Claudio Saracini (1586 - ca 1649)
Abridged from the article in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
Contributor: James Sanderson

Saracini, Claudio (b Siena, 1 July 1586; d ?Siena, after 1649).
Italian composer, singer and lutenist. He was of noble birth and came of a
musical family, one of the most distinguished in Siena. He was also called 'Il
Palusi', which was probably the name by which he was known in an academy, though
which academy he belonged to is not known. In the dedication of his Seconde
musiche (1620) he stated that from his youth he had travelled through many
foreign countries: since he dedicated a song in his Musiche (1614) to the
Duchess of Brunswick it may be assumed that Germany was one of these countries,
and since some of his strophic songs seem to have been influenced by Balkan folk
music, countries in south-east Europe may have been among the others. He knew
aristocratic and other eminent figures in Italy: for example, dedicating his
Quinte musiche (1624) to the Archbishop of Bologna, he explained how he wrote
its contents at the archbishop's residence at Frascati and that they had often
been sung by order of the archbishop's sister, the Duchess of Ruffano, and he
dedicated his Seste musiche (1624) to Prince Alfonso d'Este of Modena. Among
several individual songs in the first three books of musiche inscribed to other
dedicatees is a fine madrigal at the head of the second book, Udite, lagrimosi
spirti d'Averno, dedicated to Monteverdi, whom he may also have met.


Saracini is an outstanding example of the cultivated nobleman who had no need
to fear comparison with professionals in practising his chosen art. Given the
size, range and quality of his output, he may be ranked with Sigismondo d'lndia
as one of the two finest composers of monody in Italy in the heyday of the genre
in the early 17th century. Except for three ducts and three theorbo pieces in
his 1614 book and a brief three-part 'chorus' at the end of his Sospirava e
spargea [Lamento Della Madonna] all his surviving music is monadic; including
the lament, 129 solo songs are extant and all of them except the Latin Stabat
mater are settings of Italian words, ranging from famous texts of the time such
as Udite, lagrimosi to simple little poems that are otherwise unknown and may
have been written specially for him. He embraced every kind of solo song of his
day, from long recitatives and arioso (the Lamento delta Madonna, Stabat mater
and Lasso, chi mi console) through madrigals, both chromatic (Crude mia Filli)
and diatonic (0 chime errate), and settings of sonnets and octaves to little
strophic songs, both relatively serious (Crudel, tu voi partier) and artlessly
charming (Pallida Etta qual vola). There are excellent pieces in every group. He
was a master of declamation, responding at his best at once expressively and
scrupulously to the text, and he supported his flexible vocal line with bold
harmony and a strong bass. Such music may well owe something to Monteverdi; the
madrigal dedicated to Monteverdi and the three long recitatives, in which
interest is sustained in masterly fashion, are fine examples. It is no accident
that the madrigal poet whom he seems to have set most often was Marino, whose
erotic and highly charged verses allowed him to indulge his evident passion for
such settings.
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