settings of Regina caeli in that print use identical tenors.) Whatever the nature of his relations with Willaert, he had clear connections with the group of musicians and composers that Lewis has described as the ‘Willaert circle’.

The earliest secure evidence of de Rore’s whereabouts in Italy are letters preserved in the Strozzi correspondence. A letter of 3 November 1542 indicates that he was living in Brescia, and that he had been in Venice as a visitor (not as a resident); he was still living in Brescia on 16 April 1545. The nature of de Rore’s employment in Brescia remains to be discovered. The Strozzi correspondence reveals an active exchange of the latest compositions in manuscript by Ruberto Strozzi and Neri Capponi, Florentine exiles living in Venice and closely associated with Willaert. Both Capponi and Strozzi commissioned music from de Rore, and the composer’s relationship with Strozzi continued until as late as 1546, when he paid de Rore at the rate of 5 scudi per ‘canzoni’.

De Rore seems to have sought employment at an Italian court, probably in the early 1540s. His secular motet for Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, O qui populos, contains the plea ‘Cypriam gentem suscipe quaeso’. He also had connections with Guidubaldo della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, for whom he composed Cantiamo lieti and with Cristoforo Madruzzo, Cardinal of Trent, dedicatee of Quis tuos presul. From this period dates the six-voice motet on the text of the prodigal son newly appreciative of his father’s generosity, Nunc cognovi, Domine; addressed to an unknown patron, this piece has the witty ostinato ‘Fac me sicut unum ex mercenariis tuis’. These dedications, combined with evidence of the avid desire by Capponi and Strozzi to acquire his latest madrigals and motets, provide a clear picture of a composer rapidly gaining renown in the court and aristocratic circles of central and northern Italy. These early years in Italy were extremely productive, at least to judge from the number of compositions published in the years 1542–6: 27 or about half of his motets (including secular Latin-texted compositions) and 29 or about one-third of his Italian madrigals.

The first records of employment in Italy are salary payments as maestro di cappella at the court of Duke Ercole II d’Este in Ferrara, one of the leading musical and artistic centres of Italy. De Rore received his first payment on 6 May 1546 (there is no evidence to support the claim that he could have begun in 1545). Particularly given the apparent lack of employment prior to 1546, his appointment as director of one of Italy’s most important musical establishments is astonishing. He was then 30 years old, and at the beginning of a decade of even greater productivity. He remained in Ferrara, more or less continuously from 1546 until early 1558.

The years in Ferrara, especially the decade between 1547 and 1557, saw the publication or composition of 107 pieces, more than half of the music he composed during his life. Not surprisingly, a significant number of compositions are specifically Ferrarese in one way or another. These include two masses in honor of Duke Ercole II d’Este; a chanson (En voz adieux) celebrating the wedding of Anna d’Este in 1548; a motet (Hesperiae cum laeta) on a text by Ferrarese poet and diplomat Girolamo Faletti, describing a painting by Girolamo Carpi of Anna portrayed as Venus; and three compositions concerning the unauthorized departure of Prince Alfonso for France in 1552 and his return in 1554 (Calami sonum ferentes, Volgi’l tuo corso, Quando lasciaste signor). Two madrigals were used in plays written by Giraldi Cinzio. Also striking are the number and character of his settings drawn from Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, which artfully invoke the local tradition of improvised recitation of ottave (Haar, 1990). His daring chromatic experiments in Calami sonum ferentes, written for four bass voices, and published by Lassus together with one of his own experiments, fit in with the Ferrarese passion for chromaticism displayed by Vicentino, Manara, Fiesco and others.

In 1556 Ercole awarded de Rore a benefice, describing him as ‘homo molto virtuoso e da bene, mio servitore da molti anni’. But the composer had trouble collecting the income, which in any case was paltry compared to that received by his colleague Francesco dalla Viola. One of a Ferrarese family whose members had been serving as musicians at the Este court for at least three generations, dalla Viola seems to have been a rival and far better connected with the future Duke Alfonso II. During Cipriano’s final three years in Ferrara, dalla Viola as well as Prince Alfonso were obsessed with the publication of Willaert’s Musica nova, the first copies of which finally appeared in Autumn 1558. It is remarkable that a composer of the stature of Cipriano de Rore did not inspire a comparable initiative in Ferrara.

