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Renaissance Music



1541 John Knox leads Reformation in Scotland, establishes Presbyterian church there (1560).

1543 Publication of On the Revolution of Heavenly Bodies by Polish scholar Nicolaus Copernicus—giving his theory that the earth revolves around the sun.

1545 Council of Trent to meet intermittently until 1563 to define Catholic dogma and doctrine, reiterate papal authority.

1547 Ivan IV (“the Terrible”) crowned as czar of Russia, begins conquest of Astrakhan and Kazan (1552), battles nobles (boyars) for power (1564), kills his son (1580), dies (1584), and is succeeded by his weak and feeble-minded son, Fyodor I.

Portrait of Ivan IV by Viktor Vasnetsov

Orfeo Vecchi, Italian composer, born.
Lupus Hellinck, Flemish composer dies.
Jakob Meiland, German composer, born.
Wiliam Byrd, English composer, born.
Ludwig Senfl, German composer, dies.
Giovanni Maria Nanino, Italian composer, born.
Alfonso Ferrabosco the ElderItalian composer, born.
c. 1545
Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Italian composer, born.
John Taverner, English composer, dies.
Swiss Musical theorist, Henricus Glareanus publishes his work on the 12 church modes,"dodekachordon".
Heinrich Glarean (also Glareanus) (1488 – 1563) was a Swiss music theorist, poet and humanist.

Louis Bourgeois: Psalter.
Tomas Luis de Victoria, Spanish church composer, born. 
Guilio Caccini, Italian composer and singer, born. 
John Marbeck: "The Booke of Common Praier noted", first musical setting of English liturgy.
John Marbeck, Merbeck or Merbecke (c. 1510 – c. 1585) was an English theological writer and musician who produced a standard setting of the Anglican liturgy.

c. 1550
Emilio de Cavalieri, Italian composer, born.
Orazio Vecchi, Italian composer, born.
c. 1550
Benedetto Pallavicino, Italian composer, born.
c. 1550
Cesario Gussago, musician and composer, born.

Orfeo Vecchi 

Orfeo Vecchi (ca. 1551 – 1603) was an Italian composer and choirmaster. His most important appointment as choirmaster was at Santa Maria alla Scala, Milan. His extant compositions date as early as 1588.



Vecchi was born sometime around the year 1551 and educated in the Vercelli Cathedral. In 1580 Vecchi was nominated by Charles Borromeo for the post of the newly created position of "maestro di cappella" at Santa Maria alla Scala, in good part because of the combination of his youth and training. Borromeo vested him with minor orders in 1581, in order to meet the requirements of a 1565 cathedral rule that stated musicians were to be chosen from clergy. Nonetheless, Vecchi's appointment to the position remained controversial, and he vacated two years later in favor of the same position at the Vercelli Cathedral. He returned to Santa Maria alla Scala after another four years. There he was unsuccessfully nominated for a position of chaplain at the altar of San Giovanni. In 1591 he applied for the position of mansionarius at Santa Maria alla Scala, in which he sang Ambrosian plainchant. This effort was successful. He died in 1603.


He was prolific as a church composer in the post-Tridentine style, and became the foremost sacred music composer in Milan in his time. His tenure at Santa Maria alla Scala returned the institution to its leading place among musical establishments in Milan. His influence on English composer Peter Philips was significant. His reputation was such that a collection of his work was published (though at no benefit to himself) in its entirety outside Milan.

Orfeo Vecchi - Absterget Deus 


He is best known for his two collections of "sacred madrigals", La Donna vestita di sole (1590) and Scielta de Mardrigali (1604). The second of these, published by his brother a year after his death, contains works borrowed from the secular madrigals of other composers, and modified into motets with Latin sacred texts substituting for the original lyrics. Vecchi has been noted for arranging his works in such a manner as to render the words in an appreciable manner to the listener. It has also been noted the speed at which he was able to write music for large ensembles. His output of motets, psalms, masses, and other musical works was unmatched in his time.

Giulio Caccini

Giulio Romolo Caccini (also Giulio Romano) (8 October 1551 – buried 10 December 1618), was an Italian composer, teacher, singer, instrumentalist and writer of the very late Renaissance and early Baroque eras. He was one of the founders of the genre of opera, and one of the most influential creators of the new Baroque style. He was also the father of the composer Francesca Caccini.




