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The 1580s and '90s were the heyday of the madrigal anthology in Italy. Broadly speaking, the end of this period saw a shift in the nature of many of these anthologies from being collections of previously unpublished works by currently active composers to more retrospective collections of pieces by well-known composers, many of which had already appeared in print. This phenomenon was seen particularly outside Italy, notably in England and the Low Countries, where publishers such as Thomas East and Pierre Phalese brought out such collections as a commercial no less than as an artistic enterprise, in contrast to the collaboration between editor/publisher', composers and perhaps poets which had characterized many of the anthologies of the 1580s. This new edition by Paolo Emilio Carapezza, complete with a substantial preface exploring the volume's social and musical context, presents an exception to the trend. Le risa a vicenda was published in Venice by Giacomo Vincenti in 1598, at a time when, as a quick glance at RISM (Recueils imprimes, [XVI.sup.e]-[XVII.sup.e] siecles) reveals, increasingly fewer anthologies containing previously unpublished madrigals were printed in Italy.
As with some of the earlier madrigal anthologies, the contents of Le risa a vicenda are linked by textual themes and by the region of Italy in which its composers were active. There are in fact two interweaving textual cycles, and two clear geographical groups of composers. In this the anthology is strongly reminiscent of the collection I lieti amanti also printed by Vincenti, during his partnership with Ricciardo Amadino in 1586, in which the texts of the madrigals alternate between the subject of the pain of two lovers separating at dawn, and the happiness of escaping the pain of unrequited love. The former texts are set by composers active in Ferrara, and the latter by composers active elsewhere in Italy. From this point of view Le risa a vicenda would seem to have more in common with I lieti amanti than with some of the other madrigal anthologies of the 1580s (such as the Roman anthologies Dolci affetti of 1582 and Le gioie of 1589) with which Carapezza connects it, especially as the two collections had the same publisher.
Before discussing the contents of Le risa a vicenda in greater detail, Carapezza's preface includes a long section on the anthology's dedicatee, Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte. Del Monte was a friend of Torquato …