Girolamo Frescobaldi

(Ferrara, 1583 – Rome, 1643)

Born in Ferrara in 1583, Frescobaldi moved to Rome at an early age, where he attended the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. He became the organist of the church Santa Maria in Trastevere and in St. Peter’s.

Following the papal ambassador Guido Bentivoglio in Flanders, Frescobaldi visited Brussells, then an important center for the study of the harpsichord. His Primo libro de’ madrigali a cinque voci [First Book of Madrigals for five voices] was published in Antwerp in 1608.

In 1628, he moved to Florence where he published two more important collections of Arias: the first and second Libro d’Arie musicali per cantarsi nel Gravicembalo e Tiorba a una, due o tre voci [Books of Musical Arias  to sing in harpsichord and tiorba for one two or three voices].

On his return to Rome in 1634, he took up his position in St. Peter’s again. A year later he published  two books that were fundamental to the history of music in Venice Fiori musicali, Kyrie, Canzoni, Capricci and Ricercari in partitura a quattro. Frescobaldi is considered to be one of the most important early Baroque composers for keyboard. His importance lies in his ability (which blossomed later with melodramma) to play with affetti cantabili, that is to say that through instrumental music alone he was able to solicit emotions ( affetti ) in his audience, something usually only found in canto: substantially the instruments, liberated from the subjection of the voice, could be virtuosic and emotional in a way that canto more typically can be.

Most of his compositions were written for the keyboard: the collection, Fiori Musicali (1635), that Bach himself recopied by hand,  and the two books of Toccatas and Partitas (published between  1615 and 1637) are his most important works. The body of compositions for the keyboard includes Capricci, Recercari and Danze.

As far as vocal music is concerned, Frescobaldi wrote  Masses, Motets and Madrigals.

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