Little is known about his early life, but he was born in Italy, the son of the carpenter Michelangelo Caccini; he was the older brother of the Florentine sculptor Giovanni Caccini. In Rome he studied the lute, the viol and the harp, and began to acquire a reputation as a singer. In the 1560s, Francesco de' Medici, Grand Duke of Florence, was so impressed with his talent that he took the young Caccini to Florence for further study.

By 1579, Caccini was singing at the Medici court. He was a tenor, and he was able to accompany himself on the viol or the archlute; he sang at various entertainments, including weddings and affairs of state, and took part in the sumptuous intermedi of the time, the elaborate musical, dramatic, visual spectacles which were one of the precursors of opera. Also during this time he took part in the movement of humanists, writers, musicians and scholars of the ancient world who formed the Florentine Camerata, the group which gathered at the home of Count Giovanni de' Bardi, and which was dedicated to recovering the supposed lost glory of ancient Greek dramatic music. With Caccini's abilities as a singer, instrumentalist, and composer added to the mix of intellects and talents, the Camerata developed the concept of monody—an emotionally affective solo vocal line, accompanied by relatively simple chordal harmony on one or more instruments—which was a revolutionary departure from the polyphonic practice of the late Renaissance.

In the last two decades of the 16th century, Caccini continued his activities as a singer, teacher and composer. His influence as a teacher has perhaps been underestimated, since he trained dozens of musicians to sing in the new style, including the castrato Giovanni Gualberto Magli, who sang in the first production of Monteverdi's first opera Orfeo.

Caccini made at least one further trip to Rome, in 1592, as the secretary to Count Bardi. According to his own writings, his music and singing met with an enthusiastic response. However, Rome, the home of Palestrina and the Roman School, was musically conservative, and music following Caccini's stylistic lead was relatively rare there until after 1600.}

Caccini's character seems to have been less than perfectly honorable, as he was frequently motivated by envy and jealousy, not only in his professional life but for personal advancement with the Medici. On one occasion, he informed to the Grand Duke Francesco on two lovers in the Medici household—Eleonora, the wife of Pietro de' Medici, who was having an illicit affair with Bernardino Antinori—and his informing led directly to Eleonora's murder by Pietro. His rivalry with both Emilio de' Cavalieri and Jacopo Peri seems to have been intense: he may have been the one who arranged for Cavalieri to be removed from his post as director of festivities for the wedding of Henry IV of France and Maria de' Medici in 1600 (an event which caused Cavalieri to leave Florence in fury), and he also seems to have rushed his own opera Euridice into print before Peri's opera on the same subject could be published, while simultaneously ordering his group of singers to have nothing to do with Peri's production.

After 1605, Caccini was less influential, though he continued to take part in composition and performance of sacred polychoral music. He died in Florence, and is buried in the church of St. Annunziata.

Music and influence

The stile recitativo, as the newly created style of monody was called, proved to be popular not only in Florence, but elsewhere in Italy. Florence and Venice were the two most progressive musical centers in Europe at the end of the 16th century, and the combination of musical innovations from each place resulted in the development of what came to be known as the Baroque style. Caccini's achievement was to create a type of direct musical expression, as easily understood as speech, which later developed into the operatic recitative, and which influenced numerous other stylistic and textural elements in Baroque music.

Caccini's most influential work was a collection of monodies and songs for solo voice and basso continuo, published in 1602, called Le nuove musiche. Although it is often considered the first published collection of monodies, it was actually preceded by the collection by Domenico Melli. In fact, the collection was Caccini's attempt, evidently successful, to situate himself as the inventor and codifier of monody and basso continuo. Although the collection was officially published in 1602, Caccini is careful to maintain the date 1601 in his dedication of the collection to Signor Lorenzo Salviati. This likely explains why the collection is often dated to 1601. Moreover, he explicitly positions himself as the inventor of the style when describing it in the introduction. He writes:

Having thus seen, as I say, that such music and musicians offered no pleasure beyond that which pleasant sounds could give – solely to the sense of hearing, since they could not move the mind without the words being understood – it occurred to me to introduce a kind of music in which one could almost speak in tones, employing in it (as I have said elsewhere) a certain noble negligence of song, sometimes passing through several dissonances while still maintaining the bass note (save when I wished to do it the ordinary way and play the inner parts on the instrument to express some effect – these being of little other value).

