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Pomponio Nenna

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Pomponio Nenna (baptized 13 June 1556 – 25 July 1608) was a Neapolitan Italian composer of the Renaissance. He is mainly remembered for his madrigals, which were influenced by Gesualdo, and for his polychoral sacred motets, posthumously published as Sacrae Hebdomadae Responsoria in 1622.
Pomponio Nenna was born in Bari, in Apulia at the Kingdom of Naples. His father, Giovanni Battista Nenna, was a city official in Bari and was the author of "Il Nennio : nel quale si ragiona di nobilta", a book about nobility and virtuous character, published in 1542.
Pomponio Nenna probably studied with Stefano Felis in Bari. In 1574 his first pieces of music to be published were four villanellas which were included in the collections of "Villanelle alla Napolitana", edited by Giovanni Jacopo de Antiquis, who may also have been one of Nenna's teachers. In 1582 Nenna dedicated his first book of madrigals to Fabrizio Carafa, the Duke of Andria, near Bari. Carafa had nominated Nenna to be his successor. and is also the man found in flagrante delicto with the composer Don Carlo Gesualdo's wife, both of whom were killed in 1590 by Gesualdo's own hand in one of the most famous murders in the history of music. Nenna seems nonetheless to have been on terms of friendship with Gesualdo, and had dedicated music to him. As Gesualdo was also Prince of Venosa, this may have been the most prudent political stance for Nenna to assume.
Nenna worked at the court of Gesualdo between 1594 and 1599, at which time it was once thought that Gesualdo, himself an amateur composer, studied with Nenna; but more recent musicological study suggests that the influence may have gone the other way.
Nenna's activities in the first decade of the 17th century are obscure, but he was probably in Naples from 1606 to 1607 and in Rome in 1608. A curious remark concerning his skilled participation in a chess game in Naples in 1606 is recorded in a manuscript book of discourses.
In April 1600, Leonora d'Este, the more fortunate second wife of Gesualdo, wrote a letter to her brother, then Cardinal Alessandro d'Este in Rome, in which she recommends Pomponio Nenna to him. Thus it may have been his d'Este family connections that enabled Nenna to establish himself profitably in Rome.
He died on 25 July 1608 in Rome.
Nenna followed the Neapolitan stylistic trends of the time. He borrowed from the work of Giulio Caccini, and certainly he exchanged musical ideas with Gesualdo. Some of Nenna's madrigals also make use of the antiphonal style of Andrea Gabrieli.
Nenna wrote eight books of madrigals; however, copies of the second and third books are no longer extant. Because of this, the change from his earlier style as exhibited in the first book of madrigals to that of his more mature style of the fourth might appear startling.
His use of chromaticism and a highly imitative musical language is experimental for its time, and mirrored in the work of Gesualdo, indicating a close working relationship between the two. Nenna uses dissonance to build tensions that intimately reflect the passions expressed in the texts, and he employs imitative melodic and rhythmic patterns among the parts as they move towards points of conflict that then frequently resolve suddenly.
The chromatic structures are sometimes surprising, as in the beginning of "La mia doglia s'avanza", whose opening chords move from G minor to F-sharp major then D minor and finally C-sharp major, commencing a series of descending chromatic figures. In "L'amoroso veleno", the voices use small, chromatic ascending scales to mimic the poison which slowly creeps up to the victim's heart.
In more than one madrigal, he uses a repeated musical phrase, composed to the text, "Vita de la mia vita" (Light of my Life), apparently as a kind of aural signature, or perhaps as a veiled reference to a specific individual.
The fifth book of madrigals was dedicated to Nenna's patron, Fabritio Branciforte, while the sixth was dedicated to Diana Vittoria Carafa, the spouse of the seducer of Gesualdo's wife. The eighth book, published in 1618, was edited by Ferdinando Archilei, a doctor of laws, amateur musician and friend of Nenna's in Rome, and this fact might suggest that Nenna did not live to see its publication.
He also wrote sacred choral music, including Tenebrae responsories for use during Easter and a psalm setting, all of which show a dignified and restrained approach, much in keeping with the Neapolitan style for liturgical music, and reflective of the work of the brothers Anerio and Gesualdo.
First Book of Madrigals. The First Book of Madrigals also contains madrigals by Stefano Felis. In 1621 Carlo Milanuzzi added the 'continuo' part to the book.
Fourth Book of Madrigals.
Fifth Book of Madrigals.
Sixth Book of Madrigals.
Seventh Book of Madrigals.
Eighth Book of Madrigals.
The Eighth Book also contains the following madrigals by other composers:
Richard Goodson Sr Manuscript, Madrigals by Pomponio Nenna.
On the back of the frontispiece of a copy of the 1621 edition of the First Book of Madrigals, found in the collection of the Liceo Musicale di Bologna, composer Alessandro Grandi had written in 1623 a dedication wherein he begins, "Escono questi Madrigali del Signor Cauaglier Nenna dal sepolchro delle tenebre alla luce del sole", or "These madrigals of Signor Nenna exit from out the darkness of the grave to the light of the sun". This would suggest that by 1623 Nenna had been dead for several years.