A heartfelt sense of loss is conveyed in the poem Ohimè, dov’è il mio ben, dov’è il mio core?
by Bernardo Tasso, father of the more famous Torquato. Tasso was a diplomat, and this is one of the stanze di lontananza
written when he was parted from his wife by the call of duty. Monteverdi set this stanza, an eight-line text (ottava rima
), as four variations for two voices over the so-called Romanesca bass, one of several such basses used in the sixteenth century for improvising musical settings of ottave. Each variation sets a pair of lines.
Ohimè, dov’è il mio ben was published in Monteverdi’s Seventh Book, which contains many other solos, duets and trios, smaller textures made possible by the inclusion of an independent instrumental accompaniment improvised from a single bass line.
from notes by John Whenham © 2014