Salomone Rossi

Mantua, ca.1567-1628. Salomone Rossi [name in hebrew: סלומונה רוסי] (Salamon, Schlomo; de’ Rossi), “The Jew of Mantua”, was a violinist and composer who lived and worked in the period of transition between late renaissance and early Baroque. In his youth, he earned a solid reputation as a violin virtuoso, so much so that in 1587 he entered into the service of the Gonzaga family as a court musician (as known, the Gonzagas protected the Jewish community in Mantua), where he remained until his death. Inside the realm of the court, he wrote music for parties, banquets and theatre shows.

In 1589, he had a first collection of 19 canzonettas (a musical genre similar to the madrigal, but lighter) for three voices published; then he composed canzoni and assorted madrigals; but it was in instrumental music where Rossi made his most innovative contribution. In fact, he was among the first musicians to apply the principles of canto monodico to instrumental music (in which a single melody dominates the over the other parts so that they become the accompaniment).

He also developed the Trio Sonata form. Salomone Rossi is also known as a composer of music for Hebraic liturgy, The Song of Songs by Salomon (Shir ha Shirìm li-Schlomò, השירים אשר לשלמה). The novelty about these is that they are written in the language of Baroque style (and not in the traditional liturgical style generally used by Jewish cantors).

His sister, Ester, was a well-known opera singer right at the time that opera was emerging; she was nicknamed ‘Madame Europa’ after the character, Europa, who she obviously interpreted with great skill. It seems she was the first  singer to interpret Arianna in Monteverdi’s famous Lamento (while her brother Salomone played the violin).

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