The numerous documents associated with the controversy launched in 1600 by the Bolognese music theorist Giovanni Maria Artusi (1546–1613) against the madrigals of Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643) have been well studied by scholars. But no one has yet engaged with the encomia included in the front and back matter of the printed books lying at the heart of the dispute: three sonnets (two by Vicenzo Maria Sandri and one by Mutio Manfredi) and a Latin carmen (by Erycius Puteanus) in the treatise L’Artusi, overo Delle imperfettioni della moderna musica (1600), and two madrigals by the poet and theologian Cherubino Ferrari in Monteverdi’s Il quinto libro de madrigali a cinque voci (1605). Although one might dismiss them as mere “occasional” poetry flattering Artusi, on the one hand, and Monteverdi, on the other, as well as their respective patrons, close reading suggests that these encomia represent attempts to claim the high ground not just on musical but also on philosophical and even religious terms. Ferrari’s praise of the composer finds a clear echo in Alessandro Striggio the Younger’s libretto for Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo (1607). All this provides an intriguing footnote, and perhaps something more, both to the controversy over the seconda pratica madrigal and to Orfeo in their broader Ferrarese and Mantuan contexts.
A close examination of Monteverdi's problematic settings of two texts, "Zefiro torna, e di soavi accenti" (1632) and "Su, su, su pastorelli vezzosi" (1638, 1651), raises significant issues concerning his poetic sensitivities and also the status of his literary and musical sources. This further calls into question the modern reception of his agenda for the so called seconda pratica , for all its role as an integral part of the stories conventionally told of the composer.