Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: madrigal from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Form of secular song in four or five parts, usually sung without instrumental accompaniment. It originated in 14th-century Italy. Madrigal composers include Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Thomas Morley, and Orlando Gibbons.


Summary Article: madrigal
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

name for two different forms of Italian music, one related to the poetic madrigal in the 14th cent., the other the most common form of secular vocal music in the 16th cent. The poetic madrigal is a lyric consisting of one to four strophes of three lines followed by a two-line strophe called a ritornello. The most important 14th-century madrigal composers were Giovanni da Cascia (also known as Giovanni da Florentia) and Jacopo da Bologna (both fl. c.1350). Their madrigals are usually for two voices in long and florid melodic lines. The 16th-century madrigal is poetically a free imitation of its earlier counterpart; musically, it is unrelated. The earliest of these madrigals were usually homophonic in four and sometimes three parts, emotionally restrained, and lyric in spirit. The classic madrigals of Cipriano da Rore (1516–65), Andrea Gabrieli, Orlando di Lasso, and Filippo da Monte (1521–1603) were usually for five voices in a polyphonic and imitative style, the expression closely allied to the text. In the last part of the 16th cent. composers such as Luca Marenzio, Carlo Gesualdo (c.1560–1613), and Monteverdi intensified the expression of the text by the use of chromaticism, word painting, and declamatory effects. In the 17th cent. madrigal was used to designate certain expressive solo songs. In England the polyphonic madrigal had a late flowering in the Elizabethan era. Celebrated English madrigal composers include Byrd, Morley, Orlando Gibbons, Weelkes, and Wilbye.

  • See Einstein, A. , The Italian Madrigal (3 vol., 1949);.
  • Kerman, J. , The Elizabethan Madrigal (1962);.
  • Roche, J. , The Madrigal (1972).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles


Full text Article MADRIGAL
Encyclopedia of Medieval Literature

The madrigal was an Italian literary and musical genre that began in the fourteenth century. At first the works were short lyric poems, but...

Full text Article Madrigal
The Bloomsbury Dictionary of English Literature

A poem composed to be sung, with or without instrumental accompaniment. It derived from the Italian ` canzone ', and flourished in England...

Full text Article madrigal
Word Origins

[16 century] Etymologically, madrigal denotes a ‘simple song, such as might just have sprung from the mother's womb’. It comes ultimately...

See more from Credo