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Intermedio VII from 1589

Recent research by David Arrowsmith has revealed that there was in fact a seventh intermedio at the 1589 wedding. Imagine the scene (after nearly five hours of music and drama): Venus, surrounded by her entourage of beautiful, scantily-clad nymphs, is being serenaded by the finest musicians in the land. Giovanni Bassano and Fillipe Thorbi have just finished a series of increasingly competitive divisions* and Alessandro Striggio has embarked on an elaborate viola bastarda improvisation, when a stage-hand, paying more attention to the nymphs than his duties, lets go of the wrong rope. A startled Cupid plummets down straight on to the bass viol, totally destroying it. At this point the exhausted musicians decide to call it a day and go for a beer.

Of course all mention of this unfortunate episode was excised from the official records, but the popular news sheet "Il Sol" did feature the nymphs on page III of the next issue. One thing is quite clear from the reports that did survive - the organisers would never have dreamed of performing any of the Intermedii with amateurs.

* The result was generally adjudged to have been a draw. Thorbi came in for some criticism for his use of a somewhat archaic style rather reminiscent of Ganassi, but was technically flawless. Bassano's avant-garde divisions were much liked, and in spite of a major blunder (playing a B flat rather than B natural at an intermediate cadence), he managed to equalise with a couple of extravagant late trills.

David Fletcher (thanking Philip Thorby at the end of the Intermedii weekend)

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