Luca Marenzio was a leading composer of secular music in the late sixteenth century, composing over four hundred madrigals. His music was popular throughout Europe and had a strong influence on the next generation of Italian composers as well as on the English madrigal composers.
Marenzio was born near Brescia in northern Italy and may have studied with Giovanni Contino there and in Mantua. From 1574 to 1586 he was in Rome, serving as a singer first for Cardinal Christoforo Madruzzo and then for Cardinal Luigi d'Este. It was in Rome that Marenzio's compositional career began in earnest, and he published some thirteen collections of secular pieces during this period. From 1586 to 1588 he visited various Italian cities, including Verona, where he made the acquaintance of Count Mario Bevilacqua, whose Accademia Filarmonica was one of the most important musical institutions of the period. His 1588 collection of madrigals was dedicated to Bevilacqua.
By early 1588 Marenzio was in Florence to help provide music for the wed­ding festivities of Ferdinando de' Medici and Christine of Lorraine in 1589. The most important musical event was a series of intermedi presented between the acts of Girolamo Bargagli's play La pellegrina. These pieces played an impor­tant role in the development of dramatic music in the late Renaissance. Marenzio set the second and third intermedi with texts by Ottavio Rinuccini,* who would later write the libretto for the first fully sung opera, Jacopo Peri's* Dafne of 1598. In 1589 Marenzio returned to Rome, and in 1595 he embarked on an extended trip to Poland. By 1598 he was back in Rome, where he died within a year.
Marenzio's madrigals were marked by inventive use of musical techniques to illustrate the text. In his later works, this was often accomplished by the use of surprising and original harmonies. The complexity and intellectual quality of his writing often reflected his texts, which came from writers as diverse as Francesco Petrarch and Giovanni Battista Guarini.*
S. Ledbetter and R. Jackson, "Luca Marenzio," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, 1980.
Russell E. Murray, Jr.

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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