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In the score of his madrigal Ah, dolente partita! it says "Lento, ma in due". Lento means slow, right? But what exactly is it that is to be divided in two?

Also, I noticed that the tempo indication is in parentheses. Does this signify an editorial addition or not?

Youtube video

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The "in due" here means to conduct it in two.

This edition is written in common (4/4) time, which is often conducted in four. But the directions here state that the piece is slow, but conducted in two. Otherwise, if someone were to conduct it slowly in four, it may actually end up being twice as slow as intended (hence the "ma in due": but in two).

And the markings would have been from the editor, so other scores would be different. This one, for instance, is marked only "Lento," but they take care of the rest by writing it in cut time!

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The first edition is available on IMSLP, and has no tempo markings at all (which was customary at that time - musicians were expected to be intelligent).

It was not written in "common (4/4) time". As the first edition shows, it didn't even have bar lines. The "C" notation in the original does not mean "4/4 time" but simply indicates how the different note durations relate to each other. In Monteverdi's time, the relative durations of different note values could be subdivided into 2 or 3 parts, in several different patterns - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mensural_notation.

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  • Just to clarify my own answer: When I said it was written in common time, I was referring to the edition shown in the question. I've edited my statement.
    – Richard
    Jan 12 '20 at 18:51
  • guest - if you have comments about a post, please don't post them as a new answer as they are not an answer to the question. I'll edit the comments you made to Richard out of your post, as he has updated his answer accordingly.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Jan 13 '20 at 11:42
  • @DoktorMayhem there's no prohibition on addressing points made in other answers as long as the answer also answers the question. Guest: With regard to the now-deleted claim "Neither were they ever "conducted". They were sung one voice to a part, for the entertainment of the performers, not by a large ensemble performing for an audience," I doubt that these were never performed for an audience, but even if so, an ensemble of singers one to a part is still often conducted. Few ensembles achieve the ideal wherein everyone contributes equally.
    – phoog
    Jan 13 '20 at 23:02
  • I'd also note that mensural notation was on its last legs when this music was written. It was well on the way to becoming the barred time signature notation that we use today. A lot of the information in the Wikipedia article applies to music written centuries before and is therefore not particularly relevant to Monteverdi.
    – phoog
    Jan 13 '20 at 23:16
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In the score of his madrigal Ah, dolente partita! it says "Lento, ma in due". Lento means slow, right? But what exactly is it that is to be divided in two?

A literal translation into English is probably best: "Slowly, but in two." "In two" means that there should be two beats per measure.

This affects not only the tempo, but also the phrasing and the rhythmic organization of the meter. Try listening to the video you linked to twice, once tapping along in quarter notes, and once in half notes. I think you'll see the difference even though the actual tempo is of course the same.

Also, I noticed that the tempo indication is in parentheses. Does this signify an editorial addition or not?

Yes, as noted by guest in another answer, it is an editorial addition. The score in the video is from Gian Francesco Malipiero's edition of Monteverdi's complete works. The volume containing the fourth book of five-voice madrigals was published in 1927, which is I guess around the beginning of the period in which editors started to be careful to identify their contributions. The original was published in 1603.

Since guest has added a link for a PDF copy of the original part books, I won't include that, but I will encourage you to print the parts and try singing from them. It's a remarkably edifying experience.

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