[V. de P.]
CAVALIERI, Emilio del, was a Roman gentleman of good family and fine musical perceptions. He was born about the year 1550, and died some time at least before the end of the 16th century, for his most important work, 'La Rappresentazione di Anima e di Corpo,' was performed for the first time in 1600, and all the accounts of him agree in stating that it was never performed in his lifetime. He spent a great portion of his life at the court of Ferdinand del Medicis, who appointed him to the quaintly-named office of 'Inspector-General of the Artists' at Florence. There he lived upon terms of intimacy with Giovanni Bardi of Vernio, Giulio Caccini, Vincenzo Galilei, Peri, Corsi, and Rinuccini, a group of accomplished artists and gentlemen, who were bent upon freeing music from the trammels of the 'stile osservato,' and bringing about some better result from the union of instruments, poetry, and the human voice than had up to their time been achieved.
Cavalieri, then, was one of the earliest projectors of instrumental accompaniment, and among the first to employ that early form of it which goes by the name of the Basso Continuo, with figures and signs attached to guide the different instruments in filling up the intermediate parts. Alessandro Guidotti, who published 'La Rappresentazione di Anima e di Corpo,' after the death of its author, thus explains the system of the 'Basso figurato':—'I numeri piccoli posti sopra le note del basso continuato per suonare, significano le consonanze e le dissonanze di tal numero, come il 3 terza, il 4 quarto, e così di mano in mano.' Cavalieri did not attempt to elaborate the accompaniment thus suggested; a great deal was still left to the players themselves, just as in the plain-song the underlying parts were filled in by what in England was known as 'descant,' and in Italy as 'Il Contrapunto della Mente.' Not the less, however, did the labours of Cavalieri and his contemporaries constitute at once a starting-point and a stride in art. He was also among the earliest employers of vocal ornaments, such as the gruppetto or groppolo, the monachina, the zimbalo, and perhaps the trillo. It may be questioned, however, whether the last-mentioned was the true 'shake'; that is to say, a rapid oscillation between two tones or semitones; or whether it was only a certain vibratory production of the voice, probably considered an elegance in early times, but now more fitly estimated as a fault common among bad singers, and known as the 'tremolo.' [Shake; Tremolo.]A dramatic tendency naturally arose out of the desire to make vocal and instrumental music subservient to the illustration of words, and it is not surprising therefore that Cavalieri should have produced musical dramas. Of these he composed four—Il Satiro, La disperazione di Fileno, Il giuoco della cieca, and La Rappresentazione, mentioned already. They were one and all of them arrangements of words provided by Laura Guidiccioni, an accomplished lady of the Lucchesini family. Of these works the last-named only has been edited, as stated above, by Guidotti of Bologna.
[E. H. P.]