Verona, 1470 – Venezia ?, 1535

Bartolomeo Tromboncino

Little is known about his life: as his own name indicates he was a trombonist and frequently played this instrument. It seems that he spent most of his youth in Mantua at the court of the Gonzagas.
In 1499 we know that he killed his wife, having found her with a lover. At the beginning of the 1500s he moved to the court of the Borgias in Ferrara in the service of the famous Lucrezia. Here he composed intermedi, or intermezzi – pieces of music composed for theatre shows; they were pieces that were played between acts and between scenes of comedy shows. They could be considered precursors to opera, which would be born seventy years later from this nucleus. Around 1520 he moved to Venice where he died a few years before the Primo libro di Madrigali [First Book of Madrigals] by Philippe Verdelot was published (printed in the same city in 1533), which was the start of the great season of madrigals. The composition associated with Tromboncino’s name is however the frottola. The word “frottola” (from medieval Latin: frocta, confused bundles of words or thoughts) dates to the XII century and initially indicated a kind of irregularly metered poetry with a casual rhyming scheme. Musically speaking, however the frottola, which emerged in the second half of the 1400’s, is a composition in three or four voices (Superius or Cantus, Altus, Tenor and Bassus).  The voice with the highest tone, Cantus or Superius, which carried the melody, was also the solo voice, while the Tenor and the Bassus were entrusted to voices or to one or more instruments (usually the lute, or harpsichord, or organ). The song line dominated the other parts that generally served as chords. Thus the frottola avoided the complexity of counterpoint, preferring the linearity of the melody.
It was a kind of music that was in circulation for about a century. His Chi se fida de fortuna is famous. He also wrote sacred music, among which the Lamentazioni di Geremia are particularly notable.

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