The introduction to this volume is probably the most clearly written description of the performance of monody, what Caccini called affetto cantando (passionate singing), from the time (a detailed discussion of the affetto cantando performance style can be found in Toft, With Passionate Voice, pp. 227–40). Caccini's preface includes musical examples of ornaments—for example how a specific passage can be ornamented in several different ways, according to the precise emotion that the singer wishes to convey; it also includes effusive praise for the style and amusing disdain for the work of more conservative composers of the period.

The introduction is also important in the history of music theory, as it contains the first attempt to describe the figured bass of the basso continuo style of the seconda prattica. Caccini writes:

Note that I have been accustomed, in all places that have come from my pen, to indicate with numbers over the bass part the thirds and the sixths – major when there is a sharp, minor when a flat – and likewise when sevenths or other dissonances are to be made in the inner voices as an accompaniment. It remains only to say that ties in the bass part are used thusly by me: after the [initial] chord, one should play again only the notes [of the harmony] indicated [and not the bass note again], this being (if I am not mistaken) most fitting to the proper usage of the archlute (and easiest way to manage and play it), granted that this instrument is more suitable for accompanying the voice, especially the tenor voice, than any other.

This passage is often overlooked, as it is brief, located at the very end of the introduction and even indicated by Caccini as a "note," an aside or addendum to the main purpose. It is important to note, however, that the first explanation of this practice is in the context of an essay about vocal expression and intelligibility; in fact, it is largely the aim of textual intelligibility that led to the development of this musical style and the music of the common practice era.

Caching - Ave Maria


Caccini wrote music for three operasEuridice (1600), Il rapimento di Cefalo (1600, excerpts published in the first Nuove Musiche), and Euridice (1602), though the first two were collaborations with others (mainly Peri for the first Euridice). In addition he wrote the music for one intermedio (Io che dal ciel cader farei la luna) (1589). No music for multiple voices survives, even though the records from Florence indicate he was involved with polychoral music around 1610.

He was predominantly a composer of monody and solo song accompanied by a chordal instrument (he himself played harp), and it is in this capacity that he acquired his immense fame. He published two collections of songs and solo madrigals, both titled Le nuove musiche, in 1602 (new style) and 1614 (the latter as Nuove Musiche e nuova maniera di scriverle). Most of the madrigals are through-composed and contain little repetition; some of the songs, however, are strophic. Among the most famous and widely disseminated of these is the madrigal Amarilli, mia bella.

Jakob Meiland 

Jakob Meiland (Senftenberg, 1542-Hechingen, 31 December 1577) was a German composer.

His St. Matthew Passion follows the model of Johann Walter's first Lutheran passion historia (c. 1530) but has more elaborate choral numbers.

Jakob Meiland - Beati omnes qui timent

Tomás Luis de Victoria

(b. Avila, 1548; d. Madrid, August 20, 1611)

He was brought up in a fairly prosperous and well-connected family in Avila, also the birthplace of St. Teresa, whose mystical experiences began in 1554, when Tomas was a little boy. He was educated at a newly opened Jesuit school and sang as a choirboy at the Avila Cathedral. In 1565, after his voice had broken, he was sent for further study to the Jesuit-run Collegio Germanico in Rome, where he was enrolled as a singer. He undoubtedly came to know Palestrina and may even have been taught by him; his rapid mastering of the older composer's style is apparent from his earliest published compositions, such as his first collection of motets (1572). Victoria served as a singer and organist of the church of Santa Maria di Monserrato in Rome from 1569 to 1574, and as maestro di cappella of the Collegio Germanico from 1573 until the end of 1576. He was ordained on August 28,1575. From 1578 to 1585 he served as chaplain of the church of San Girolamo della Carita in Rome. During these years, he published collections of motets, masses, and Magnificat settings, as well as a splendid set of Lamentations and other works for Holy Week. He was recalled to Spain in 1586 by Philip II, to serve as chaplain to the king's sister, the Empress Maria, at the convent to which she had retired in Madrid. Following the empress's death in 1603, he composed in her memory what would be his last work, die Officium defunctorum of 1605. He was comfortably provided for during the rest of his life.

