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  • Writer's pictureTim Braithwaite

Fabio Orsini’s Manner of Recitation that was ‘not Completely that of one who is Reading’ (1488)

‘He then recited a heroic poem that he himself had previously written in honour of our Piero dei Medici. This [poem] was indeed his, and not someone else’s (as I had first suspected): this I found out later on the basis of very clear reasons and indications. If you ask what the poem was like, it was such as I should be made not to let pass for my own. His voice was not completely that of one who is reading and not completely that of one who is singing, but you could hear one and the other without being able to distinguish between them; nonetheless, it was either plain or modulated according to what the passage required, now staccato, now legato, now exalted and now moderate, now subdued and now lively, now slowing down and now accelerating, but always precise, always clear and always graceful; the gesticulation was not too slow, nor too sleepy and yet neither affected nor melodramatic. You might have said that the young Roscius was declaiming from the stage.’

‘Pronuntiavit heroicum deinde carmen, quod ipsemet nuper in Petri Medicis nostri laudem composuerat. Id ab ipso revera, non (quod ego tamen suspicabar) ab alio factum, signis evidentissimis, argumentisque postea cognovi. Roges quale carmen: quale fere nec meum dici sanus recusem. Vox ipsa nec quasi legentis, nec quasi canentis, sed in qua tamen utrunque sentires, neutrum discerneres: varie tamen prout locus posceret, aut aequalis, aut inflexa, nunc distincta, nunc perpetua, nunc sublata, nunc deducta, nunc remissa, nunc contenta, nunc lenta, nunc incitata, semper emendata, semper clara, semper dulcis, gestus non otiosus, non somniculosus, sed nec vultuosus tamen, ac molestus. Rosciolum prorsus aliquem diceres in scena versari.’



Angeli Politiani operum: Epistolarium libros XII. ac Miscellaneorum Centuriam I, complectens (Leiden: Seb. Gryphius, 1550), pp. 351-4 Translation from Elena Abramov-Van Rijk, Singing Dante : The Literary Origins of Cinquecento Monody (Farnham ; Burlington: Ashgate, 2014).

The painting below is Giorgione’s ‘Cantore Appassionato’ (the impassioned singer) dated to c.1510

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