Verdelot’s setting of Petrarch’s “Italia mia”, one of the finest of the early 16th century madrigals. 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; Malachai Bandy, Adaiha MacAdam-Somer & Elisabeth Reed, viols.
The first decade of the 16th century saw the French composer Verdelot in Florence and Rome, where he was instrumental in the development of the Italian madrigal. Verdelot also collaborated with Niccolò Machiavelli for his comedies. Verdelot’s style consists of points of imitation alternating with homophonic passages in a clear and graceful style; his works were greatly admired and widely imitated throughout the 16th century.
In his poem Italia mia, Petrarch bitterly laments the folly of war and ends with an appeal for truth and peace.
Text (Canzoniere, CXXVII)
Italia mia, benché’l parlar sia indarno
a le piaghe mortali
che nel bel corpo tuo sì spesse veggio,
piacem’ almen che e’ mia sospiri sian quali
sper’ il Tever e l’Arno
e ‘l Po, dove doglioso et grave hor’ seggio
Rector’ del cielo, io cheggio
che la pietà che Ti condusse in terra
Ti volga al tuo dilett’ almo paese
Vedi, Signor’ cortese
Di che levi cagion, che crudel guerra
I cori, che indur’ et serra
Marte superb’ et fero
apri Tu, Padre, e intenerisci et snoda
ivi fa che el tuo vero
qual io mi sia per la mia lingua s’oda.
My Italy, though words cannot soothe
the mortal wounds
which cover your lovely body,
I wish at least for my sighs to unite
with the hopes of rivers Tiber, Arno
and Po, where I sit sad and somber.
Ruler of Heaven, I ask
that mercy, which brought you down to earth,
will return you to your dear, holy land.
You see, my gracious Lord,
what trivial reasons cause cruel war;
hearts closed and hardened
by fierce and proud Mars:
open them Father, soften them, set them free
and let the divine truth
be heard through my words. —Petrarch (Canzoniere, CXXVII)
Translations by Cynthia Craig Simon, David Tayler & Lawrence Rosenwald