                              Antonis Mor. Empress Maria

Victoria's output consists of 20 masses, 16 Magnificat settings, 56 motets, plus various settings of psalms, hymns, antiphons, sequences, two passion settings, and the Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae, music for Palm Sunday and the last three days of Holy Week, which includes his Lamentations. Though he was not as prolific as Palestrina (with 700 works) or Lassus (with an astonishing 2,000 works), Victoria was productive, and his output of a bit less than 180 works maintains a consistently high standard. In beauty and expressiveness, his music rivals Palestrina's, and its sound is in some ways similar—not surprising, as both were in the service of a conservative Rome during the Counter-Reformation. But where Palestrina tends toward an otherworldly elevation, Victoria conveys a more fervent kind of emotion, sometimes poignant and mystical, at other times intenselyjoyful.

Tomas Luis de Victoria - Missa Salve Regina


De Victoria

Emilio de' Cavalieri

Emilio de' Cavalieri, or Emilio dei Cavalieri — the spellings "del" and "Cavaliere" are contemporary typographical errors — (c. 1550 – 11 March 1602) was an Italian composer, producer, organist, diplomat, choreographer and dancer at the end of the Renaissance era. His work, along with that of other composers active in Rome, Florence and Venice, was critical in defining the beginning of the musical Baroque era. A member of the Roman School of composers, he was an influential early composer of monody, and wrote what is usually considered to be the first oratorio.



                               Bust of Emilio de' Cavalieri,
                              Basilica dell'Ara Coeli, Rome



Cavalieri was born in Rome of an aristocratic and musical family. He was the son of Tommaso de' Cavalieri (ca. 1509–1587), the close friend of Michelangelo. He probably received his early training there, and was working as an organist and music director in the period from 1578 to 1584. He spent much of his time in Rome as an organiser of Lenten oratorios. While in Rome he became associated with Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici.

In 1587, Ferdinando de' Medici succeeded his brother as Grand Duke of Tuscany, and in 1588 he brought Cavalieri to Florence as an overseer of artists, craftsmen and musicians. Cavalieri was master of ceremonies for the extremely opulent intermedi that the Medici family required for events such as weddings. Count Giovanni de' Bardi, the founder and patron of the Florentine Camerata, also collaborated on these productions. In May 1589, the festivities for the marriage of Grand Duke Ferdinando to Christina of Lorraine included a performance of Girolamo Bargagli's La pellegrina, with six especially elaborate intermedi. The 1st number of the final intermedio (6) was initially a piece by Bardi but was replaced in the actual intermedio by Cavalieri's virtuosic number based on the Aria del Gran Duca which became popular all over Europe and occurs in many arrangements and variations such as that made by Peter Philips in Antwerp. Cavalieri may have gotten some of his ideas for monody directly from Bardi, since Cavalieri was not a member of the Camerata during its period of activity a few years earlier. He may have developed his rivalry with Giulio Caccini, another extremely important and influential early monodist during this period.

In the 1590s, while still in Florence, Cavalieri produced several pastorales (a semi-dramatic predecessor to opera, set in the country, with shepherds and shepherdesses as common characters). In addition to his musical activities, he was employed as a diplomat during this time, assisting in papal politics, including buying the votes of key cardinals for the elections of popes Innocent IX and Clement VIII who were expected to favour the Medici.

During the 1590s he made frequent diplomatic trips to Rome, remaining active in the musical life there. He premiered his famous Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo... in February 1600; this piece is generally held to be the first oratorio. According to Roman records the piece was produced twice that year at the Oratorio de Filippini adjacent to Santa Maria in Vallicella, and was witnessed by thirty-five cardinals.

In 1600 Cavalieri produced Euridice, one of the first operas, by Jacopo Peri (libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini); this was part of an elaborate set of festivities for the wedding of Henry IV of France and Maria de' Medici. Unfortunately for Cavalieri, he was not given control of the main event, the production of Il rapimento di Cefalo—his rival Giulio Caccini took over from him—and he left Florence in anger, never to return.


Cavalieri claimed to be the inventor of the stile rappresentativo, what is now usually known as monody, and he made the claim with considerable irritation: "everyone knows I am the inventor of [this style]," he said in a letter of 1600, "and I said so myself in print." Caccini seems to have got more of the credit, perhaps deservedly so, because of his early association with Bardi and Vincenzo Galilei in the 1570s in Florence, where the style was first discussed and probably invented. Comparing himself to Caccini, he said of their two styles: "[my] music moves people to pleasure and sadness, while theirs [i.e. Caccini's and Peri's] moves them to boredom and disgust."

