Some Early Examples of Italian »Dialogo«. A Contribution to the Question of Renaissance Polychoral Composition


  • Janez Höfler



In the above article the author is concerned with some early examples of Italian "dialogo" and their relation to the problematics of polychoral music of the mid-16th century. These examples are works by Lodovico Novello (1546), Giovanni Nasco (1548, 1557, 1559), Cambio Perissone (1500), Francesco Portinaro (1550, 1554, 1557, 1560), Baldissera Donato (1953), Adrian Willaert (1559) and Dominique Phinot (1561). In the introduction the author establishes that the term "dialogo" in this context does non refer to a precisely determined musical form but rather to a type of composition where the dialogue in the text and double choral grouping is indicated but not necessarily fully developed. As far as the text is concerned, several of Petrarch's lyrical dialogues were popular at that time, for instance Liet' pensose, Che fai alma and Occhi piangete. However, the development of a true scenic dialogue is foreshadowed by examples such as Dite a noi o nimphe belle (Novello, 1546), modelled on the mascherate from the first half of the 16th century, or Ahi miserelle (Donato, 1553) and Mentre m'havesti caro (Portinaro 1554); in addition the term dialogue can even refer to the texts which are not in the form of a dialogue at all (Portinari's Dolc'ire, dolci sdegni or Phinot's Simili a questi). The double choral grouping in the examples of »dialogo« dealt with is not carried out everywhere in full either. In the seven-part »dialogos« we observe grouping of four lower and three higher voices, a principle consistently executed only in Vicentino's »dialogo« Amor, ecco ch'io moro (1548), but elsewhere indicated in the introductory part of the compositions. The tendency towards a double choral concept is more pronounced in the eight-part »dialogos« which are formed from two more or less equally balanced choruses. However, in the majority of earlier examples the double choral structure of eight-part »dialogos« is not consistently carried out through the whole composition and so is loosened by regrouping the voices into different, especially five-voiced complexes even in places where the text is a clear dialogue. This is clear especially at the end of compositions, which culminate with undifferentiated polyphonic masses. Among the eight-part »dialogos« dealt with here, some show a consistent realisation of a polychoral structure. The first is Lodovico Novello's Dite a noi o nimphe belle where both choruses do not yet join; in this way the composition represents a pendant to the psalms a versi con le sue risposte, from the collection Salmi appertinenti a li Vesperi (1550). The first consistently double choral composition known from this field, Il tuo foco et li toi strali, which is essentially the second part of the Novello dialogo (1546) already mentioned, is in a non-dialogue form and has a complete text in both choruses. The next two similar examples are the »dialogos« Padre ch'adelfi (Nasco, 1548) and Mentre m'havesti caro (Portinaro, 1554). Phinot's Simili a questi is similar to his polychoral motets (1548) in its double choral structure. This composition surpasses other earlier eight-part Italian »dialogos« by its supreme mastery and consistent realisation of the pofychoral principle as well as by its musical value. Early Italian »dialogos« confirm the pre-eminence of Venice in Renaissance polychoral composition. Some examples precede the printing of Willaert's famous psalms and thereby, together with the known polychoral psalms of the first half of the 16th century (Fra Ruffino d'Assisi, Francesco Santacroce), essentially complete the picture of early polychoral composition.


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1. 12. 1972




How to Cite

Höfler, J. (1972). Some Early Examples of Italian »Dialogo«. A Contribution to the Question of Renaissance Polychoral Composition. Musicological Annual, 8(1), 40-56.