Monteverdi's genius seems to have been recognized quite early on by his peers and teachers, but the rest of Italy had to wait until he published his second book of madrigals to discover the treasure they had among them. La bocc'onde's gaiety reminds us that Monteverdi's first significant forays into secular music were in the form of light native Italian canzonette. He published a book of these in 1584 and their gentle phrasing; seductive intent; their buoyant, dancing air; and their constant clarity influenced his music for the rest of his life. In his second book of madrigals he integrated these qualities into a much richer, genial personal music for the first time. La bocc'onde is one of the works that shows how well he'd absorbed the attractive spirit of the canzonette, speaking also of the creative jouissance that is fundamental to Monteverdi's entire oeuvre.
Ercole Bentivoglio's eight-line poem is a pure expression of happiness; the soul of the lover "feeds upon ambrosia and nectar." Monteverdi, naturally, wrings nothing but sweet music from it. The piece is made up of relatively short musical statements; none of them in particular is much longer than a few bars. Lucid moments of highly decorated homophony, or blossoms of three- to four-part polyphony; they are, however, always part of a larger musical unit clearly defined with a more filled-out cadence than in the gestures themselves. The whole, too, is a gracefully handled form, a large tonal arc over the smaller arcs. On the micro level there's an almost constant back and forth dialogue throughout between longer, more developed phrases, and tiny, attractively harmonized motifs. It is anything but difficult music; it asks of you only that you lie back and be swept away.