Emilio de' Cavalieri - "Rappresentazione di anima et di corpo" - 'Il Tempo'

Among Cavalieri's secular compositions were madrigals, monodies, and pieces he wrote for intermedi; his sacred compositions included a setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and the Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo. This work, probably the most historically important composition of Cavalieri to survive, consists of alternating speech, strophic songs, recitative-like sections and madrigalian parts; subsequent oratorios often used it as a starting-point. It is the first work to be published with a figured bass. Most importantly, however, it was an attempt to demonstrate, at musically conservative Rome, that the modern monodic style was consistent with the aims of the Counter-Reformation and could be adapted to a religious as opposed to a secular purpose. The quick adoption of the modern musical style by other Roman composers attests to its effectiveness in this regard. Cavalieri was followed by other Roman School composers of the 17th century who included Domenico Mazzocchi, Giacomo Carissimi and Alessandro Scarlatti.

Most of his music is in the most advanced style of the time. His four-part vocal music usually has a highly ornamented and expressive melodic line; the differentiation of the melodic line from the others is one of the defining features of the early Baroque. Sometimes he experimented with the Enharmonic scale, or enharmonic chromaticism which required microtonal tunings; apparently he built a special pipe organ in the 1590s for playing this kind of music.


Luzzasco Luzzaschi 

Luzzasco Luzzaschi (c. 1545 – 10 September 1607) was an Italian composerorganist, and teacher of the late Renaissance. He was born and died in Ferrara, and despite evidence of travels to Rome it is assumed that Luzzaschi spent the majority of his life in his native city.
He was a skilled representative of the late Italian madrigal style, along with PalestrinaWertMonteLassusMarenzioGesualdo and others.





As a pupil of Cipriano de Rore, Luzzaschi developed his craft and eventually came to be an influential pedagogue himself. Anthony Newcomb writes:

The members of the Roman school, beginning with Ercole Pasquini and succeeded by Frescobaldi himself, were entirely trained by Luzzaschi.
The neapolitians around Gesualdo and Macque admired and closely followed Luzzaschi’s work; some came north to study with Luzzaschi personally.”

In 1564, Luzzaschi was appointed as principal organist to the d'Este court.
His facility as a keyboard player must have been paramount, for his competence on Nicola Vicentino's microtonal archicembalo was actively documented throughout his career.

Luzzaschi is widely remembered due to his association with the famous Concerto delle donne, a private female vocal ensemble founded by Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara. In addition to his duties as court organist, as director for the ensemble he composed expert madrigals that required virtuosic vocal skill and advanced musicianship. Expressing a highly ornamented soprano line, his famous publication, Madrigali...per cantare, et sonare, a uno, e doi, e tre soprani of 1601 contained repertory performed by this expert troupe.


Luzzaschi’s surviving canon is limited to: seven books (1571 through 1604) of madrigals for five voices; the 1601 Madrigali per cantare et sonare a 1-3 soprani; a collection of five-part motets; and four keyboard works. While reference to three books of four-voice ricercars by Luzzaschi indicates that he was actively composing instrumental work, the books themselves appear to be lost.

Luzzasco Luzzaschi, O dolcezz' amarissime d'amore



Benedetto Pallavicino

Benedetto Pallavicino (c. 1550 – 26 November 1601) was an Italian composer and organist of the late Renaissance. A prolific composer of madrigals, he was resident at the Gonzaga court of Mantua in the 1590s, where he was a close associate of Giaches de Wert, and a competitor of his considerably more famous contemporary Claudio Monteverdi.


Ducal palace at Mantua, where Pallavicino was employed variously as singer, composer, and music director, from 1583 until 1601.

He was born in Cremona in either 1550 or 1551. While little is known about his early life, a mid-17th century document by Cremonese writer Guiseppi Bresciani indicates he served as an organist at several churches in the Cremona region while young, and it is possible he studied with Marc' Antonio Ingegneri, the same man who was the teacher of Monteverdi. His older brother Germano was also a prominent local organist. The Gonzaga family employed Benedetto at Sabbioneta beginning in 1579 and probably lasting until 1581, first as a singer, and in 1583 he began service with the Gonzagas in Mantua, a musical center of immense importance in the last decades of the 16th century; he stayed there for the rest of his life. While there he associated with some of the most famous composers of the last two decades of the 16th century, people such as Giaches de Wert, Francesco SorianoGiovanni Giacomo GastoldiFrancesco RovigoAlessandro Striggio, and Claudio Monteverdi. His relationship with Monteverdi, in particular, was to become one of considerable animosity.

