Chapter Five

Take a fresh look at Madrigals this weekend

This Saturday’s concert from Bath Recitals looks afresh at the wonderful world of Madrigals from the 16th century to present day arrangements of populars songs for five voices. So here’s five things you might not have known about this captivating musical genre:

1. Madrigals originated in Italy

Back in the 1520s, composers expressed the emotions contained in each line of celebrated poems, and sometimes individual words to really bring them alive.

2. Heard of the English Madrigal School? 

This began in the 16th century during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I with composers such as William Byrd and John Dowland. They produced lighter madrigals but very much based on the Italian models.

3. More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise…

This is the last line of ‘The Silver Swan’ written in 1612 by Orlando Gibbons and is often considered to be a lament for the death of the English tradition.

4. Opera was the death of the Madrigal

17th century Italy saw the rise of opera with composers like Monteverdi writing more music for stars of the stage which was usually too difficult for the enthusiastic amateur.

5. Catch and Glee Clubs

In 18th century England the singing of madrigals was revived by catch and glee clubs and more recently with groups like the Kings Singers.