El Grillo, composed by the incomparable Josquin des Prez. Live, 4K video from our Leonardo da Vinci: a musical Odyssey concert in San Francisco, performed by the Early Music ensemble Voices of Music. Stefanie True, soprano; Deborah Rentz-Moore, mezzo soprano.
The music, a “frottola” published by Petrucci, is from our Leonardo da Vinci program. We sourced manuscripts and prints from the cities, courts and places that Leonardo lived in and travelled to from c.1452-1519. The program, “O musical Odyssey” is tied together with a narration. In some cases, we have historical records that the music was performed at an event that da Vinci planned or attended. This program won the 2017-2018 San Francisco Classical Voice “Best of the Bay” award for “Best Chamber Music” concert.
In 1501, when Leonardo was nearly fifty, the completely unknown entrepreneur Ottaviano Petrucci turned the musical world upside down by inventing a way to print polyphonic music using multiple, sequential impressions of moveable type. Petrucci’s books set a high standard for music printing in the 16th century. Petrucci solved a problem which had confounded printers for decades: how could one align the musical notes vertically with the long, thin, horizontal lines of the musical staves? Petrucci painstakingly printed the music lines in one impression, and then he used highly accurate guides to align the second impression of musical notes to each staff. A third impression may have been used to print the text. Though expensive, these books changed the way people experienced music and ushered in the age of domestic music making, in which people could sit around the table and sing or play from printed partbooks. In addition, music printing allowed composers to achieve a previously unheard of level of fame and currency throughout Europe. Many of Petrucci’s books contained settings of Italian frottole—light, airy and homophonic music with witty and amorous texts. The frottola emerged as one of the leading genres under the patronage of Isabella d’Este (1474–1539); Isabella’s wide and influential circle included Leonardo as well as many of the leading artists of the time. Contrary to fashion, Isabella supported native Italian composers and poets, and this support helped to establish a new, highly innovative Italian style which was instrumental in defining many of the important musical genres such as the madrigal, the trio sonata, the concerto, and, of course, 17th century opera and oratorio.
At its inception, the frottola relied primarily on hack poets, and the home-grown combination of rustic music and rough verse was a big success. In addition, the Medicis developed their own, related versions of this music, the canti carnascialeschi, or carnival songs. Within ten years, audiences and royal patrons demanded—and received—a higher level of sophistication in both the music and the poetry, and this is reflected by the ever increasing numbers of poems by Petrarch set to music in Petrucci’s printed books, as well as the inclusion of contemporaneous verses written in a more elevated style. In the 1530s, the frottola gave way to the Italian madrigal, which became one of the most important musical forms of the 16th century.
Text and translation
El grillo è buon cantore
Che tiene longo verso.
Dalle beve grillo canta.
Ma non fa come gli altri uccelli
Come li han cantato un poco,
Van de fatto in altro loco
Sempre el grillo sta pur saldo,
Quando la maggior el caldo
Alhor canta sol per amore.
This cricket is a good singer
He holds his line long time
He drinks! He sings!
But, he’s not like those other birds.
After they’ve sung just a few notes
They take their business elsewhere….
The cricket always stands firm,
And when it really gets hot,
He sings only for love. (Petrucci: Libro dello Frottole III, Venice, 1505) Translation by Cynthia Craig Simon & David Tayler, with Lawrence Rosenwald.
#Josquin #ElGrillo #LeonardoDaVinci
0:00 Introduction Lira da braccio
0:29 Josquin El Grillo