A letter of 29 October 1583, preserved in the Biblioteca Comunale in Mantua, is the earliest surviving documentation of his service to the Gonzaga family. While in their service – first for Guglielmo Gonzaga, and then for Vincenzo, when Guglielmo died in 1587 – he made periodic trips to Venice in an official capacity, to examine singers at St. Mark's, and to supervise musical publications (since Venice was the center of music printing at the time, and other cities such as Mantua depended on their services). In 1589, likely dissatisfied at his low pay at the Gonzaga court, Pallavicino began seeking other employment, such as the position of maestro di cappella at Verona Cathedral; he was, however, unsuccessful, as the position went to Giammateo Asola.

In 1596, on the death of renowned composer Giaches de Wert, he was finally appointed to the premier musical position in the Gonzaga establishment, the maestro della musica, a position he was to retain until his own death in 1601, at which time it was given to Claudio Monteverdi, his most bitter rival. The preference of Pallavicino over Monteverdi for the post is unsurprising, considering that Monteverdi at the time had none of Pallavicino's popularity, and was only in his twenties, while Pallavicino was in his mid-forties; and Pallavicino had served the Gonzaga family for a long time. That considerable animosity existed between the two composers has been inferred from contemporary writings, particularly the exchange of letters following Giovanni Artusi's famous attacks on Monteverdi's style in 1600 and 1603, as well as the habit both men had of taking madrigals written by the other, and "improving" them.

In his later years, for which documentation is scant, he received support from the Accademia Filarmonica of Verona, an organization founded about sixty years before, with whom many other earlier composers had been associated, including prominent musicians such as Jan NascoVincenzo Ruffo and Marc' Antonio Ingegneri, the teacher of Monteverdi. In September 1601 there is a note in the Mantuan archives indicating that Pallavicino pleaded for a debt to be forgiven, as he had children to support, and many other debts, and he died in the next month. His death certificate lists "fever" as the cause, and his age at death as 50, thus establishing his birth year as either 1550 or 1551. According to Alfred Einstein, he spent the last years of his life as a monk of the Camaldolese order of Benedictines.

Benedetto Pallavicino had a son named Bernardino; the similarity of their names, and apparent continuation of Benedetto's publishing activities, caused many musicologists to believe he lived well into the 17th century, until the discovery of his death notice, which gave a precise date. His son was a monk of the Camaldolese order of San Marco, and published several volumes of his father's work posthumously, including his seventh and eighth book of madrigals.

Music and influence

Pallavicino was famous mainly for his secular music, in particular his madrigals, of which he wrote ten books, the last two of which were published posthumously by his son. In addition to his madrigals, he also left a small body of sacred vocal works. Either he wrote no solely instrumental music, or none has survived.


His madrigals use from four to six voices, and show the influence of several of the prominent stylistic trends of the time. There is a gradual progression from an early dense imitative and polyphonic style, to one making use of most of the trends current at Mantua and Ferrara, including the seconda pratica style of declamatory writing, which was one of the musical characteristics defining the beginning of the Baroque era.

Unlike Monteverdi, for whom it was a defining characteristic of his polyphonic madrigals, Pallavicino generally ignored the possibilities for dramatic characterization inherent in the texts he set, especially in his earlier books. This was the period in which the precursors of opera were being written, and one of the prominent madrigalian trends was to take dialogue, monologue, or straight narrative texts and set them with appropriate characterization. In this respect he was a conservative. Yet he also experimented with unprepared dissonance in precisely the way which Artusi so fiercely criticized Monteverdi – and remained on the list of composers which that famous reactionary critic considered to be exemplars of correct polyphonic practice – but most likely because Artusi had never heard his last books of madrigals.

The ten books of madrigals show a gradual absorption of the styles of other composers in the orbit of the courts of Mantua and Ferrara, particularly Wert. In the first book, Pallavicino wrote mostly in an imitative style similar to that of previous generations of composers, and related to the polyphonic style of sacred music. By the fourth book, Pallavicino was experimenting with sudden and extreme contrasts of texture rhythm, devices later taken to an extreme in the works of Carlo Gesualdo, but seen earlier in Wert. The influence of Luzzasco Luzzaschi is also evident in this book, particularly in the virtuosic writing for high female voices, including ornamentation and voice exchange techniques reminiscent of the music being composed for the famous three singers, the Concerto delle donne, of Ferrara.

