Having devised the genere concitato
, Monteverdi went on to employ it in other works. His large-scale setting for six voices, two violins and continuo of Petrarch’s sonnet Or che ’l ciel e la terra e ’l vento tace
begins with a magical portrayal of the stillness of night in the midst of which a lover cries out, tormented by thoughts of his beloved. The words ‘guerra è il mio stato’ provide Monteverdi with the cue to begin two passages of concitato writing, with rapid semiquavers in the violins and pacing motifs in the voices. The ‘war’ here is, of course, psychological, and Or che ’l ciel
, like all the ‘warlike’ madrigals, is as much about love as the ‘amorous’ madrigals in the second part of Book 8. Its finest moment occurs at the end of the setting, where Monteverdi sets the words ‘tanto dalla salute mia son lunge’ (‘so far from my usual well-being am I’) in which the high voices and violins of the full ensemble, beginning low in pitch, and the male voices beginning high, move gradually across each other to the other extremes of their registers in a spine-tingling passage that memorably demonstrates the genius of Monteverdi’s invention.
from notes by John Whenham © 2014