• Naomi Leila

Renaissance - Baroque crossover composers

The crossover period between Renaissance and Baroque music shows many changes in the way that music was composed. It roughly spanned between 1575- 1625. During this time monody and treble-bass polarity, along with the development of basso continuo were highlighted. There was a strong emphasis at that time to express the meaning and emotion of the text more, which resulted in a move away from Polophony and led to the invention of Opera and early Baroque Monody.

Claudio Monteverdi 1567-1643 Italian composer, string player, choirmaster, and priest.

Brief History: Monteverdi is considered a crucial transitional figure between the Renaissance and Baroque periods. He was born in Cremona to a barber-surgeon and a chemist. He studied with the director of music, 'Marcantonio Ingegneri' at the Cremona cathedral and started publishing his vocal works by the age of 15. He then moved near to Mantua where he became an important composer of the compositional style, 'Seconda practica'. In 1590 he was employed by the duke of Mantua as a string player. In roughly 1599 he married the singer, 'Claudia Cattaneo' and had three children with her. By 1602 he became the director of music. Then in 1613 he moved to Venice where he became the ‘maestro di cappella’ at St Mark’s Basilica. In the 1630s there were political battles and an outbreak of the plague which left Monteverdi without commissions from Mantua, or Venice and he found life lean. In 1637 Venetian opera houses opened and his career was revived. He died in Venice.


Musical Style: Monteverdi is mostly remembered for his madrigals and his development of the opera (a new genre at the time). He composed 10 operas and many other different types of music, both secular and sacred, including ballets. He aimed to follow the meaning of poetry in great detail, which created dissonances, angular melodies and a various emotional spectrum of colours in his music. Whereas he composed his madrigals with lightness and humour, seeing the essence of a poem rather than its' detail.


Fun Facts:

  • Full name is Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi.

  • The Flemish composer Giaches de Wert was one of the main composers who influenced him.

  • His first opera, 'Orfeo' was commissioned by Prince Francesco Gonzaga for the Carnival of 1606–07 and is still performed today.

  • His second opera, Arianna, is lost, except for the song, 'lamento' which was so popular it got published several times.

Music recommendation: L'Orfeo Prologo: Toccata


Orlando Gibbons 1583-1625 English (Jacobean) Composer and organist, born in Oxford


Brief History: Gibbons was one of the last of the English madrigal school of polyphonic composers. He was the most well-known and respected member of a large musical family. He went to the University of Cambridge in 1598. In 1603 he became a member of the Chapel Royal and later became the chapel’s organist, a post that he kept for the remainder of his life. 1622 he was made honorary doctor of music of the University of Oxford. The following year he became organist at Westminster Abbey, where he later officiated at the funeral service of King James I. He married Elizabeth Patten and had 6 surviving children with her.


Musical Style: Gibbons composed in almost every genre of the Elizabethan and Jacobean era. In 1612 he published His Madrigals and Motetts of 5 Parts. This collection contains texts which are mostly moral and philosophical and shows his mastery of polophony. He composed about 40 anthems and created a path for English composers to follow.


Fun Facts:

  • It is rumoured that Gibbons was part of the entourage that attended Charles I when he traveled to Dover to meet his bride, Henrietta Maria.

  • His earlier Fantasies in Three Parts Composed for Viols (c. 1610) are believed to have been the first music printed in England from engraved copperplates.

  • He taught his son Christopher, who in turn taught many musicians including the famous Purcell.

Music recommendation: Fantasia MB 10


Heinrich Schütz 1585-1672 German composer and organist


Brief History: Schütz was born in Bad Köstritz and is seen as the most important German composer before Bach.

In 1599 he became a chorister at Kassel. In 1608 he entered the University of Marburg to study law. He then made a u-turn, in 1609 and went to Venice to study music for 3 years, mainly under Giovanni Gabrieli. His studies there were mainly financed by the landgrave (Noble class). He went back to Germany to continue his studies in law in 1613 and then received the position of second organist at the court in Kassel. In 1617 he was given a permanent position in the electoral chapel, where he remained until his death, apart from a 2 year interlude from 1633-35 where he was chapel master to the royal court of Copenhagen. Throughout the years of serving in the electoral chapel he pleaded for dismissal( due to the court being affected by the plague and the Thirty Year's War) to no avail.


Musical Style: Throughout Schütz’s compositions there is a strong dramatic sense, it feels very starkly individual and German. Apart from his early madrigals, most of Schütz's known works are vocal settings of sacred texts, composed with and without instruments. His biggest achievement in his music was to introduce the new style of Italian monodists (solo vocal music) to Germany.


Fun Facts:

  • He composed the first German opera Die Dafne and the first German requiem in 1636, 'Musikalische Exequien' ,though the opera is lost today.

  • It is thought that Schütz perhaps studied with Claudio Monteverdi when he visited Venice in 1628.

Music recommendation: Psalmen Davids samt eltlichen Moteten und Concerten, Op.2, SWV 22-47: Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen SWV 29, "Psalm 84"


I hope that this helped inform you on the composers who bridged the gap between the Renaissance and Baroque periods and that you enjoyed some of the recommended pieces.


Much Love

Naomi Leila Xx


P.s. Watch out for my next blog instalment on Early Baroque composers.


P.p.s This work is mainly from a lot of research I've done on the internet. If anything is inaccurate please let me know and I will update it


P.p.p.s If you liked this please press the heart button and become a member to never miss a post :)


P.p.p.p.s If you're interested in reading a more in depth portrayal of this transition period then this article is great http://www.lcsproductions.net/MusicHistory/MusHistRev/Articles/RenToBar.html

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