The end of the sixteenth century brought on a miniature crisis in music. Renaissance polyphony, for all its extraordinary beauty, had outlived its usefulness. A new sensibility was being born, and with it music had to evolve, to discover a new grammar. Madrigal composition was the place where composers made most of the first significant experiments toward a new style, because it was an open-ended form around which there was little artistic taboo. Monteverdi, in practical terms the prime "inventor" of the Baroque in music, was to go on to make the most valuable contributions to this evolution. It is in his second book of madrigals for five voices, from which Bevea Fillide mia is taken, that the first clear signs of the coming change can be heard as the composer willfully transcends his stylistic inheritance.
Here, as elsewhere in Il secondo libro, the contrapuntal writing has become subordinate to an overall harmonic function. The very frequent, silky cadences constantly reiterate the tonal center and put the more pungent chords and more daring counterpoint against a neutral background. The lines, although vivid, are often so simplified that without the lovely harmonic underpinnings they'd be meaningless. And the whole, being a mainly harmonic music now, has a tendency to move into a homophony or near homophony of chord-melody. The bass furthermore withdraws from sharing an equal part in the polyphony, instead taking a functional role of supporting the upper voices, anticipating basso continuo. What these descriptions fail to communicate is how truly wonderful the effect is. Indeed, the colorful setting of the end of the third line, depicting the beloved Phyllis lavishing kisses upon "sweet liquor" is analogous to the whole piece in its subtly ecstatic, overflowing quality. Bevea Fillide mia is like a cup filled to the brim with the sweetest juice that sometimes overflows over the bearer's devoted fingers.