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These previously unnoticed chamber duets for various pairs of voices and basso continuo are among the most original compositions from the pen of Diogenio Bigaglia (1678–1745), the Venetian monk who was also a skilled and imaginative composer. They are set to texts taken from the famously chromatic madrigals of Carlo Gesualdo published over a century earlier. The purpose of this choice was not to commemorate Gesualdo but to assemble a homogeneous group of short poems suitable for Bigaglia’s evident main aim, which was to produce a cycle of vocal duets imitating the structural layout and musical processes of the contemporary trio sonata. The result demonstrates his absolute mastery of all the elements of music: melody, harmony, counterpoint, modulation, form and (because this is vocal music) word-painting. With them, Bigaglia joins the elite of chamber duet composers of the late baroque period alongside Steffani, Handel, Clari, Bononcini and Marcello. Six of the duets are for two sopranos, three for soprano and alto, two for two altos and one for alto and bass. This distribution lies behind the division of the duets, for the purposes of this edition, into four volumes, each containing three duets of similar type.
Music example Duet No. 1
Music example Duet No. 6
Music example Duet No. 7