Giulio Caccini: the good, the bad and the unclear


  • Giulio Caccini, Le Nuove Musiche (Firenze: Marescotti, 1602) [LINK]

  • Giulio Caccini's Published Writings: Bilingual edition by Lisandro Abadie (Early Music Sources PIE Series Vol. II, 2021) [LINK]

  • Brussels, Bibliothèque du Conservatoire Royal de Musique, Codex 704 [B704]

  • “Dolcissimo Sospiro” - comparison score between MS Brussels 704 and Le Nuove Musiche [LINK].


  1. [01:54] Giulio Silva, "The Beginnings of the Art of "Bel Canto": Remarks on the Critical History of Singing", in The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 1 (January 1922), 63; Manfred Bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era (New York, W. W. Norton, 1947), 29; Oliver Strunk (ed.), Source Readings in Music History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1950), 370; Donald Jay Grout, A History of Western Music, 2nd ed. (New York, W. W. Norton, 1960), 278.

  2. [02:20] John Florio defines “affetto” as “an affect, a motive, a disposition, a passion…” John Florio, A Worlde of Wordes, or Most Copious, and Exact Dictionarie in Italien and English. (London, Arnold Hatfield, 1598).

  3. [05:06] Giovanni Battista Bovicelli, Regole, passaggi di musica ( Venice, 1594), 11 [LINK]; Francesco Taeggio Rognoni, Selva de varii passaggi ( Milan, 1620), 1 [LINK]; and Michael Praetorius, Syntagma Musicum III (Wolfenbüttel, 1619), 233 [LINK].

  4. [06:33] One seventeenth-century translation which arrives at a similar conclusion as to the nature of Caccini’s esclamazione” is found in John Playford, A Brief Introduction to the Skill of Musick, 10th ed. (London, William Godbid, 1664), 38-49. By contrast, Michael Praetorius describes the effect as simply a “swelling of the voice” [“erhebung der Stim”], prompting John Butt to suggest that this is either an intentional reinterpretation of Caccini’s instructions, or simply a misunderstanding. Michael Praetorius, Syntagma Musicum III (Wolfenbüttel, 1619), 231; John A Butt, Music Education and the Art of Performance in the German Baroque (Cambridge, U.K., Cambridge University Press, 1994), 204.

  5. [07:20] Caccini refers specifically to the dangers of this effect in “feigned voices/notes” [“voci finte”]. While his use of the term remains unexplained, it seems likely that he is referring to the act of singing higher notes in “falsetto”. For possible interpretations of this term and for more information in general, see our previous episode “Countertenors - Things You Didn’t Know!,”, (July 2020), [LINK]

  6. [07:35] Caccini refers to the “esclamazione languida” (languid), “esclamazione spiritosa” (spirited), “esclamazione più viva” (more lively), and the “esclamazione rinforzata” (reinforced).

  7. [08:05] See introduction to Giulio Caccini’s Published Writings, bilingual edition, pp. 7-13. [LINK]

  8. [08:17] Michael Praetorius, Syntagma Musicum III (Wolfenbüttel; 1619), 231.

  9. [08:22] Francesco Taeggio Rognoni, Selva de Varii Passaggi (Milano, 1620), 1.

  10. [10:12] For more information about cadences, see our previous episode “Cadences in the 16th and 17th centuries,”, (February 2017) [LINK].

  11. [10:20] Both the trillo and the gruppo are often found without the acceleration prescribed by Caccini. In addition, it is common for the trillo to be found decorating rising cadential motions instead of the descending figure prescribed by Caccini, with both ornaments occasionally utilising further neighbour notes. See for example Giovanni Luca Conforto, Breve et Facile Maniera (Rome, 1593), 25. [LINK]; Giovanni Battista Bovicelli, Regole, Passaggi Di Musica (Venice, 1594), 7. [LINK]; Michael Praetorius, Syntagma Musicum III (Wolfenbütte 1619), 237-239. [LINK]; Francesco Rognoni Taeggio, Selva de Varii Passaggi (Milano, 1620), 1. [LINK].

  12. [11:29] ‘per dir forse una nova parola, usar in ogni cosa una certa sprezzatura, che nasconda l’arte et dimostri ciò che si fa, et dice venir fatto senza fatica, et quasi senza pensarvi.’ Baldassarre Castiglione, Il Cortegiano (Venice: D. Farri, 1528). Translation from Baldesar Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier : The Singleton Translation : An Authoritative Text Criticism, trans. Charles Singleton (New York, 2002), 32.

  13. [12:20] See introduction to Giulio Caccini’s Published Writings, bilingual edition, pp. 16-17. [LINK].

  14. [13:00] For example, see Nicola Vicentino, L'antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica, (Rome: A. Barre, 1555), Libro Quarto, XXIX, f. 86v: ‘s'avvertirà di non porre sillaba alcuna sotto le note che non hanno consonanza, perche troppo si senteno le note che discordano con la pronuntia della sillaba sotto, ma sotto la quarta si tollerà, perche si ha quella quasi per consonanza, e principalmente se sarà sincopata.’

  15. [13:11] "natural favella" (1600), "in armonia favellare", "favellando in armonia" (1602), "come nel parlar comune" (1614a), "favella in armonia" (1614b).

  16. [13:30] “Senza misura” (1602); "senza sottoporsi a misura ordinata" (1602); "senza osservanza di misura" (1614b). Furthermore, the possibility of a flexible tactus is discussed elsewhere, at a point that appears to be unrelated to the concept of sprezzatura, in which Caccini prescribes a moment to be sung "con misura più larga" (“with a slower tempo”) (1602).

  17. [13:40] “facendo molte volte il valor delle note la metà meno secondo i concetti delle parole” (1602).

  18. [15:05] See introduction to Giulio Caccini’s Published Writings, pp. 13-20. [LINK].

  19. [15:48] While the instrument to which Caccini refers is a “Chitarrone”, this is widely considered to have been essentially synonymous with the “Tiorba”. See Tyler, James. "Chitarrone." Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed 6 May. 2021. [LINK].

  20. [15:57] Brussels, Bibliothèque du Conservatoire Royal de Musique, Codex 704 [B704]. Facsimile edition: Musiche di vari autori, XVIIe siècle, Thesaurus musicus, nova series, A/3. Brussels, 1979. For more details about the manuscript see John Walter Hill, “Realized continuo Accompaniments from Florence c.1600”, Early Music, vol. 11, no. 2 (1983), 194; Tim Carter, “On the Composition and Performance of Caccini's "Le nuove musiche" (1602)”, Early Music, vol. 12, no. 2 (1984), 208-217; Stephen Willier, “Rhythmic Variants in Early Manuscript Versions of Caccini's Monodies”, Journal of the American Musicological Society, vol. 36, no. 3 (1983), 481-497.

  21. [17:48] These modifications in particular seem to involve more than simply adding ornaments to the manuscript version, often improving certain compositional elements of the piece (adding imitative passages, shifting the high-points of phrases etc.) Check our comparative edition for a more detailed look [LINK].


Created by Elam Rotem, Lisandro Abadie and Tim Braithwaite, May 2021.

Musical examples: Jacob Lawrence (tenor), Ori Harmelin (theorbo), Karel Valter (sound engineer).

Caccini caricature by Vincent Flückiger (see his Facebook page: L'Ambiance va être chouette)

Special thanks to Andrés Locatelli, Iason Marmaras, Domen Marincic and Anne Smith.