In his brilliant studies and accurate editions Anthony Newcomb has shown Alfonso Fontanelli’s contributions to the definition of “the new Ferrarese style of the 1590s” and, therefore, to the birth of the seconda pratica. My article focuses on a specific aspect of Fontanelli’s polyphonic writing: the handling of cadences for not only syntactical and tonally structural but also expressive purposes. The literary-musical analyses of some of the most representative settings published in Fontanelli’s two books of madrigals (1595 and 1604)—including masterpieces such as “Tu miri, o vago ed amoroso fiore” (Anonymous), “Io piango, ed ella il volto” (Petrarca), “Lasso, non odo più Filli mia cara” (Anonymous), and “Dovrò dunque morire” (Rinuccini)—shows, above all, the unusually wide range of Fontanelli’s cadential palette. He used not only traditional models (such as the perfect, authentic, Phrygian, and half cadences) but also a great variety of alternative solutions (including what Newcomb has named “evaporated” and “oblique” cadences) that are often so experimental and bold as to escape rigid classification. In the context of a basically chromatic, dissonant, harmonically restless, and tonally unfocused polyphonic flow such cadential variety seems to reflect Fontanelli’s intention not only to underscore the conceptual and emotional meanings represented in the verbal text but also to sharpen their large-scale affective contrasts. In these and other experimental traits of his “cadential style” Fontanelli further developed (possibly through the mediation of Jacques de Wert, and also under the influence of composers such as Luzzaschi and Gesualdo) those basic compositional techniques and exegetic principles that Cipriano de Rore, the real father of the seconda pratica, had already established in his later madrigals, and that Vincenzo Galilei, in turn, had neatly codified in his treatise on counterpoint (ca. 1588–1591).
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