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Parlar cantando

The practice of reciting verses in Italy from 1300 to 1600

Elena Abramov van Rijk

This book is a pioneering attempt to explore the fascinating and hardly known realm of reciting poetry in medieval and Renaissance Italy. The study of more than 50 treatises on both music and poetry, as well as other literary sources and documents from the period between 1300 and 1600, highlights above all the practice of parlar cantando («speaking through singing» – the term found in De li contrasti, a fourteenth-century treatise on poetry) as rooted in the art of reciting verses. Situating the practice of parlar cantando in the context of late medieval poetic delivery, the author sheds new light on the origin and history of late Renaissance opera style, which their inventors called stile recitativo, rappresentativo or, exactly, parlar cantando. The deepest roots of the Italian tradition of parlar cantando are thus revealed, and the cultural background of the birth of opera is reinterpreted and revisited from the much broader perspective of what appears to be the most important Italian mode of music making between the age of Dante and Petrarch and the beginning of Italian opera around 1600.
Contents: Poetry Recitation in the Italian Trecento – Different Types of Music for Delivering Poetry – From rudium inordinatum concinium to Professional Poetry Meant To Be Sung – Verse Reciting as Scholarly Discipline – Scansio: One Aspect of the Relation between Music and Poetic Text in Sixteenth Century Theory – Verse Structure in the Musical Setting of Selected Trecento Compositions – Text Underlay in Manuscripts of Trecento Music – Structure of Verse and musica contrafacta in the Trecento Music.