La Musica di Dante

The concert by the Ensemble Micrologus takes us into a universe in which the art of music was undergoing a profound transformation: from the epigones of the Ars Antiqua to the first steps of the Ars Nova. It corresponds with the end of feudalism and the rise of the merchant class (the bourgeoisie), which was concentrated in the communes of Central Italy and in the Seigneuries of the cities/states of Northern Italy.

Hence the current excursion through the most important troubadours of the 13th century, whom Dante mentions, because he knows them well and elevates them to his masters, creators of ancient songs and ballads, even if we have no evidence of the latter works. This is why the programme also includes some song reconstructions, also based on Dante’s text, according to the contrafactum technique of the time (replacing texts while keeping the same melody).

In the first part of the concert, music played by the pipers and trumpets of the city or court frames various moments. First, the spiritual love song of the laudi, adopted by the city confraternities, then the poetics of troubadours. Dante himself testifies in De Vulgari Eloquentia that the art of the troubadours was still played, and that it influenced successive music. He praises Bertran de Born, the poet of arms, Arnault Daniel, the poet of love, Giraut de Bornelh of the rectitudo, and Folquet de Marseilla. Another great, Bernard de Ventadorn, is mentioned in the Paradiso.

The second part traces the aural universe of the Commedia. If the Inferno is mostly filled with sounds and high, dim voices, in Purgatorio we find the psalmody of Gregorian chant. Di Casella’s Amor che nella mente mi ragiona, written to a text by Dante, is constructed once again with the contrafactum technique. Tant m’abelis vostre cortes deman by Arnaut Daniel is adapted from Tant m’abelis l’amoros pensament by Folquet de Marseilla. Finally, in Paradiso, the music becomes polyphonic, a vision evoking light and angelic movement.

In the last part we move to the scaligero Court where, between Verona and Padua with its University (which produced Marchetto), the Rossi Codex was written, with its monodic ballads and polyphonic madrigals.
 The court of Cangrande, who hosted Dante during his exile, and to whom Dante dedicated a canticle in the Paradise in 1316, was a place where all the ‘good customs’ were to be found. “Here are the tempests of love and of the art of loving… the guitars and lutes, violas and flutes, voices high and sharp. Here you can hear them sing… here are good singers with intonators, and here you will hear troubadours resound’.


Patrizia Bovi and Goffredo Degli Esposti