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See A. Einstein, The Italian Madrigal (3 vol., 1949); J. Kerman, The Elizabethan Madrigal (1962); J. Roche, The Madrigal (1972).
(Italian madrigale, from the medieval Latin matricale [from Latin mater, “mother”], a song in the mother tongue in contrast to Latin songs), a poetic and musical genre of the Renaissance. It originated in folk poetry, in old Italian pastoral songs. In the 14th century the madrigal appeared in Italian poetry as a lyric on idyllic themes and immediately attracted the attention of composers. Between the 14th and 16th centuries madrigal poems were generally written for a musical setting. The early musical-poetic madrigals were vocal and instrumental works for two or three voices consisting of several stanzas and a refrain. The subject matter was generally amorous, humorous, or mythological. Important composers included G. da Firenze and F. Landini.
After a period of decline the madrigal was revived in the 16th century as a piece for four or five voices, unaccompanied and usually lyrical. The principal composers in this form were A. Willaert, C. Festa, J. Arcadelt, Palestrina, and O. Lasso, and the texts were often verses by Petrarch, Boccaccio, Tasso, and Guarini. The madrigal was also popular in England (T. Morley, J. Wilbye) and Germany (H. L. Hassler, H. Schiitz). The late 16th-century madrigals of L. Marenzio, C. Gesualdo, and C. Monteverdi were characterized by a greater expressiveness of thought and feeling, abundant imagery, bold dissonances, chromaticism, and vivid rhythmic and stylistic contrasts. In the late 16th century and early 17th, madrigals fused with theatrical genres, becoming the basis for the madrigal comedy.
In later times madrigals were not musical compositions but rather “compliment” poems addressed to a lady. The madrigals of the 18th and early 19th centuries were salon and album verses. In Russia they were written by K. N. Batiushkov and A. S. Pushkin. A classic example is M. Iu. Lermontov’s poem:
Spirit incarnate! You boldly convince all;
I’ll agree, breathing love:
Your most beautiful body
Is but spirit!
T. N. DUBRAVSKAIA