Professor John Whenham BMus MA (Nott), DPhil (Oxon), FRSA

Department of Music
Emeritus Professor of Music History

Contact details

Bramall Music Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am a specialist in Italian music of the late 16th and early 17th centuries and, in particular, on the music of Claudio Monteverdi. From 2001 to 2011, as Head of Department, I successfully argued for new facilities for University music, drew up an architects’ brief for a new building and led the departmental team during the processes of developing the plans, fundraising, and constructing the Bramall Music Building and in commissioning and installing its new pipe organ.


BMus, MA (Nottingham), DPhil (Oxford). My Master’s thesis was on the music of Elizabeth Lutyens in the 1960s, and my doctorate on Italian Secular duets and dialogues of the early 17th century.


I have published the books Duet and Dialogue in the Age of Monteverdi (UMI),Monteverdi, 'Orfeo' (Cambridge University Press), and Monteverdi, Vespers (1610)(Cambridge University Press). With Richard Wistreich I published The Cambridge Companion to Monteverdi (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and am currently working on a project with colleagues at Heidelberg and Rome, and with former students now lecturing on music at universities in Greece, to produce an online series of editions of Italian vocal music from the first half of the seventeenth century; the editions are available online at ASCIMA  and may be freely downloaded for study, performance and recording. Recently, I have been working on studies of Monteverdi’s Venetian sacred music and on editing volumes for the new collected edition of the work of Alessandro Grandi.

Other activities

For five years I was co-editor of the Oxford journal Music & Letters and served (until 2016) on its editorial board and as a trustee of the Music & Letters Trust. I have also served as a member of the AHRC Peer Review College. I now serve on the editorial board for the new collected edition of the work of Alessandro Grandi and on the boards of trustees of The Elgar Foundation and Music Therapy Works.

I have worked extensively with Anthony Rooley, Emma Kirkby and The Consort of Musicke, particularly on their series of recordings of Monteverdi madrigals, and with The King's Consort and The Sixteen on recordings of Monteverdi's sacred music. I have broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and on Belgian Radio.



Duet and Dialogue in the Age of Monteverdi (2 vols., Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1982)

Monteverdi, ‘Orfeo’ (Cambridge Opera Handbooks Series, Cambridge University Press, 1986)

Monteverdi, Vespers (1610) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

(with Richard Wistreich),The Cambridge Companion to Monteverdi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Critical Edition

Alessandro Grandi, Cantade et arie…libro terzo (Venice, 1626) and Alessandro Grandi, Cantade et arie ... libro quarto (Venice, 1629), ed. by Dennis Collins and John Whenham ('Alessandro Grandi, Opera Omnia', vol. 18; Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae, 112; American Institute of Musicology (forthcoming)

Giovanni Rovetta, Madrigali concertati a 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 Et nel fine una cantata à 4, libro secondo, Op. 6 (Venice, 1640) (


Laudate Dominum:  an Anthology of Church Music from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century.  University of Birmingham Singers, dir. John Whenham.  RR 1006 (2000).

Journal articles and book chapters

'La musica sacra veneziana di Monteverdi', in Rodolfo Baroncini and Marco Di Pasquale (eds), Monteverdi a San Marco. Venezia 1613-1643 (Lucca: LIM Editrice, 2020), 273-313

‘The Later Madrigals and Madrigal Books’, in The New Monteverdi Companion, ed. Denis Arnold & Nigel Fortune (London: Faber, 1985), 216-47

‘Monteverdi, Opera, and Oratorio’, in The Heritage of Music, ed. Michael Raeburn & Alan Kendall (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), i. 73-95

‘“Orfeo”:  a Masterpiece for a Court’, in The Operas of Monteverdi, ed. Nicholas John (‘ENO Opera Guide’, London: Calder Publications, 1992), 20-28

‘The Gonzagas Visit Venice’, Early Music, 21 (1993), 525-42

‘“Aria” in the Madrigals of Giovanni Rovetta’, in ‘Con che soavità’:  Studies in Italian Opera, Song, and Dance, 1580-1740, ed. Iain Fenlon & Tim Carter (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1995), 135-56