De Rore was absent from Ferrara, with permission from Duke Ercole, for nine months in 1558 (March to November). During his trip north to Flanders, where he arrived on 1 May, he stopped in Munich, possibly to assist with preparations of a manuscript of his motets. Commissioned by Duke Albrecht V, this luxurious illuminated manuscript contains a folio-sized portrait of the composer. The manuscript was a regal tribute, but unlike Willaert’s Musica nova, whose many surviving copies attest both to a large print run and an eager buying public, it was an artifact designed for an elite few.

A legal document from 18 September 1558 places de Rore in his native Ronse, assisting his sister-in-law Hermine Bauwens following the death of his brother Celestinus. By 24 September he was in Antwerp, and by December of that year he was back in Ferrara. In July 1559 he received permission to leave his position at the Este court, and once again traveled to Flanders. If his letter of 13 October 1559 is to be taken at face value, he intended to retire from court service.

During his decade in Ferrara de Rore’s reputation became European in scope. He composed music for the elite of Europe: Charles V; Lamoral, Count of Egmont; Cardinal Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle; Wolfgang Engelbert I von Auersperg; and Albrecht V, Duke of Bavaria, to whom, in January 1559 he sent a New Year’s gift, described as a psalm. This may have been Beati omnes, Donec gratus eram tibi, or Exspectans exspectavi.

When de Rore returned to Flanders in 1559 he found his town burnt: a result of the Wars of Independence. The phrase ‘rovinati’ in his letter, usually thought to mean that his family had lost everything, seems to describe the chaos caused by the war (his sister-in-law was wealthy enough to lend considerable sums for rebuilding the church in Ronse). After the death of Ercole II, de Rore offered his services to Duke Alfonso, in tones that scholars have long noted seemed inappropriate (returning to court service meant taking up the yoke), but the Duke had already hired Francesco dalla Viola. Correspondence with Cardinal Granvelle shows that de Rore was living in Antwerp in 1560, and after weighing offers both in Flanders and abroad, he entered Farnese service. In November he left for Parma, traveling by way of Paris.

The Farnese court in Parma, established only 20 years earlier by Pope Paul III, must have been disappointing; there are various indications that de Rore was looking for employment elsewhere: in June 1563 he sought permission to move to Willaert’s position at S Marco in Venice; a document from the Mantuan archives indicates that Duke Guglielmo Gonzaga was considering hiring de Rore; and there is also further correspondence from this time between de Rore and the court in Urbino as well. In the end, the move to Venice did not work out, according to de Rore himself, because of administrative difficulties caused by the division of the chapel into two choirs. He returned to Parma in 1564 and died there a little more than a year later, of unknown causes. His final years saw a drop in productivity: 27 compositions (mostly madrigals), though he continued to compose on commission, including a mass for Archduke Ferdinand II of Tirol, a motet for Guidubaldo della Rovere and music for the wedding of Alessandro Farnese and Maria of Portugal.

Cipriano de Rore was first and foremost a composer of madrigals. He composed a smaller but not insubstantial number of motets, as well as Latin-texted secular compositions, some of which were published in madrigal books. He also composed a handful of chansons, Masses and other liturgical compositions.

De Rore composed some 107 madrigals. Most of them appeared in the seven madrigal books that bore his name (five for five voices, two for four), while others were published in anthologies. Only two of these seven were devoted exclusively to de Rore’s music; the rest were anthologies. In contrast to the previous generation of madrigal composers, when four-voice texture was the norm, most of his madrigals are for five voices.

The works pose some problems of attribution. Four madrigals previously attributed to de Rore can be shown to be by other composers: Quando lieta sperai is almost certainly by Morales and three works published in the posthumous are by Marc’Antonio Ingegneri, de Rore’s student. The attribution of ten more pieces is questionable on grounds of style and source distribution. A che con nuovo laccio, which was included along with Quando lieta sperai as part of a ‘filler’ gathering added to the third book of madrigals, is probably not by him. Two others, Deh hor foss’io and Volgend’al ciel, from a Scotto reprint, can be challenged on stylistic grounds. The remaining seven all appear in sources dating from as early as a year after his death to a quarter-century later. Most are anomalous in style as well as in the choice of clefs and tonal type (the combination of clef, signature and final), which are important clues of compositional practice.

