The popularity of Florentine–style monody declined rather more quickly than its self–proclaimed inventors might have liked as lighter and more melodic fare became more fashionable. Later offerings by Caccini and Peri themselves included as good deal more of this kind of music. But it did not disappear either: alongside its hesitating development as operatic recitative, it saw significant growth among Roman composers.
Songs of a religious or moral nature, like the ones published in Monteverdi’s Selva morale e spirituale were encouraged in the centre of western Christendom, explicitly or otherwise. The lament at the foot of the cross, whether in the mouth of the Virgin or of Mary Magdalene, a mise en scène furnished an occasion of strong musical affect.
Among the hundreds of examples of the time is Lagrime Amare (“Bitter Tears”)
by Domenico Mazzochi, composer of La Catena
d’Adone. In addition to his employment by Cardinal Aldobrandini beginning in 1621, Mazzochi enjoyed the
Domenico Mazzocchi, Dialoghi e sonnetti; Title Page
patronage of Pope Urban VIII himself. Based on words by Cardinal Roberto Ubaldino, the work appeared as the last number in Mazzocchi’s Dialoghi e sonetti (“Dialogues and sonnets”) published in Rome in 1638; it was scored in four sections for soprano and continuo.
Mazzochi makes it clear that the ‘sonnet’ is to be performed strictly as written (...si canta come è scritto á rigore, non facendo alterationi...), and the first section moves along quite regularly.
Yet the second part begs for the affect of recitative: the bass holds stationary as the vocal part advances with agitated
passaggi. In several places, Mazzocchi indicates the ornament we know as portamento or slide, where the transition in pitch between two notes happens smoothly and gradually, rather than chromatically by step, an effect evocative of despair. Florid figures are used to express the words versate pur (“spill forth”) in respect of the singer’s flowing tears of repentance. Finally, the closing section completes the metaphor wherein the blood of Christ becomes the water of the penitent’s tears, with a string change of tonality at the words da Giesú ferito (“of wounded Jesus”).
Each stanza ends with the same words: bisogna morire (“we must die”). The repetitious rhythm of the melody and more especially the relentless bass, even during an instrumental interlude, are exceptionally effective in driving home the point of the song.
Oh how you deceive yourself
if you think the years
have no end:
we must die.
Si more cantando,
One dies singing,
si more sonando
one dies playing
la cetra, o sampogna,
the lyre, or bagpipe,
die we must.
Si muore danzando,
One dies dancing,
con quella carogna
in this carrion
die we must.