Bianchi Cigni e canori (Luca Marenzio)

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  • (Posted 2023-09-13)  CPDL #75370:       
Editor: Allen Garvin (submitted 2023-09-13).   Score information: Letter, 15 pages, 190 kB   Copyright: CC BY NC
Edition notes: Transposed down a 4th.
  • (Posted 2023-09-13)  CPDL #75369:        (Lilypond)
Editor: Allen Garvin (submitted 2023-09-13).   Score information: Letter, 16 pages, 195 kB   Copyright: CC BY NC
Edition notes: Original high clefs.
  • (Posted 2021-04-03)  CPDL #63895:         
Editor: Gerhard Weydt (submitted 2021-04-03).   Score information: A4, 14 pages, 372 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Transposed down a fourth (chiavette). In the mp3 file, the second and third parts start at 2:28 and 5:00, respectively.

General Information

Title: Bianchi Cigni e canori
Composer: Luca Marenzio
Number of voices: 6vv   Voicing: AATTBB
Genre: SecularMadrigal

Language: Italian
Instruments: A cappella

First published: 1583 in Il Lauro verde, Edition 1, no. 1
    2nd published: 1587 in Gemmae musicalis Liber Secundus, no. 24
    3rd published: 1591 in Il Lauro verde, Edition 2, no. 1
    4th published: 1593 in Il Lauro verde, Edition 3, no. 1
    5th published: 1594 in Madrigali a sei voci in un corpo ridotti, no. 65

External websites:

Original text and translations

While it seems difficult to find a congruent meaning for the images used especially in the first part, some explanations by Ovid and other sources of Greek mythology may be helpful for the understanding:
Phaeton, the son of Helios (the Sun) by Climene, required from his father that he may drive his horses, as a token that he was accepted as such; as his father foresaw (and hence objected to the idea), he was not not able to control them (for even Jupiter wasn’t), and the race, interchanging between freezing and burning the earth, had to be stopped by a thunderbolt thrown by Jupiter, which killed Phaeton. His sisters, the Heliades, bewailed him on the banks of Eridanos, and were turned into poplar trees. His relative and lover, the Ligurian king Cycnus/Kyknos (Latin/Greek for “swan”), who also mourned his death, was turned into a swan.

Italian.png Italian text

Bianchi Cigni, e canori;
Che de la secca fronde
Cantaste i falsi pregi, e i finti honori
Qui, dove in riva à l’onde
Del Rè de’ fiumi altero
Piangono il caso fero
Del mal cauto Fetonte le sorelle;
Alzate il novo LAURO oltra le stelle.

Alzate il novo LAURO oltra le stelle,
Vaghe, e leggiadre Ninfe;
E’n queste parti e’n quelle
Di mormoranti linfe,
E di garruli augei le piagge, i monti,
E le profonde valli
Rimbombin sì, che l’AURA il verde LAURO
Porti da l’Indo al Mauro:
E voi di fiumi, e fonti
Naiadi, al suon de’ liquidi cristalli
Guidate dolci & amorosi balli.

Guidate dolci, & amorosi balli,
Saltanti Capri, e snelli
Fauni, e Silvani, uniti
A gara hor questi, hor quelli
Co’ piè vaghi, e spediti
Premete i duri, e non segnati calli:
E voi pastori usciti
De le vostre capanne
Con l’incerate canne
Del verde LAURO ergete al Ciel gli honori,
Bianchi Cigni, e canori.

German.png German translation

Weiße und wohltönende Schwäne,
die ihr der dürren Blätter
falsche Loblieder und vorgebliche Ehren besangt;
hier, wo am Ufer der Wogen
des erhabenen Königs der Flüsse
den grausamen Sturz
des unvorsichtigen Phaeton seine Schwestern beklagen,
erhebt den neuen Lorbeer über die Sterne.

Erhebt den neuen Lorbeer über die Sterne,
liebliche und anmutige Nymphen,
und hier wie dort sollen
von murmelnden Gewässern
und vom zwitschernden Vögeln die Ufer, die Berge
und die tiefen Täler
widerhallen, so dass der Wind den grünen Lorbeer
bis zu den Indern und den Mauren trage;
und ihr, der Flüsse und Quellen
Najaden, sollt zum Klang der flüssigen Kristalle
süße und liebliche Tänze aufführen.

Führt süße und liebliche Tänze auf,
springende Böcke und hurtige
Faune und Waldgeister, vereint
im Wettstreit mal diese, mal jene,
verfolgt auf anmutigen und flinken Füßen
schwierige und verborgene Pfade:
und ihr, Hirten, herausgetreten
aus euren Hütten,
erhebt mit den gewachsten Flöten
zum Himmel den Ruhm des grünen Lorbeers,
weiße und wohltönende Schwäne.

Translation by Gerhard Weydt
English.png English translation

White and sweet-singing swans,
that sang of the dry leaves
false esteems and pretended honours;
here, where at the banks of the waves
of the noble King of rivers
the sisters lamented the cruel fall
of the incautious Phaeton,
exalt the new laurel beyond the stars.

Exalt the new laurel beyond the stars,
pretty and graceful nymphs,
and here and there shall
of the murmuring waters
and the twittering birds the banks, the hills
and the deep valleys
resound, such that the breeze carry the green laurel
from the Indians to the Moors;
and you, Naiads of the rivers and springs,
to the sound of liquid cristals
perform sweet and amorous dances.

Perform sweet and amorous dances,
leaping bucks and nimble
fauns and sylvan spirits, united
in competition now these, now others,
on graceful and swift feet
tread rough and hidden pathways:
and you shepherds, leaving
your huts,
with your waxed pipes
raise to the heavens the honours of the green laurel,
white and sweet-singing swans.

Translation by Gerhard Weydt