It is a commonplace of music history that de Rore burst onto the musical scene in dramatic fashion, fully formed as a composer, with his Madrigali a cinque voci, published in Venice by Girolamo Scotto in 1542 (usually referred to, inaccurately, as the Primo libro, a name it acquired when it was reprinted in 1544 and retained during the many subsequent editions). One of the first single-composer publications of madrigals, it presents a distinctively Venetian take on the madrigal, marked by a preference for setting sonnets, Petrarch’s above all, and by the use of the lofty imitative polyphony that had heretofore been associated with motet composition. The madrigal is thus imbued with a far different spirit than the essentially chanson-like, largely homophonic style of the generation of Verdelot in Rome and Florence.

Although it has been generally accepted that de Rore’s early madrigals were strongly influenced by (and indistinguishable from) Willaert, there are significant differences in their styles, in their choice of texts, and especially in their harmonic palettes. Already in his first book de Rore achieved a distinctive voice, which Feldman, in a felicitous analogy, describes as ‘Dantean’ in contrast to Willaert’s more balanced, ‘Petrarchan’ approach. De Rore also explored the expanded rhythmic possibilities afforded by the use of C mensuration leading to smaller rhythmic values that ‘blackened’ the page (‘note nere’ or ‘madrigali cromatici,’ as later editions of the book were called). De Rore also set himself apart from Willaert in his decision to organize his 1542 collection in modal order. This was the first instance of a modally-ordered single-composer print; the organization indicates the composer’s involvement in the book’s publication. The imaginative use of a system of modality whose connections to polyphonic music de Rore was himself instrumental in establishing must have been astonishing to musicians encountering his 1542 print for the first time. Not all of his early madrigals – which might be described as consisting of madrigals published in or before 1550 – are dark, however. His setting of Anchor che co’l partir, on a text traditionally ascribed to Alfonso d’Avalos, participates in the traditional madrigalian topos of death as sexual release. This madrigal achieved extraordinary popularity.

De Rore’s style seems to have undergone dramatic change during the 1550s. There was a near total hiatus in publishing between 1550 and 1557 (the exceptions are experimental chromatic Calami sonum ferentes, 1555, and the conservative Vespers music of 1554). A change in style at this time is heralded by a change in his poetic sources: he set Petrarch only once after 1550 (as opposed to 38 times in 1550 or earlier), and not at all after 1557. His use of melodic and harmonic language changed as well, indeed many of the madrigals published between 1557 and 1566 (the year after his death) would later be singled out by Giovanni di Bardi and Giulio Cesare Monteverdi as examples of the origins of the seconda pratica. No longer did he present his madrigals in modally ordered sets; he seems to have favoured tonal types that could not easily fit traditional modal categories (Owens). The late madrigals (and some of the Latin-texted secular compositions) frequently employ a transparent texture, a kind of supple homophony that can be renotated as monody, and text expression is increasingly dependent upon harmonic language.

More so than with the madrigals, study of de Rore’s motets is hindered by problems of attribution. We can be reasonably certain that de Rore composed 53 motets on sacred subjects, 51 of which are extant. This number is considerably smaller than that reported in earlier scholarship for two reasons. First, Blackburn’s discovery that all but one of the eight motets in the manuscript Treviso 29 were in fact contrafacta of surviving motets reduces the number by seven. Second, it is now possible to take a stronger stand on issues of authenticity based on considerations of style, the nature of the sources, and above all, de Rore’s distinctive patterns in his choice of clefs and tonal type. Thus, 18 motets included in the Complete Works can be regarded as either definitely or probably not by de Rore. Six were composed by an unknown ‘Ziprianus’ (possibly Cipriano de Soto); seven were first published under de Rore’s name for the first time only in 1595, in a problematic print issued by Angelo Gardano; three others were attributed to him only after his death; and two motets published in 1549 became associated with de Rore through mistakes in the print transmission (Clambat autem mulier is by Morales; Virtute magna remains anonymous). Most of these pieces are uncharacteristic of his style, but even more telling is that most employ combinations of clefs or tonal types not represented elsewhere among his securely attributed works.

