Kapsperger and his Madrigal Intabulations for Chitarrone: an Old Musical Genre and its New Instrumental Lifestyle


Analysis of two chitarrone (theorbo) works by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger from his newly rediscovered (in 2001/2) Terzo Libro d’Intavolatura di Chitarone (2006). These are intabulations of madrigals «Ancidetemi pur» (by J. Arcadelt) and «Com’esser può» (by Gesualdo of Venosa). The article shows in what manner the music first written for a polyphonic vocal ensemble, is adapted for the chitarrone (theorbo) — basso continuo instrument with little contrapuntal possibilities (much less than those of the lute or of keyboard instruments). It demonstrates how this kind of polyphonic models is transformed into highly idiomatic virtuoso instrumental music of the passeggiato type, by either the simplification of the contrapuntal texture and the diminution using ornamental figures typical for the theorbo style. Some stylistical differences in Kapsperger’s approach to the two different madrigals are pointed out, as well as their probable