Monteverdi - Si Dolce e'l Tormento

by Magnificat

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Monteverdi's setting of Carlo Milanuzzi's text in the solo madrigal Si dolce e'l tormento conveys a wide range of emotion that belies its simple strophic form. It appeared in the composer’s Scherzi musicali of 1632.

This exquisite work was not originally in the plans for Magnificat's November, 2004 program "A Due Voci Pari", but during the rehearsals for those concerts, David Tayler suggested that we add it. After one run-through in the dress rehearsal it was clear that this would become one of the most memorable of all Magnificat performances.


Si dolce è’l tormento
Text by Carlo Milanuzzi

Si dolce è’l tormento
Ch’in seno mi sta,
Ch’io vivo contento
Per cruda beltà.
Nel ciel di bellezza
S’accreschi fierezza
Et manchi pietà:
Che sempre qual scoglio
All’onda d’orgoglio
Mia fede sarà.

La speme fallace
Rivolgam’ il piè.
Diletto ne pace
Non scendano a me.
E l’empia ch’adoro
Mi nieghi ristoro
Di buona mercè:
Tra doglia infinita,
Tra speme tradita
Vivrà la mia fè

Se fiamma d’amore
Già mai non sentì
Quel riggido core
Ch’il cor mi rapì,
Se nega pietate
La cruda beltate
Che l’alma invaghì:
Ben fia che dolente,
Pentita e languente
Sospirimi un dì.

So sweet is the torment
in my breast
that happily do I live
for cruel beauty.
In the heaven of beauty
let cruelty grow
and mercy be lacking:
for my faith will always
be as a rock,
in the face of pride.

Let deceitful hope
turn away from me,
let neither joy nor peace
descend on me.
And let the wicked girl
whom I adore
deny me the solace
of sweet mercy:
amid infinite pain,
amid hope betrayed,
my faith will survive.

The hard heart
that stole mine away
has never felt love’s flame.
The cruel beauty
that charmed my soul
withholds mercy,
so let it suffer,
repentant and languishing, and
let it sigh one day for me.


released September 14, 2009
Catherine Webster, soprano
David Tayler, theorbo

Live, unedited recording of a performance on November 14, 2004 at St. Gregory Nyssen Church in San Francisco.

cover design by Nika Korniyenko




Magnificat San Francisco, California

For 20 years Magnificat has explored the emotionally charged music of the 17th Century, each season bringing together an assembly of internationally recognized musicians to present innovative programs that inspire the imagination. With dramatic flair and sensitivity to historical context, Magnificat imbues each concert with an infectious joy and a delight in musical make-believe. ... more


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