Establishing a chronology of the motets is difficult. Evidence suggests that he composed approximately half of the motets, and possibly more, during the 1540s or earlier; none of the motets can be securely dated after 1560 (although we know that he sent Guidubaldo della Rovere an unnamed motet ‘produto di novo’ in 1564). We are hampered in understanding the impetus behind the composition of the early motets by not knowing anything about de Rore’s employment before his appointment in Ferrara, and there has not yet been any attempt to match specific texts with particular liturgies.

De Rore’s motets have not been preserved in a nicely chronological set of publications. He seems to have supervised the publication of just one volume, the 1545 Moteti, which, like his five-voice madrigals of 1542, is ordered by mode. An earlier ‘libro primo’, published by Gardano (1544), was in fact an anthology containing only seven of de Rore’s motets. The only other extant prints published during his lifetime are an anthology called the ‘Terzo Libro’ (15498) and the two books of four-voice motets for equal voices, all but one of which can be found in an earlier manuscript.

In addition to the prints, there are three important manuscripts of his motets. The great illuminated manuscript commissioned by Duke Albrecht V and completed in 1559 contains 26 motets for four to eight voices. Two sets of partbooks are copied in upright quarto in a hand and format that probably imitates Willaert’s Musica Nova (1559). These two manuscripts, which are thought to date from about 1560, are elegantly bound and originated at the Este court in Ferrara. The date of composition of the motets from these manuscripts is uncertain; some probably date to the 1540s.

Various kinds of evidence suggest that one or more motet prints has not survived. A number of motets from the Ferrarese and Munich manuscripts turn up in late prints or manuscripts (Treviso, Bourdeney) that cannot have used the court manuscripts as their source. The absence of a ‘Libro secondo’ and several suggestive entries in early inventories make the hypothesis of lost prints plausible.

A thorough study of de Rore’s style remains to be done and the task is hindered by the uncertain chronology of his works. Most of his demonstrably early motets use the prevailing texture of imitative polyphony throughout. The style found in many works, of textures combining both polyphonic and chordal passages, may represent a stylistic development of the 1550s. And it is possible to distinguish a spare, quasi-chordal late style, analogous to developments in the madrigal and mass. Further study of stylistic features such as the use of repeated musical material and the degree of compactness in the construction of imitative points would doubtless aid in the establishment of chronology.

De Rore set relatively few texts that could be described as liturgical (eight antiphons and five responsories), of which all are early and exclusively polyphonic in texture. Many later texts are drawn from the Bible, most as direct excerpts though some as composites. And in these de Rore shows a preference for dramatic texts. As in his madrigals, de Rore’s preferred ensemble was for five voices, the majority of which employ low clefs or low equal voices. The six- and seven-voice pieces are the special, large-scale antiphon settings employing two or three voices in canon that frame the Munich manuscript: Descendi at the beginning, Hodie Christus natus es, Ave regina caelorum, and Quem vidistis at the end. The other two six-voice pieces both have ostinatos. The nine four-voice motets look as though they were composed as a group: they are all voci pari.

De Rore composed very few masses, compared, for example, to Palestrina or Lassus. This small output surely reflects the conditions of his employment, which called primarily for compositions in other genres. The earliest mass, Missa Vous ne l’aurez pas, is of doubtful attribution. Based on an unidentified model, possibly a lost Josquin six-voice chanson or a reworking by Willaert, it occurs in only one source, Scotto’s 1555 edition of Jachet masses, as ‘a voci pari’ and ‘vus ne larez’. It is incomplete, lacking part of the Sanctus and Agnus, and seems to have been included to fill out the print. The rest of his masses have strong links (either through documentary or source evidence) to three major patrons who commissioned and collected his music: Ercole II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara; Albrecht V, Duke of Bavaria; and Ferdinand II, Archduke of Tirol.

