Quel augellin che canta

Claudio Monteverdi

Mantua’s Gonzaga court was famous for its singers. With such technically accomplished performers, and examples of madrigals by such as de Wert and Pallavicino, it is no surprise that Monteverdi made astonishing progress after beginning his career there.

He relied heavily on Guarini for his texts, many from Il pastor fido, the performance of which was postponed for some years following its abortive debut in 1592. The text for Quel augellin che canta (“That bird who sings”) is particularly charming, allowing Monteverdi to indulge himself in images of fluttering birds.

Quel augellin che canta

That little bird who sings

si dolcemente e lascivetto vola

so sweetly and lasciveously flies

hor da l’abete al faggio

now from fir to beech

et hor dal faggio al mirto

and now from beech to myrtle,

s’havess’humano spirto

if he had a human soul

direbb’ Ardo d’amore!

would say “I burn with love!”

Ma ben arde nel core

Yet his heart burns

e chiam’il suo desio

and he calls to his heart’s desire

che li rispon’ Ardo d’amor anch’io!

who answers him “I too burn with love!”

Che sii tu benedetto

May you be blessed

amoroso gentil vago augelletto

kind, loving little bird.

The frequent crossing of the upper voices and the rapid passaggi they exchange certainly impart such a picture, especially insofar as they are mostly confined to canto and quinto parts: the lower voices introduce phrases in homophonic texture, and occasionally indulge in some florid imitation, but the interest remains in the upper voices.

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