The main secular genre, the madrigal, was particularly artistic and expressive and flourished in the works of L. Marenzio, Don C. Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, and the early C. Monteverdi. At the beginning of the 16th century, Italian music sometimes showed a tendency towards a more intimate musical expression (musica reservata), but also sometimes mannerist traits (chromatic madrigal). In addition, folk music elements ensured a renewal of Frottola (cheerful folk song), balletto, Villanella (dance song) and canzonetta at the end of the 15th centurythat now became socially acceptable and enriched art music.
The establishment of the opera around 1600 marked the beginning of a new era in music history. Already during the Renaissance a group of scholars, poets and musicians (Camerata) tried to revive the ancient tragedy, which – albeit in misunderstanding of the essence of Greek music – led to the development of a completely new musical style. In contrast to the art of the madrigal, solo singing was created with a simple harmonic accompaniment (monody), i. H. Aria and recitative with figured bass (L. Viadana, E. de Cavalieri, G. Caccini, J. Peri), from which a little later Monteverdi’s first opera (“Orfeo”, 1607) developed. His operas thrive on a truly new theatrical music carried by the emotional expression of the word. They originated in Mantua, where he worked at the Gonzaga court, but above all in Venice, where he worked as Kapellmeister at San Marco from 1613 and which soon became the focus of the new art movement. In 1637, the Teatro San Cassiano, the first public opera house, opened there, followed by 16 more in the following decades. In Monteverdi followed F. Cavalli and A. Cesti as masters of Venetian opera, who expanded and typified the musical form. In the Venetian opera of the 17th century, the mythical-fantastic allegory, comic-drastic elements and the idea of the festival appear merged into one unit.
The new baroque style also had an impact across all genres. The motet developed into the cantata (G. Carissimi, A. Stradella; also with instrumental accompaniment as with M. Cazzati) and later – under the influence of the Neapolitan school - the cantata mass (A. Scarlatti) and the chamber cantata replaced the madrigal.
In Rome in the 17th century a spiritual movement devoted to lay piety (F. Neri) had developed into a kind of sacred opera, from which the oratorio grew, the beginnings of which are associated with the name de ‘Cavalieri and the climax of which are the works G. Carissimis formed. Simultaneously with the heyday of Italian opera and oratorio, the vocal, and soon instrumental, genre of the concerto emerged. Music for keyboard instruments also produced new, specifically instrumental forms such as the ricercar or the toccata (C. Merulo). G. Frescobaldi became a European model for organists. Violin making flourished in the 17th centuryin Northern Italy with its famous representatives A. Stradivari, A. Amati and G. Guarneribecame important for the development of instrumental music and initiated the heyday of violin music in the late 17th and 18th centuries, the main masters of which were B. Marini, A. Corelli, G. Torelli, F. M. Veracini, P. A. Locatelli, especially A. Vivaldi, G. Tartini and P. Nardini and later N. Paganini. The chamber and church sonata were cultivated, but especially the concerto grosso and the solo concert, the v. a. by G. Torelli, A. Corelli, A. Vivaldi and G. B. Sammartini to central genera and G. F. Handel and J. S. Bach were exemplary. The harpsichord works by D. Scarlatti were also formative for the history of keyboard instruments. For more articles about Italy and Europe, please follow Historyaah.
Even though M. Clementi was a native Italian as a piano virtuoso and composer in the second half of the 18th century. caused a sensation in London and Vienna, Italy as a whole relinquished the leading role in instrumental music to Germany and Austria at the beginning of classical music, but continued to set European standards in opera. Naples had increasingly developed into the new center, where the dramatic element now receded in favor of sonic beauty in the new singing style of bel canto and technical virtuosity, which helped the castrato (castrato), which was already established in the Baroque, to flourish again. A. Scarlatti is considered to be the main representative of Neapolitan opera; next to him worked: F. Durante, G. B. Pergolesi, L. Leo and Francesco Feo (* 1691, † 1761), who is best known today for his oratorio “Francesco di Sales” (1734); David Pérez (* 1711, † 1778), who also shaped the Lisbon opera life from 1752, as well as T. Traetta, B. Galuppi and N. Jommelli, who also worked in Germany.
The Opera seria, which was shaped by P. Metastasio and to which Handel, C. W. Gluck and W. A. Mozart followed up, called out the Opera buffa as a reaction, which was derived from the Commedia dell ‘ Arte and emerged from the comic interludes inserted into the opera seria. The actual creator of the opera buffa was GB Pergolesi with “La serva padrona” (1733). Masters like N. Piccinni, B. Galuppi, G. Paisiello, D. Cimarosa followed whose works were spread all over Europe. N. Porpora and A. Salieri worked outside Italy (in London and Vienna, respectively), while Germans like J. A. Hasse were among the masters of Neapolitan opera.