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Giaches de Wert (1535-1596); BEL

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With the exception of Lassus, who was not primarily a madrigal composer and whose astonishing versatility warrants separate consideration, Giaches de Wert was the last of the great Franco-Flemish madrigal composers. Wert was born in Antwerp in 1535, but spent most of his life in Italy, first as a pupil of Rore in Ferrara, then at the courts of Mantua and Parma. Wert's early madrigals show the distinct influence of Willaert and Rore, but later encompassed new development of the virtuoso madrigal for highly skilled professional performers: a court such as Mantua was now wealthy enough to attract some of the greatest vocal talents of the day. Wert and his contemporaries expanded the scoring of the madrigal, frequently writing in five parts as opposed to four; the upper three parts of the five were invariably for female voices. Wert followed Rore in a taste for highly cultivated poetry, setting more poems of Petrarch than did any other madrigalist, and being the first to set texts by the greatest Italian poet of the day, Torquato Tasso, with whom he became friendly at Mantua. Less inspired by amorous poetry, Wert frequently turned to poems of a philosophical or even religious nature, of which Solo e pensoso from his Book VII (published in 1581, the fully mature book of the 13 Wert published) is an outstanding example of the former. The text is a sonnet by Petrarch that represents the philosophical musings and extreme introspection of a lonely wanderer. Here Wert is more concerned with the creation of a mood of solitariness than with individual word painting; the texture is far more contrapuntal than in the majority of earlier madrigals. The setting of the final three lines is gloriously sonorous, the upper voices tellingly contrasted with the lower as the climax is reached. Wert's most emotionally intense pieces have been called expressionistic, but he also sometimes adopted a declamatory style; in both these aspects his works point forward to the madrigal's final stages of development.

© Brian Robins, All Music Guide
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