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Giaches de Wert was a Franco-Flemish composer who lived and worked in Italy. Little is known of his early life. He followed a long tradition of Franco-Flemish singers and composers who worked for Italian ducal families and moved to Italy - Josquin with the Sforzas, Rore with the d'Estes, de Lassus with the Gonzagas. de Wert started with the d'Este family and later worked for the Gonzagas. He studied with Rore in Ferrara in the 1550s and had influence on the work of Monteverdi who started working in Mantua in 1590 as de Wert's career was coming to an end.

De Wert was taken to Italy as a boy to be a singer in the household of Maria di Cardona, Marchesa of Padulla, the wife of Francesco d'Este, Marchese di Massalombarda. De Wert's association with the Este family was to endure through most of his life.

In around 1550 de Wert started to work for the Gonzagas in Novarella. Relations between the Gonzagas and d'Estes were close and de Wert travelled to Mantua and Ferrara regularly in this period. De Wert married Lucia de Gonzaga in Novarella. He moved to Milan around 1560 to the main Gonzaga church but didn't stay long before moving to Mantua in 1565 to become maestro di cappella at the chapel of Santa Barbara, a position he held until 1592. Although de Wert's skill as a composer and keyboard player was widely recognised and he refused several offers of work, his appointment was not popular and he was opposed by Agostino Bonvicino. Bonvicino took revenge by cuckolding him and when the affair was discovered, Lucrezia had to leave Mantua. Later in the 1570's Lucrezia Wert was involved in a plot to overthrow the Gonzaga of Novellara. Her property was confiscated and she was imprisoned, dying in 1584.

De Wert published his first five books of madrigals by 1571: these were mainly in the Rore style with chromaticism and word painting. His preference was for poets such as Pietro Bembo, Petrarch and Ariosto. Even so his Il sesto libro de madrigali included madrigal cycles (an innovation). The cycles include two canzoni by Petrarch and a capitolo by Ariosto; these are set in a declamatory manner foreshadowing monody and de Wert's later works. From 1580 (it is suggested), he began to spend more time working in Ferrara with the virtuoso singing ladies - the concerto delle dame. His style changed toward homophony and his favoured poets became Guarini and Tasso - both favourites at Ferrara. The Mantua court was more conservative whereas Ferrara was more progressive. By 1591, his Il decimo libro de madrigali included pieces probably intended for a solo singer with accompaniment and is tonal in character, anticipating the early Baroque.

De Wert began spending more and more time at Ferrara partly because he was trying to regain his wife's property (which he did in part) and later (1684) because he became involved with Tarquinia Molza, a virtuoso singer. She was also the most famous female poet in Italy, who was a lady-in-waiting at the Este court. Although the Ferrara court was musically progressive, it was still status conscious. Tarquinia, unlike de Wert, but like Lucrezia, was a member of the nobility. Although de Wert had been previously married to nobility, he was still a servant, and his affair was considered as scandalous. When it was discovered in 1589, Tarquinia was banished to Modena.

Vincenzo Gonzaga's succession to the Duchy of Mantua in 1587 brought about important changes in the cultural life of the court, which now entered its most brilliant period since the days of Duke Federico I. The cappella at S Barbara was expanded, and the new duke instituted an ensemble of virtuoso singers in imitation of the concerto delle dame of Ferrara.This provided yet more inspiration for de Wert.

De Wert had been in bad health since an attack of malaria in 1582. He retired as maestro di cappella in 1592 and died in 1596.

De Wert is mostly known for his madrigals which were published in his lifetime. He also wrote a vast amount of commissioned music for the chapel of Santa Barbara which was preserved in manuscript. Mantua was a centre of the Counter-Reformation and the music follows the dictates of the Council of Trent - simple homophony, designed for absolute clarity of textual expression. This fitted in with his early studies under Rore. De Wert also used extended chromaticism like Gesualdo.

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Wow - this composer certainly had an interesting life. Someone should write an opera about him!

I owe it to Bulldog's Early Music Game :tiphat: that I have now heard of him - the entry, in round 17, was this one:
Giaches de Wert - Il settimo libro de madrigali

This video is currently up on YouTube:

Giaches de Wert (1535, Bornem, Bélgica - 6 de mayo de 1596, Mantua, Italia).

Séptimo Libro de Madrigales
1. Sorgi, E Rischiara.
2. Misera, Che Faro.
3. Donna, Se Ben Le Chiome.
4. Vive Doglioso Il Core.
5. Vani E Schiocchi.
6. Vaghi Boschetti.
7. Lo Mi Vivea Del Mio Languir.
8. Solo E Pensoso.
9. Giunto Alla Tomba.
10. Voi Volete Ch'io Muoia.
11. Grazie Ch'a Pochi Il Ciel.
12. Trist Morir Volea.
13. In Qual Parte Of Ratto.

Consort of Musicke.
Anthony Rooley, director.
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