Two extraordinary masses securely date from the period of his tenure in Ferrara (1546–59), probably from the mid-1550s. These are the two masses composed in honour of Duke Ercole: the five-voice Missa Vivat felix Hercules and the seven-voice Missa Praeter rerum seriem. In both masses, de Rore acknowledged his status as maestro di cappella at the court of Ferrara and thus as inheritor of the position held by his great predecessor, Josquin des Prez. He paid double homage to his patron and to Josquin himself, while at the same time, through artistic means, seeking to surpass Josquin. Missa Vivat felix Hercules employs a cantus firmus that is a soggetto cavato dalle vocali, like Josquin’s mass for Ercole I, Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae. Missa Praeter rerum seriem takes as its model the motet by Josquin, and adds a chant-based cantus firmus, ‘Hercules secundus dux Ferrariae quartus vivit et vivet’. With these masses, revealing his command of traditional compositional techniques that were becoming increasingly irrelevant, he declared himself part of the great tradition of Franco-Flemish polyphony and an astute observer of historical traditions of musical style.

De Rore’s other two masses are both written in the transparent chordal style typical of his late music and probably date from the late 1550s or later. Both are five-voice imitation masses based on chansons: Missa a note negre, based on de Rore’s own chanson Tout ce qu’on peut en elle voir (published in 1557); and Missa Doulce memoire, based on the popular (and frequently reworked) chanson by Pierre Sandrin.

Although most of de Rore’s masses remained unpublished, they achieved considerable renown. Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria seems to have been genuinely interested in collecting his music. Three of de Rore’s five masses were copied into manuscripts for Munich in the 1550s, and the duke knew de Rore’s music well enough to ask for a copy of Missa Praeter rerum seriem by name in 1557. His comments about the music, in the letter he sent thanking Duke Ercole for having sent the mass, are extraordinary in their appreciation for de Rore and for Ercole as his patron. Even after his death, de Rore’s masses continued to have a place of honour in the Munich court; according to Troiano, two of de Rore’s masses, one for six voices and one for seven, were performed during the wedding festitivites in 1568 for Albrecht’s son, the future Duke Wilhelm V; neither of these appears to survive. Archduke Ferdinand II of Tirol commissioned a mass from de Rore in November 1564. From the letters of the Venetian Francesco della Torre, who served as intermediary, we learn of the progress of the composition. By 20 January 1565 the Kyrie and Gloria had been composed and performed for a private audience, and de Rore reported that the mass was almost finished, and on 7 April della Torre reported that the mass was ready to be sent. The most likely candidate among de Rore’s surviving masses is Missa Doulce memoire. De Rore’s masses, which he seems to have composed primarily if not exclusively on commission from or in honour of individual patrons, reflect clear shifts in his style, or compositional agenda, during the brief decades of his compositional activity.

De Rore composed little other liturgical music. A print from 1554 contains a Magnificat and a set of psalms for the second Vespers on Christmas, written in conventional alternatim style. An additional Magnificat survives only in manuscript. He may be author of a setting of the Passion according to St. John, published in 1557.

De Rore’s early maturity as a composer coincided with the flowering of music printing in Venice, where two printers, Antonio Gardano and Girolamo Scotto, would between them publish nearly one thousand music titles between the late 1530s and the early 1570s. He thus had an opportunity to establish his reputation not available to composers even a few years earlier.

De Rore began publishing not in an anthology, but rather with a book devoted exclusively to his madrigals, one of only three such volumes that he would publish during his lifetime. It is unusual that he did not seek to defray the costs by dedicating this book (or any others) to a patron, the normal means for subvening publication. De Rore worked with the printer Girolamo Scotto for his 1542 book, but then switched to the firm of Antonio Gardano for the publication of his second single-author print, the 1545 motets. This time he obtained a privilege from the Venetian government to protect his rights (though this did not stop Scotto, who published his own edition in the same year, getting around the privilege by omitting the name of city and printer from its title page). His third and final single-volume publication, the 1550 First Book of four-voice madrigals, was with the Ferrarese firm of Buglhat and Hücher. Like the other two, this volume was modally organized, though not numerically ordered. With no Venetian privilege to protect this volume, it went through at least 13 editions, a number that begins to approach Arcadelt’s Primo libro as a best-seller.

