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Wakelin, Emma Hilary

De Floridi Virtuosi d'Italia: A Study of Three Italian Madrigal Anthologies of the 1580s

Ph.D. Royal Holloway, University of London, 1997

Comparatively little scholarly attention has been paid to madrigal anthologies, despite the fact that they are a valuable source both of new works by familiar composers and of the work of otherwise unknown composers. The three anthologies De floridi virtuosi d'Italia were published in Venice by Giacomo Vincenti and Ricciardo Amadino in 1583, 1585 and 1586, and reissued in one volume by Pierre Phalèse in Antwerp in 1600. They include nearly 70 madrigals by 35 different composers, ranging from those well known to modern research such as Palestrina, Marenzio and Giovanni Gabrieli, to those by whom no other work is known. Many of these composers were based in important musical centres in Italy, such as Rome, Mantua and Venice, some were based in smaller towns, and some were based in Northern European courts. Unlike several other madrigal anthologies of the 1580s, the Floridi virtuosi collections seem not to have been compiled in order to celebrate a particular occasion or person, nor in order to reflect the achievements of one particular region or institution. Instead Vincenti and Amadino, who also published a number of regionally-specific anthologies, seem to have been among the first publishers to label a collection as being by composers "d'Italia", at a time when the concept of "Italy" as a geographic and cultural entity was beginning to emerge.

Most of our information about the Italian madrigal in the late sixteenth century has been based on an extrapolation of the styles of a few individual composers, from which generalizations about the characteristics of particular regions and generations have been constructed. The Floridi virtuosi anthologies offer new perspectives on traditional assessments of some composers, suggesting that a conflation of the information about individual composers fails to produce a balanced overview of the madrigal as a whole. By revealing stylistic links among composers usually pigeonholed in separate chronological or geographical groups, a stylistic distinction between single-composer prints and anthologies, and concordances with Northern European collections, and by illuminating the networks that connected the composers, patrons and publishers involved, the Floridi virtuosi anthologies offer new information about the role of anthologies and the fluid nature of stylistic development and exchange in the madrigal in the 1580s.