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Il Bianco e dolce cigno

before 1568

There are fascimiles at IMSLP, both of the 1589 edition (published as four part-books) and of a 1627 reprint, which has all the parts in the one book. Il Bianco e dolce cigno is the first song in each book.

Rough translation:

The gentle white swan dies singing, and I, moaning, reach the end of my life. Strange and contrary fortune, that he dies comfortless, and I die blessed. A death that in dying, fills me with joy and desire. If in dying I felt no other sorrow I would be happy to die a thousand deaths a day.


This is a famous piece, so there are many, many recordings just on Youtube. The one by the King's Singers is a favourite of mine.

There are mp3s to help learn individual lines on the Southron Gaard music page.

Here are midis (in G) with all the parts present, but with a different line emphasised in each:

  1. Soprano
  2. Alto
  3. Tenor
  4. Bass
Sheet Music: 

We usually sing this in G (a tone higher than the original).

There is sheet music in the Southron Gaard Songbook, the Cantiones Secundae (p54). It's in A-flat (four flats), a third higher than the original, which is in F (one flat). There's also sheet music at the Choral Public Domain Wiki, in several keys.

Di Archadelt il primo libro de' madrigali a 4 voci (First book of madrigal's for 4 voices, by Arcadelt) (Alessandro Gardano, Venice, 1581)

Music Categories:


A rough guide to the pronunciation, in 16th-century Italian.

I prepared these guides using:

McGee, Rigg and Klauser (eds), Singing Early Music, chapter 13, "Italian", Gianrenzo P. Clivio, pp 187-211, Indiana UP, 1996.

Any mistakes and inaccuracies are of course mine (Katherina Weyssin/Katherine Davies, December 2012).