Luca Marenzio is an Italian composer best known for his madrigals. His works include around 500 madrigals, 80 villanelle, sacred music, and motets. He lived in an era when Rome was the epicenter of amateur madrigal singing, providing him with a steady stream of madrigal volumes, which he began publishing in 1580. His ease and talent in arranging light pastoral lyric to music were heightened by the environment. Marenzio’s music became increasingly sad and dismal in final years of his life. He even used discordant and chromatic harmonies in his writing, which was considered austere and intense at the time. Marenzio’s madrigals, known as the “word painting” pioneers, had a huge impact on England and its madrigalists. His influence can be seen in the fact that his madrigals are still being produced and reissued today.
Childhood and Adolescence
Marenzio was born on October 18, 1553, in an impoverished family in Coccaglio, a small hamlet near Brescia, according to 17th century historian Leonardo Cozzando. He was one of a notary clerk’s seven children. Giovanni Contino taught Marenzio music when he was a child. In 1568, he moved to Mantua with Contino and began serving the Gonzaga family of Mantua.
Career of Luca Marenzio
Marenzio came to Rome after a few years in Brescia and Mantua, where he was appointed as a singer by Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo, where he worked until 1578. Because Madruzzo was also Contino’s boss, it’s safe to believe that Contino organized Marenzio’s appointment. After Cardinal Madruzzo’s death, Marenzio served at the court of Cardinal Luigi d’Este, Madruzzo’s friend. Marenzio was the choir director at the court when creating his first madrigal book, despite Luigi’s musical establishments having only a few musicians.
Even though Luigi attempted to appoint Marenzio to the papal choir, he was unable to do so due to political considerations. Marenzio published his first four books of madrigals for five voices, the first three volumes of madrigals for six voices, and the first three books of villanelle during his seven-year tenure with Cardinal, as well as compositions for anthologies and the first of his five volumes of motets.
Marenzio also had the opportunity to travel with Luigi to Ferrara in 1580-1581, which was the home of the Este family and the epicenter of late-sixteenth-century advanced secular music. Marenzio was also able to listen to the music of the Concerto delle Donne, a group of female singers who affected the development of madrigal writing at the end of the Renaissance. Marenzio authored and dedicated two entire novels to Alfonso II and Lucrezia d’Este while in Ferrara.
Despite the fact that Luigi provided him plenty of time to work on his musical compositions, he only paid him a pittance of roughly five scudi per month. Marenzio had even expressed his dissatisfaction with it at one point. During his time with Luigi, he frequently sought other employment, such as applying for the position of maestro di cappella at the court of Mantua. Luigi considered sending Marenzio to Paris as a gift to King Henry III of France in 1583, but this never happened, much to Marenzio’s relief.
Marenzio’s relationship with Cardinal Luigi d’Este aided his development as a renowned composer. According to a letter made by a singer to Luigi d’Este in 1581, he became regarded as an expert lutenist. Marenzio had already gained tremendous fame by the time the Cardinal died in 1586, thanks to his numerous madrigals that had been published and republished throughout Italy and the Netherlands. The frequency with which his madrigals appeared in anthologies during this time period reflects the popularity of his work.
Without a patron after Luigi d’Este’s death in 1586, Marenzio continued to freelance in Rome before moving to Verona in 1587. He met Count Mario Bevilacqua there and enrolled in the Accademia Filarmonica, a group of musicians and humanists dedicated to the advancement of progressive ideas. Marenzio served Ferdinando I de’ Medici in Florence from 1588 to 1589, contributing music during Ferdinand de’ Medici’s wedding celebrations in May 1589.
Meanwhile, he published his fifth and fourth books of madrigals for five and six voices, as well as a collection of madrigals for four, five, and six voices, and the fourth and fifth books of villanelle. When Marenzio left the Medicean court, he was at the height of his reputation and had no shortage of patrons.
Death & Later Years Marenzio returned to Rome on November 30, 1589, due to his dissatisfaction with the circumstances in Florence. He was able to serve a number of customers while keeping his independence. He was in the service of Virginio Orsini, the Grand Duke of Tuscany’s nephew, until 1593, when he moved to Orsini Palace. He moved to Poland between 1595 and 1596 and lived there until October 1596. He obtained a post as choir director at Sigismund III Vasa’s court in Warsaw. Marenzio composed and conducted liturgical music while in Warsaw.
According to the works of twentieth-century writers, Marenzio’s health was permanently harmed by his trip to Poland. He traveled from Poland to Venice, dedicating his eighth book of five-voice madrigals to the Gonzaga family. Marenzio died on August 22, 1599, shortly after arriving in Rome. San Lorenzo church in Lucina was where he was laid to rest.
Contributions of Luca Marenzio
Marenzio composed about 400 madrigals and 80 villanelles over a 20-year period, which were published in 23 collections, as well as liturgical pieces, including 75 motets. During Marenzio’s lifetime, over seventeen volumes of madrigals including 200 pieces were released. More than half of these were reissued before his death and are still being reprinted now. His madrigals and villanelles were equally popular. His ‘word painting’ is one of the most distinctive features that set him apart from all of his predecessors. In the last decade of his life, he also dabbled with chromaticism.
Major Projects of Luca Marenzio
(1) Anima cruda s, but per belle (1) Belle ne fe natura (1) Alma redemptoris mater “Gregorian” (1) Anima cruda s, but per bella (1) (1) Cantantibus organis (1) Cantate Domino (1) Cedan l’antiche tue cleare vittorie (1) Che fa hogg’il mio sole (3) Domine ne in furore (1) Domine quando veneris (1) Dorinda, ah! dir mia (1) Et respicientes viderunt (1)
(1) Exsurgat Deus Fantasia (1) There’s something else I’d like to do (1) (1) Iniquos odio habui (2) Innocentes pro Christo (1) Jubilate Deo I shall depart all miserable (1)
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated net worth of Luca Marenzio is not available.