I came across the Madrigals of Claudio Monteverdi a couple of months ago, watching a film by Agnès Jaoui, Comme une Image (the English title is Look at Me), in which a performance of Lamento della Ninfa is central to the plot, and decided to find out more about them. Since then I have acquired several CD’s of the madrigals (including a jazz(ish) arrangement by La Venexiana) and I have become completely hooked. Why listen to anything else?
Here is a version of Hor che’l ciel performed by Cappella Mediterranea, with pictures:
The words are from Petrarch, Sonnet 131. Here is the Italian text, from ChoralWiki:
Hor che’l ciel e la terra e’l vento tace
e le fere e gli augelli il sonno affrena,
notte il carro stellato in giro mena
e nel suo letto il mar senz’onda giace,
veglio, penso, ardo, piango
e chi mi sface sempre m’è innanzi per mia dolce pena.
Guerra è il mio stato, d’ira e di duol piena,
e sol di lei pensando ho qualche pace.
This is my translation, very loose:
Now the heavens, the earth and the wind are silent;
Animals and birds all closed up in sleep;
Night’s starry chariot advances, turns around,
While no waves stir the ocean in its bed.
Awake, I ponder, I suffer and I weep:
She, the cause of my grief, is always before me.
War is my condition, full of pain and anger;
Only the thought of her brings a little peace.