This book takes its departure from an experiment presented by Vincenzo Galilei before his colleagues in the Florentine Camerata in about 1580. This event, namely the first demonstration of the stile recitativo, is kwn from a single later source, a letter written in 1634 by Pietro dei Bardi, son of the founder of the Camerata. In the complete absence of any further information, Bardi's report has remained a curiosity in the history of music, and it has seemed impossible to determine the true nature and significance of Galilei's presentation. That, unfortunately, still remains true for the music, which is lost. Yet we kw a crucial fact about this experiment, the poetic text chosen by Galilei: it was an excerpt from the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, the Lament of Count Ugoli. Starting from this information the author examines the problem from ather angle. Investigation of the perception of Dante's poetry in the sixteenth century, as well as a deeper enquiry into cinquecento poetic theories (and especially phonetics) leads to a reconstruction of Galilei's motives for choosing this text and sheds light on some of the features of his experiment.
Elena Abramov-van Rijk received her PhD in musicology from Tel Aviv University. She is the author of Parlar Cantando: The Practice of Reciting Verses in Italy from 1300 to 1600 (2009). In 2007 she received the Dan David Prize from Tel Aviv University for her work on the relationship between music and poetry.