The choice of three different printers to publish his music suggests a dissatisfaction with the music publishing industry. For their part, the printers were trying to satisfy or take advantage of the strong market for de Rore’s music. It is striking that the rest of his music appeared in anthologies, publications financed by the publisher/printer as a money-making venture. Gardano’s so-called Libro secondo literally capitalizes on his name: ‘DI CIPRIANO Il secondo libro de madregali a cinque voici insieme alcuni di M. Adriano et altri autori a misura comune novamente posti in luce’ (though only eight of the 27 madrigals in the print are actually by de Rore).

The publication of de Rore’s music in publisher-sponsored anthologies meant that the publishers/printers frequently had to make do with whatever copies they could get their hands on, rather than being able to work directly with the composer. For example, the motets that Gardano brought out in a 1544 anthology appeared in more definitive form in de Rore’s own 1545 publication. The most notorious example concerns the publication of the third book of five-voice madrigals (1548). The dedication to Gottardo Occagna by Paolo Vergelli indicates the struggle to obtain Cipriano’s music: ‘Knowing your diligence and hard work in these past days to obtain those Vergine, composed some months ago by the very excellent musico Cipriano Rore’. Gardano’s edition, also with just six stanze, has a dedication in some copies from Gardano to Giovanni della Casa describing the music as ‘nuova, rara, e bella’. Both printers issued the remaining stanze, probably in 1549, as a supplemental gathering found in some copies of the 1548 editions. But the definitive version of the music was not published until Gardano’s 1552 edition. De Rore’s efforts to keep his music from circulating indiscriminately are clear from Bonagionta’s dedication to the posthumous Le vive fiamme (with its defiant title suggesting musical, if not physical immortality): ‘… thanks to the great familiarity and the friendly relationship which for a long time united me with the excellent musician M. Cipriano Rore, he kindly shared with me some of his most beautiful four- and five-voice madrigals with the request that I keep them close by me, so that his works might not fall so easily into the hands of everyone who would like to make them public’.

After 1550, de Rore’s madrigal prints consisted of just two significant anthologies from 1557 (the fourth book of five-voice madrigals and the second book for four-voices), and two posthumous anthologies (the fifth book in 1565 and Le vive fiamme in 1566). Single works are scattered in various anthologies.

The central problem still facing scholars is to explain why this composer was thought so highly of both in his own lifetime and in the half-century following his death. Evidence of this esteem is not hard to find. Over and over again he is called ‘il divino Cipriano’, surely not a tribute given lightly. His music would continue to be republished for four decades after his death in posthumous complete works editions, like the Phalese (1573) and Gardano (1595) collections of motets or the extraordinary publications of the complete four-voice madrigals in score (1577); many of the madrigal books were republished in the 1590s. His music was also strongly represented in several of the large manuscript score anthologies from the second half of the century (Tarasconi, Bourdeney). A whole raft of composers claimed to have studied with him; the details of his influence on composers of the succeeding generations.

One answer is that his music was multi-faceted and could appeal to several different compositional agendas at the end of the 16th century. Monteverdi, whose brother referred to de Rore as ‘il primo rinovatore’ of the ‘seconda pratica’ (usually translated in English as ‘founder of the Second Practice’), found in his music the use of harmonic devices to illustrate the text both locally in terms of counterpoint and at the higher level of tonal organization (for example, Da le belle contrade). Giovanni di Bardi, taken as representative of Florentine initiatives in (re)discovering the capabilities of music for dramatic purposes, could find, sometimes in the same pieces that Monteverdi would later cite, examples of a supple, speechlike texture that allowed the words to be heard clearly. And the conservative Artusi could also cite him as an excellent example of the prima pratica. He was also credited with a series of ‘firsts’: to exploite the rhythmic possibilities of the new note nere notation; to publish a collection in modal order, and then to write in ways that seem to deny the modal system; to set the eleven-stanza Vergine canzone, an unusually long composition for the time; to move from the prevailing imitative style to a newly transparent homophony; to focus on the drama inherent in texts, many of which are speeches, almost like mini-scenes; to use harmony to portray the power of Petrarch’s darker side.

Jessie Ann Owens


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