It is in his sixth book of madrigals, published in 1600, the year traditionally (and arbitrarily) marking the end of the musical Renaissance, that his shift to the new style of the seconda pratica is most prominent. The madrigals, mostly based on texts by Giovanni Battista Guarini – by far the favorite poet of madrigal composers of the time – are written in a largely homophonic and declamatory style which is highly attentive to text accentuation and rhythm. It is also in this book that he uses some of the musical devices that were to make Monteverdi famous, such as the unprepared dissonance that so horrified Artusi, as well as previously forbidden melodic intervals such as diminished fourths; he also exploits cross relations for expressive effect. Curiously, he also frequently uses the interval of the falling sixth, a characteristic of Monteverdi's – though which learned it from the other is uncertain.

Benedetto Pallavicino - Misericordias Domini


Sacred music

In his sacred music, which consists of massesmotets, and psalm settings, Pallavicino shows the influence of the Venetians, with large, spatially separated choirs, and he often wrote music for relatively large forces. He published books of motets for 8, 12, and 16 independent voices. These compositions are mainly homophonic in texture, aiming more for effect through alternation of sonority than counterpoint, a characteristic of the Venetian polychoral style.

His masses are for four to six voices, and in the conservative polyphonic style of the High Renaissance; they use the parody technique, and some are based on motets by Lassus and Giaches de Wert.

It is not known which churches he wrote his music for; the church where he worked, Santa Barbara, contains no mention of his compositions in their archives, and it has been suggested that he may have written them for other churches in Mantua, such as San Andrea and San Marco.



Alfonso Ferrabosco the elder

Alfonso Ferrabosco (baptized 18 January 1543 – 12 August 1588) was an Italian composer. While mostly famous as the solitary Italian madrigalist working in England, and the one mainly responsible for the growth of the madrigal there, he also composed much sacred music. He also may have been a spy for Elizabeth I while he was in Italy.



He was the eldest son of Domenico Ferrabosco, and a member of an aristocratic Bolognese family which had many musicians among its members. Alfonso was born in Bologna. Little is known about his early life, but he is known to have spent part of it in Rome and part in Lorraine in the service of Charles of Guise. In 1562, probably with his uncle, he came to England for the first time, where he found employment with Elizabeth I. Throughout his life he made periodic trips to Italy, not without controversy, for evidently neither the Pope nor the Inquisition fully approved of his spending time in England, which was in the late 16th century actively at war with Roman Catholic countries. While in England, he lost his Italian inheritance, and while away in Italy he was charged with certain crimes in England (including robbing and killing another foreigner). While he was successful in clearing his name, he left England in 1578 and never returned; he died in Bologna.

Many have said that he was a secret service agent for Elizabeth, working during a time when such intelligence was desperately needed; however, little more than circumstantial evidence has ever been produced on this allegation. He was certainly unusually well-paid for a musician at the court of Elizabeth. Attempts by Elizabeth to get him to return to England after 1580 were fruitless.


Ferrabosco brought the madrigal to England. While he did not start the madrigal craze there—that really began in 1588 with the publication of Nicholas Yonge's Musica Transalpina, the popularity of which was such that the madrigal instantly became the most prevalent type of composition in England—he did plant the seeds for this development. Ferrabosco's style may have been tame and conservative by the standards of a Marenzio or a Luzzaschi, but it was harmonious with English taste. Most of his madrigals were for five or six voices, were light in style, and largely ignored the progressive developments in Italy such as expressive chromaticism and word-painting. Technically they were skillful, and this is the quality that impressed the English commentators the most: "deep skill" was the phrase Thomas Morley used to describe his work when he published several of his compositions in a collection of 1598, ten years after his death. Robert Dow also included two of his works in his manuscript, now known as the Dow Partbooks.

In addition to the madrigals, Ferrabosco wrote sacred music, including motets, lamentations, and several anthems, all in a cappella vocal style. He also wrote instrumental music: fantasias, pavans, galliards, In Nomines, and passamezzos, for a variety of instrumental combinations including lute and viols.

Ferrabosco elder

Wiliam Byrd, English composer, born.

