Conversations about the relative merits of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart etc can fill lots of time at the dinner table but are in the end pretty meaningless. However I would like to make a controversial claim for Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) as the most significant composer of all who took music from the middle ages and set it on the path to the later geniuses mentioned above. A contemporary of William Byrd he began in the age of Renaissance polyphony where the movement of many separate voices was supreme and melody largely an afterthought. By 1643 he was composing the extraordinary 'Coronation of Poppea' which is a monument to beautiful vocal melody. He could write polyphony with the best of them as witnessed by his 'Missa in illo Tempore' - literally 'mass of those old times'. He pioneered the transformation of music into melody supported by a strong harmonic bass line. The best way to go on Monteverdi's musical journey is to listen to a madrigal a piece from each of his madrigal books as per the playlist below. The first could be in an Elizabethan drawing room, the last in an Italian opera house. Genius!
PS. Don't forget the Vespers
Monteverdi Vespers in St Mark's Venice click here
Final Scene from Coronation of Poppea click here
Monteverdi Madrigals playlist click here