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To treat musical settings of Petrarch's poems as forms of "translation" may seem slightly far-fetched but it is actually an easy leap to make. Petrarch's poems were often set to music — and why not? Lyric poetry is originally supposed to have been composed in order to accompany the lyre, and the poet has often been conceived as a kind of singer. The anonymous composer(s?) of the Penn manuscript and Cipriano da Rore were by no means alone in finding Petrarch's lyrics appropriate for musical setting. "Pace non trovo" ("I find no peace") in the Penn manuscript, and "Vergine bella" ("Beautiful virgin") and the nine other Petrarchan poems in Cornell's two editions of Cipriano are but a few of Petrarch's poems that have been set to music. Numerous recordings currently available make it easy to hear such settings. Composers who work with Petrarchan texts include, in addition to Cipriano, Jacob Arcadelt (ca. 1505-1568), Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525?-1594), Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), Franz Schubert (1797-1828), and, more recently, Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951).

  45-01.jpg "Madrigali e canzone."
Ms. Codex 297.
Manuscript on paper, Italy, 16th century.
University of Pennsylvania Library.

This sixteenth-century anthology — its text in cursive, three hands responsible for its production — contains fourteen compositions for solo voice with unfigured bass and seven duets with continuo accompaniment. Five of the solo voice compositions set madrigal texts, one of them Petrarch's Sonnet RVF 134, "Pace non trovo e non ò da far guerra" ("I find no peace, and I've naught to wage war").
Cipriano de Rore, 1515 or -16-1565.
Il terzo libro de'madrigali, dove si contengono le Vergine, et altri madrigali.
Venice: Apresso di Antonio Gardane, 1548.
Cornell University Library.
Exhibition Introduction | Petrarch and His Milieu | Petrarch in Manuscript | Petrarch in Print
Petrarch and Censorship |Petrarch in Translation | Petrarch and Music