- Selva di varia ricreatione (1590) by Orazio Vecchi
Arguably one of the most fascinating composers of the late sixteenth century, Orazio Vecchi (1550–1605) has been the subject of numerous studies in the past few years. These include some forty essays in two collections published in 2007 and 2010, respectively (Alessandra Chiarelli and Ferdinando Taddei, eds., Il theatro dell’udito: Società, musica, storia e cultura nell’epoca di Orazio Vecchi [Modena: Mucchi, 2007]; and Massimo Privitera, ed., Theatro dell’udito, the-atro del mondo: Atti del convegno internazionale nel IV centenario della morte di Orazio Vecchi, Modena–Vignola, 29 settembre–1 ottobre 2005 [Modena: Mucchi, 2010]). Paul Schleuse has been at the forefront of this new wave of scholarship on Vecchi. He has contributed an essay to one of the abovementioned volumes (“On the Origin of the Work ‘A diversi linguaggi,’ ” in Theatro dell’udito , 121–44), and has produced an excellent dissertation on Vecchi’s [End Page 803] Selva di varia ricreatione (“Genre and Meaning in Orazio Vecchi’s ‘Selva di varia ricreatione’ (1590)” [Ph.D. diss., City Uni -versity of New York, 2005]). His newly published edition of Selva stems directly from his doctoral research, and constitutes a useful tool for scholars and performers interested in Vecchi’s output.
As Schleuse points out in the short introduction that opens his edition, Selva di varia ricreatione marked a cornerstone in Vecchi’s compositional career. In the 1570s and 1580s, Vecchi’s works were published in generic collections, that is, volumes containing compositions of a single genre. Most notably, Vecchi produced several books of canzonettas, which were reprinted numerous times and granted him an outstanding reputation in Italy and beyond the Alps. First published in 1590 by the Venetian firm of Angelo Gardano, Selva di varia ricreatione was Vecchi’s first collection of works of varied genres. In the years to come, he would produce three more collections of this kind, namely L’Amfiparnaso and Convito musicale, both published in 1597, and Le veglie di Siena, published in 1604. Vecchi himself explained in the dedication of the book that the choice of the title was not casual, as the word “selva” (forest) was supposed to hint at the forest-like size and variety of the collection. As Schleuse remarks, in choosing the word “selva” Vecchi drew on the classical tradition of Latin humanistic works of miscellaneous content, which often bore the title of “silvae” (p. xii). This tradition was revived in the sixteenth century and extended to volumes containing vernacular texts of varied genres or by different authors.
In accordance with the meaning of its title, Selva di varia ricreatione contains thirty-seven compositions—far more than the typical book of madrigals or canzonettas, which on average includes between twenty to thirty pieces. These compositions belong to a great variety of genres, which, as Vecchi himself pointed out, encompass “the serious, the humorous, and the dance-like” (p. xii). Among others, they include madrigals, capricci, balli, arie, giustiniane, and dialoghi.
The scoring of these works varies considerably as well, extending from three to ten voices. Furthermore, one of the pieces, “Saltarello detto Trivella,” is textless and is intended for stringed instruments (“Per sonare con gli stromenti da corda”), while at least twelve more are suitable for instrumental accompaniment, as suggested by the lute tablatures included in the 1590 edition of Selva. For these pieces, Schleuse places transcriptions of the tablatures under the vocal parts; he also provides an alternative arrangement for solo singer and accompaniment in the supplemental volume, in...