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Siete qui: Home Festival Festival 2013 Tu dormi e ‘l dolce sonno - note
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Giulio Caccini and Jacopo Peri were both part of the Florentine Camerata de’ Bardi group, making the first experiments in monody, and were unequalled as composers and singers. Pietro de’ Bardi wrote that Jacopo Peri was the first of Malvezzi’s students. He played the organ and stringed instruments, his compositions and execution of counterpoint were received with great enthusiasm, and as a singer he was considered second to none.
Contemporaries of Giulio Caccini, they invented the “representative” recitative style and, “avoiding coarseness and too much of the old style – which you could hear in Galileo’s pieces – softened this music so that it proved extremely moving. They became known, on this account, as the inventors of this opera-like style of composition and song.”
Peri found a way, using ricercars on a few strings and other diligent and precise strategies, to imitate daily speech patterns, for which he became famous. Giulio Caccini’s inventions felt more effortless – his was much admired for introducing in his singing this idea of “sprezzatura”, ars est celare artem [the art lies in hiding the effort]. He maintained that one should avoid affectation and recommended – using what was then a new word – “you should employ this sprezzatura in all things, disguising your real skill, showing what you can do, but with no visible effort”.
Both these composers worked at the Medici court in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, and were pitted against each other on stage at the birth of opera, battling to be the acknowledged inventor of this new style.
In 1600 we find them at Henry IV of France’s wedding to Maria Medici. Jacopo Peri composed Le Musiche sopra l’Euridice, using a text by Rinuccini, and Caccini offered Il Rapimento di Cefalo, based on Chiabrera. Both published collections of madrigals and airs: Caccini’s Le Nuove Musiche came out in 1602 and Le Nuove Musiche e nuova maniera di scriverle in 1614. Peri published Le Varie Musiche in 1609 and Le Varie Musiche… Con aggiunta d’arie nuove dell’istesso… in 1619.
Rivals in art and life, they leave some fascinating formal and harmonic experiments. To paraphrase another contemporary, “… the sort of music by which one could almost tell stories in harmony… without any obligatory order, giving the song a lightness… so it is pleasing, even bawdy, and airy, like eloquence in everyday speech, and this fertile mix makes the story enjoyable.”

Mara Galassi