Troppo ben può

Claudio Monteverdi

Like Ferrara, the court at Mantua was known for the virtuosity of its singers, and composers like Monteverdi could be confident that performances would present no technical difficulty. With a discerning and appreciative audience expecting to take away reports of the music at the Mantua court, composers obviously would be expected to provide suitable music.

Being in part a proclamation of seconda pratica, the fifth book was provided with a continuo part for each madrigal; while optional for most, it is obligatory for the last six numbers. Among these six is a madrigal set to the same words as one that appeared in Luzzaschi’s that had appeared in his Madrigali per cantare e sonare of four years earlier.

The madrigal is structured very carefully around the words, taken from Guarini’s Rime, but not exactly as they had appeared in Luzzaschi’s version.

Troppo ben può questo tiranno Amore!

Too well works this tyrant Love

Poichè non val fuggire

Because it is useless to flee

a chi no’l può soffrire.

for those who cannot suffer him

Quand’io penso talor com’arde e punge

When I think how much he burns and stings

io dico: ah, core stolto,

I say: Oh foolish heart

non l’aspettar, che fai?

do not wait for him, what are you doing?

Fuggilo, sì che non ti prenda mai.

Flee him, so that he never catches you.

Ma, non so, com’il lusinghier mi giunge

But in some way the flatterer reaches me

ch’io dico: ah, core sciolto,

so that I say: Oh weak heart

perchè fugitto l’hai?

why do you flee him?

Prendilo sì, che non ti fugga mai.

seize him, so that he can never flee you.

The opening Troppo ben può questo tiranno Amore (“too well this tyrant, Love”) features free imitation in the tonic major, as if reflecting on a proverb by way of introduction, and coming to a cadence to complete the thought.

The canto enters alone, supported by continuo, in the minor mode, with quando io penso talor como arde e punge (“when I think how much he burns and stings”), word–painting adding a little agitation on arde (“it burns”), until arriving at io dico (“I say”), at which point the other voices join. Now begins a section in which canto alone with o core stolto (“Oh foolish heart”) is answered several times by the other voices with non l’aspettar, che fai? (“do not wait for him, what are you doing?”), casting the upper voice as soloist and the others as responding chorus or observer. The final fuggilo sì, che non ti prenda mai (“flee him, yes, [so] that he does not ever catch you”) is set to more dotted rhythms and imitation among all the voices conveying the urgency of flight.

The rhyme scheme of the next verse is the same as its predecessor, but with the imagery cleverly exchanging the roles of Love and lover. Monteverdi repeats almost exactly the two preceding sections: the canto acquiesceses with ma non so como il lusinghier mi giunge (“But, I know not how, the flatterer reaches me”) and the chorus responds ch’io dico (“that I say”). After the dialogue ah core sciolto (“oh faint heart”) and perchè fuggito l’hai (“Why have you fled him?”) comes the urgent prendio sì, che non ti fugga mai (“take him, [so] that he can never flee you”). A final section repeating the last phrase among all the voices balances the opening and closes the work.

Era l’anima mia

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