Monteverdi - Ohime, se tanto amate


Background information and performance circumstances

  • Claudio Monteverdi
    • born in 1567 in Cremona, Italy
    • died in 1643 in Venice
    • most important Italian composer of his generation
    • key part of transition from Renaissance to Baroque music
    • was based in Mantua 1590-1613, working for the aristocratic Gonzaga family
  • Ohime, se tanto amate was...
    • published in Venice in 1603 - in 'the Fourth Book of Madrigals' and probs performed at the Mantuan court by professional singers
    • based on a poem by Giovanni Battista Guarini (1538-1612) - Monteverdi set a number of texts by Guarini, who had close ties with Mantua
  • Monteverdi
    • chose his text in the knowledge that Benedetto Pallavicino (c.1551-1601), a now little-known rival, had published a setting in 1600
  • Performance
    • the work's earliest performances would have sung from separate part-books rather than a score
    • the 1615 edition typically has no bar-lines, some are notated using C-clefs
  • emotional intensity of this piece must have made it seem very 'modern', even shocking, to those accustomed to the late Renaissance - arising use of daring dissonance

Performing forces and their handling

  • wrote in five parts, meaning five soloists rather than a choir
  • sung by a mixture of men and women (unlike church music which would have been all men and choir boys)
  • there is:
    • canto (Italian for 'song') - soprano range/middle C to G a 12th above
    • quinto (Italian for 'fifth') - more second soprano than alto or contralto, crosees above the canto when given an idea sun previously by that part (bars 10 and 14)
    • alto - almost certainly high tenor (or low male alto or countertenor) not contralto/range is F# below middle C to A, a 10th above
    • tenor - more like a baritone which crosses above alto occasionally/range: D below middle C to F a 10th above
    • bass - range: low F to Bb an 11th above
  • top notes of canto, alto and tenor are reserved for the first syllable of ohime in bars 6 and 9


  • Number of parts:
    • often all 5 voices sing together, there are passages for 3-voice groupings - antiphony early in the final section (canto, quinto, bass; then alto, tenor, bass)
  • four-part writing is little used
    • because not differentiated sharply enough from five-part or three-part writing
  • relationship of parts:
    • all voices share the same rhythm (ie. chordal/homorhythmic texture)
    • sometimes parts have different rhythms simultaneoulsly (commonly just employing a freer homophonic style/occsasionally in counterpoint with little imitation)


  • composer uses the same music for each stanza of the poem - strophic setting
  • Monteverdi does not repeat entire passages of music note-for-note, meaning that this piece was through-composed
  • madrigal could have three sections - textural change plays a large part with the structure
  • Section 1:ohime...morire (bars 1-19) - texture builds up:3 part (with antiphony), briefly 4-part, full 5-part
  • Section 2: s'io moro...sentire (bars 20-38) - two equal sub-sections, each with the same text; the second is a varied and


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