Scholars of the madrigal have often emphasized Torquato Tasso’s role in the emergence of a serious musical manner that differed sharply from the widespread canzonetta style of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. This emphasis is grounded in Tasso’s endorsement of musical gravitas in the dialogue La Cavaletta from the mid-1580s, as well as in some settings of Gerusalemme liberata, the musical style of which matched the heroic tone of the poetry.

Tasso, however, produced many poems that were suitable to lighter musical styles. In particular, he wrote several short strophic compositions of light tone, that is, canzonetta poems. Numerous composers set these as such or as canzonetta madrigals, the hybrid genre that became popular in the late sixteenth century. This poetic-musical repertoire counters Tasso’s and scholars’ emphasis on gravitas and prompts a reconsideration of his impact on music that takes into greater account his substantial contribution to lighter genres.

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