‘Martino Pesenti’s “Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi”, in Claudio Monteverdi und die Folgen: Bericht über das Internationale Symposium Detmold 1993, ed. Silke Leopold & Joachim Steinheuer (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1998), 267-89

'Giovanni Felice Sances, the Emperor Leopold I and Two Operas for the Viennese Court', (eds.), in Il teatro musicale italiano nel Sacro Romano Impero nei secoli XVII e XVIII. Atti del Convegno internazionale sulla musica italiana nei secoli XVII-XVIII, Lovena di Menaggio (Como), 15-17 luglio 1997, ed. A. Colzani, N. Dubowy, A. Luppi & M. Padoan (Como: A.M.I.S., 1999), 311-338

‘Producing Monteverdi’s Orfeo: Some Fundamental Considerations’, in ‘Lo stupor dell’invenzione’: Firenze e la nascità dell’opera: Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi Firenze, 5-6 ottobre 2000, ed. Piero Gargiulo, (‘Quaderni della Rivista Italiana di Musicologia, 36, Florence: Olschki, 2001), 73-86

'Sigismondo D'India, Cavaliere di San Marco', in 'Care note amorose': 
Sigismondo D'India e dintorni: Atti del convegno internazionale di studi, Torino, Archivio di Stato, 20-21 ottobre 2000, edited by Sabrina Saccomani Caliman (Turin: Istituto per i Beni Musicali in Piemonte, 2004), 127-31

‘Perspectives on the Chronology of the First Decade of Public Opera at Venice’, Il Saggiatore musicale, 11 (2004), 253-302 

‘Monteverdi’s “Selva morale e[t] spirituale” (1641): Some Anomalies Explored Through the Five Exemplars’, Music & Letters, 95 (2014), 511-549

‘Dialogue Settings by the Composers of Early Venetian Operas and their Use of Aria Styles’, paper given at Giornata di studi, University of Bologna, 15 October 2015, to be published in Musicalia. Annuario internazionale di studi musicologici, dir. Paolo Fabbri.

'The Messa a quattro voci et salmi (1650) and Monteverdi's Venetian Church Music', Recercare, 28 (2016), 89-120. 

Reference works

'Striggi (Striggio, Striggis), Alessandro juniore', in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, 94 (2019), 348-352

35 articles, including ‘Dialogue’ (sects. 1, 4, 5), ‘Ferrari, Benedetto’, ‘Fontei, Nicolò’, ‘Manelli, Francesco’, ‘Strozzi, Giulio’, ‘Vittori, Loreto’ in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie (20 vols., London: Macmillan, 1980, and in rev. edn, 2001).

11 articles, including  ‘Andromeda’ (Francesco Manelli), ‘Arianna’ (Claudio Monteverdi), ‘Ferrari, Benedetto’, ‘Manelli, Francesco’, ‘Monteverdi, Claudio’, ‘Orfeo (i)’ (Claudio Monteverdi), in The New  Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Stanley Sadie & Christina Bashford (London: Macmillan, 1992)

Selected CD notes

Monteverdi, Madrigals, Books I-VIII (The Consort of Music, dir. Anthony Rooley) (Oiseau-Lyre Florilegium and Virgin Classics)

Monteverdi, Sacred Music (The King’s Consort, dir. Robert King) (Hyperion)

Monteverdi, Vespers (1610), Selva morale (1641), Messa a quattro voci et salmi (1650) (The Sixteen) (Coro)

Recent CD notes include Gabrieli, Sacred Symphonies: Ex Cathedra, dir. Jeffrey Skidmore (Hyperion CDA 67957) and Monteverdi, Orfeo, dir. Jordi Savall (ALIA Vox AVSA 99110

Practical research

Liturgical reconstructions of English pre-Reformation High Mass, with polyphony by John Taverner (1984), Nicholas Ludford (1997) and John Dunstable (1998), and Masses as performed in medieval Rheims and Renaissance Rome 

Liturgical reconstructions of Vespers for San Marco, Venice as performed in the mid 17th century.

All performed with Birmingham University Liturgical Choir/Birmingham University Singers at St. Alban’s, Conybere Street, Birmingham.