Le Nuove Musiche II

Giulio Caccini, 1614

For those in the service of aristocratic courts like the Medici, favour was often dependent upon how much glory and celebrity one could bring to one’s employer. In that kind of atmosphere, past achievements were always in danger of being overshadowed by the recent triumphs of others.

In 1603, Giulio Caccini presented a new singing ensemble comprising his two daughters Settimia and Francesca, his son Pompeo, and his new wife Margherita d’Agostino Benevoli. The group gained considerable notoriety early on, given Caccini’s skills both as a singer in his own right, and as a teacher especially of stilo moderno singing. The following year, the entire Caccini family was invited to the royal court of France to perform for Maria de’ Medici and Henri IV Navarre. While Euridice and Caccini’s Il rapimento di Cefalo (“The Abduction of Cephalus”) had been found somewhat arid in Florence, the family was by all accounts received very warmly, and Francesca was even asked to stay on. The home court, however, refused to release her, and the Caccinis returned to Florence in 1605.

Giulio continued to work for the Medici, producing music for weddings and other celebrations, and evidently dabbling in polychoral music. He tried to arrange situations for his children, including an attempted betrothal for Settimia to Girolamo Frescobaldi. He still sang, taught, and fought with others.

In 1614, he published his Nuove musiche e nuova maniera di scriverle (“New Music and New Method of Writing It”), sequel to his work of twelve years earlier. Like the earlier collection, it includes pieces he characterizes as madrigals — through–composed and irregular in structure — in the first half, and lighter, dance–like and strophic numbers in the latter half which he calls arie (“airs”). Caccini still insists his style can be communicated through notation — hence the title — and writes out ornaments exactly as they should be performed.

Caccini, Torna pargoletto mio (excerpt)



The last years of Caccini’s life in Florence were spent gardening, which had become all the rage, and enduring various ailments under house arrest, a result of a particularly nasty quarrel with Ottavio Archilei, son of the famous singer Vittoria. He died 6 December 1618.

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