Arcadelt produced several volumes of madrigals, as well as a variety of chansons , masses , motets , and other works. Arcadelt probably was born in what is now Belgium , though his origins are uncertain. He became a singer as well as a leading composer. During the s he was in Florence and possibly also in Rome.
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He moved to Italy as a young man, and was present in Florence by the late s, therefore having an opportunity to meet or work with Philippe Verdelot , who wrote the earliest named madrigals.
Michelangelo paid Arcadelt with a piece of satin suitable for making into a doublet. In this publication he was mentioned as a member of the royal chapel, and therefore must have served both Henry II died and Charles IX during this late phase of his career. In Paris he employed the publishing house of Le Roy and Ballard, who printed his abundant chansons, masses and motets just as the Venetian printers had earlier printed his madrigals. He left a total of 24 motets , French chansons, approximately madrigals about fifty of which are of uncertain attribution , three masses , as well as settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah and the Magnificat.
There may be as many as more madrigals by Arcadelt which survive anonymously in manuscript sources. Of all the early madrigalists, he was by far the most universal in his influences as well as his appeal; and his influence on others was enormous.
Arcadelt brought the madrigal form to its early maturity. Stylistically his madrigals are melodious and simple in structure, singable, and built on a clear harmonic basis, usually completely diatonic.
The music is often syllablic, and while it sometimes uses repeated phrases, is almost always through-composed as opposed to the contemporary chanson, which was often strophic. Unlike later generations of madrigal composers, Arcadelt did not expect professional singers to be the only consumers of his work; anyone who could read notes could sing his madrigals.
According to Alfred Einstein , writing in The Italian Madrigal, "… he is content with a simple, tender declamation of the text, depending upon the elementary and magical power of music, of harmony, which veils this poem in a cloak of sublime and distant sentimentality.
Arcadelt has conferred upon this composition a quality which is very rare in sixteenth-century secular music, namely durability …"  The texture is mostly homophonic, with a hint of fauxbourdon in the harmony; the subject matter is erotic, with the orgasmic "thousand deaths" portrayed by a rising fourth figure in close imitation ; brief bits of word-painting occur, such as the use of a flattened seventh on "piangendo"; and the musical phrases overlap the lines of verse, blurring the formal division of the line, a technique known in music, as in poetry, as enjambment.
The chanson was by nature a more stable form, often strophic and with patterned repetition; the madrigal, on the other hand, was usually through-composed. Most of his chansons are syllablic and simple, with brief bursts of polyphonic writing, occasionally canonic, and with sections imitating the note nere style of the madrigal — the fast "black notes" producing the effect of a patter song.
Some of his chansons were actually contrafacta of his madrigals the same music, printed with new words French instead of Italian.
Rarely in music history were the madrigal and the chanson more alike. The masses are influenced by the previous generation of Franco-Flemish composers, particularly Jean Mouton and Josquin des Prez ; the motets, avoiding the dense polyphony favored by the Netherlanders, are more declamatory and clear in texture, in a manner similar to his secular music. Much of his religious music, except for the sacred chansons, he probably wrote during his years in the papal chapel in Rome. Documents from the Sistine Chapel archives indicate that the choir sang his music during his residence there.
Below is a partial list of his works. Note that numbering is by number of voices: for example, there is an Il primo libro di madrigali First Book of Madrigals for four voices, and another Primo libro di madrigali for three.
Ave Maria (Arcadelt-Dietsch)
Ave Maria d'Arcadelt, S.183/2 (Liszt, Franz)