Orazio Vecchi

Orazio Vecchi (December 6, 1550 (baptized) in Modena – February 19, 1605) was an Italian composer of the late Renaissance. He is most famous for his madrigal comedies, particularly L'amfiparnaso.


He was born in Modena, and studied with Salvatore Essenga, a Servite monk there. In addition he prepared for holy orders with early education at the Benedictine monastery, and took holy orders sometime before 1577.

By the end of the 1570s he was well-connected with the composers of the Venetian school (for example Claudio Merulo and Giovanni Gabrieli) since he collaborated with them in writing a sestina for a ducal marriage. During this period he accompanied Count Baldassare Rangoni on his travels, going to Bergamo and Brescia.

He was maestro di cappella (director of music) at the Salò cathedral between 1581 and 1584. Following this, he was the choirmaster at the cathedral of Reggio Emilia, until 1586. In that year he moved to Correggio where he was appointed canon of the cathedral there; he composed copiously during his time there, though he felt isolated from the major musical centers of Italy such as Rome, Venice, Florence and Ferrara. Eventually he attempted to correct this by moving back to Modena, where he attained the rank of mansionario (a priest who also had charge of the choir). He seems to have had considerable financial difficulties during this time, which he alluded to in his letters, and occasionally in his compositions.

In 1594 his madrigal comedy, L'Amfiparnaso, premiered in Modena and was published in 1597 in a lavishly illustrated edition. That same year he visited Venice, where he published a collection of canzonette. In addition he published a huge amount of other music that same year, evidently his complete production of the last 16 years in Correggio and the other towns. One of the pieces he published was L'Amfiparnaso, which is his best-known composition.

Duke Cesare d'Este hired Vecchi in 1598 to be his maestro di corte, i.e. the master of music at his court, and Vecchi accompanied him to Rome and Florence in 1600; while in Florence he heard Jacopo Peri's opera Euridice. Afterwards he returned to Modena where he continued to serve in the cathedral until his death in 1605.

Music and influence

Vecchi was renowned for his madrigals, especially his grouping of them together in a new form called the "madrigal comedy." This was a light, popular, and dramatic entertainment form of the late 16th century, sometimes regarded as one of the precursors to opera.

In addition, Vecchi published books of canzonette, a lighter alternative to the madrigal, midway in complexity and seriousness between it and the villanella. He also composed serious madrigals, though not in the quantity of composers like Marenzio, as well as some sacred music. The sacred music in particular shows the influence of the Venetian school, with polychoral writing as well as contrasting duple- versus triple-time sections.

Orazio Vecchi, So Ben, Mi C'ha Bon Tempo

Vecchi Orazio

Giovanni Maria Nanino

Giovanni Maria Nanino (also Nanini; 1543 or 1544 – March 11, 1607) was an Italian composer and teacher of the late Renaissance. He was a member of the Roman School of composers, and was the most influential music teacher in Rome in the late 16th century.


Nanino was born in Tivoli, and served as a boy soprano in the cathedral at Viterbo. In the 1560s he probably studied with Palestrina at San Luigi de' Francesi in Rome; at any rate, he became maestro di cappella there after Palestrina left. In 1577 he joined the papal choir as a tenor, and remained in the choir for the rest of his life, occasionally taking the rotating post of maestro di cappella.

During the 1590s he was renowned as a teacher; he and his brother established what is thought to be the first Italian-run public music school in Rome and many future composers studied with him and sang in his choirs, including Felice Anerio, Antonio Brunelli, Antonio Cifra and Gregorio Allegri (composer of the famous Miserere).

Nanino's output as a composer was not large, but it was distinguished, and his music—especially his madrigals—were extremely popular at the time. Almost no collections of madrigals were published in Rome which did not include at least one contribution by Nanino, often in the most prominent position in the book—even ahead of Palestrina. Stylistically his madrigals are extremely varied. 

SONNO SOAVE - Giovanni Maria Nanino


Cesario Gussago

Cesario Gussago (c. 1550-1612) was an Italian priest, musician and composer of the late Renaissance era. He studied philosophy and theology at the University of Pavia and served as church organist in Brescia at Santa Maria della Grazia. In 1599 he was Vicar-General of the Order of S. Gerolamo in Brescia. 

In 1608 he published a collection of sonatas in the canzona style of the late 16th century, titled Sonate a quattro sei et otto.

Music for two Organs, Cesario Gussago - Sonata La Leona


Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God, by Matejko

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