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The exact date of Orazio Vecchi‘s birth at Modena has not been established, although records show his baptismal date as December 6, 1550. He was doubtless born only a few days earlier. This significant Renaissance composer died on February 19, 1605 and was interred in the family vault in the Chiesa del Carmine at Modena.
 
By the fact that one of the madrigals (“Volgi cor lasso”) from his first book of four-voiced madrigals was composed as early as 1566 we can see that Vecchi’s career as a composer began quite early, when he was only sixteen. Like many other musicians of his time, Vecchi held a position as chapel organist, this post being in his native Modena. He later determined to enter a priestly order, and in 1586 attained a canonship in the cathedral at Correggio. In 1591 he was appointed to the archdeaconry. In the same year he participated in the editorship of the Roman Graduale, published in Venice by Gardano. In the years after he left Correggio, Vecchi lost his local canonship and with it the stipend of money. He received in its place, however, the post of leading musician in the cathedral at Modena, and two years later was appointed to the ducal chapel. He fell into a dispute, however, with his superiors at the cathedral, and because of the irreconcilability lost his post to his student Geminiano Capilupi. The Modena chronicler Spaccini reported in 1595 that Vecchi was assaulted with a dagger by a stranger, but was not wounded. Catelani reports further adventures and disputes with which he met. These, added to the cathedral dispute in Modena, indicate a rather stormy temperament and love for excitement. Through it all, Vecchi was an extremely happy man, and his music reflects his felicitous and excitable nature. He wrote often in a facetious vein, as one sees clearly in L’Amfiparnaso. Even in his serious moments he did not sink to the deep despair typical of Gesualdo and Monteverdi. In some repects Vecchi was ahead of his time. While his harmonic style does not display extreme chromaticism, it shows a decided tendency toward the common-practice concept of tonality, especially at the cadence points.
 
As a composer Vecchi enjoyed a widespread reputation, and princes endeavored to draw him to their courts. We know, for example, that the courts at Vienna and Warsaw sent him costly presents. Of his many compositions nearly all have been preserved, both secular and sacred.
 
Horatio Vecchi’s 1594 madrigal comedy L’Amfiparnaso (“The Environs of, or Striving toward, Mt. Parnassus”), is an allegorical title referring to that mountain of sublime artistic aspirations in Greece, frequented by the Muses. Allegorical titles had come very much into vogue at the close of the 16th century in the publication of secular vocal works.  Elusive titles attracted attention and were found to stimulate purchases.  In the light of such a practical expedient we are perhaps more content to dismiss the enigma and accept the Italian title into our own language.  The subtitle, Comedia harmonicasignifies a musical comedy, a term which has come down to our own day.
 
The music of L’Amfiparnaso is set for five voices: Canto, Alto, Quinto, Tenore and Basso. The text of L’Amfiparnaso, presumably written also by Vecchi, is in several dialects, as befit the characters representing various parts of Italy and Spain. Vecchi depends for his humor almost entirely upon the plays on words which he is able to introduce through these various dialects. A fine balance is maintained by alternating comic and serious elements throughout the work.

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