Domenico Ferrabosco

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Domenico Maria Ferrabosco (Ferabosco) (14 February 1513 – February 1574) was an Italian composer and singer of the Renaissance, and the eldest musician in a large prominent family from Bologna. He spent his career both in Bologna and Rome. His surviving music is all vocal, consisting of madrigals and motets, although he is principally known for his madrigals, which musicologist Alfred Einstein compared favorably to those of his renowned contemporary Cipriano de Rore.

Renaissance music

Renaissance music is vocal and instrumental music written and performed in Europe during the Renaissance era. Consensus among music historians has been to start the era around 1400, with the end of the medieval era, and to close it around 1600, with the beginning of the Baroque period, therefore commencing the musical Renaissance about a hundred years after the beginning of the Renaissance as it is understood in other disciplines. As in the other arts, the music of the period was significantly influenced by the developments which define the Early Modern period: the rise of humanistic thought; the recovery of the literary and artistic heritage of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome; increased innovation and discovery; the growth of commercial enterprises; the rise of a bourgeois class; and the Protestant Reformation. From this changing society emerged a common, unifying musical language, in particular, the polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish school, whose greatest master was Josquin des Prez.

Bologna Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Bologna is the capital and largest city of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, at the heart of a metropolitan area of about one million people.

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.



Interior of San Petronio Basilica in Bologna, where Ferrabosco was a singer, and later choir director. Bologna050.jpg
Interior of San Petronio Basilica in Bologna, where Ferrabosco was a singer, and later choir director.

Born in Bologna, Domenico was one of four sons of Annibale Ferrabosco, members of a distinguished Bolognese family whose genealogical records date back to the middle of the 15th century. Domenico is the first of the family known to be a musician. [1] Little is known about his early life. He was a singer at the cathedral of San Petronio, and by 1540 had established a high enough reputation for his various musical activities that the city officials gave him a lifetime stipend to oversee the palace musicians. [2]

San Petronio Basilica minor basilica

The Basilica of San Petronio is a minor basilica and church of the Archdiocese of Bologna located in Bologna, Emilia Romagna, northern Italy. It dominates Piazza Maggiore. The basilica is dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Saint Petronius, who was the bishop of Bologna in the fifth century. Construction began in 1390 and its main facade has remained unfinished since. The building was transferred from the city to the diocese in 1929; the basilica was finally consecrated in 1954. It has been the seat of the relics of Bologna's patron saint only since 2000; until then they were preserved in the Santo Stefano church of Bologna.

Sometime in the 1540s he went to Rome, and he became magister puerorum (director of the boy's choir) for the Julian Chapel in 1546. However, due to family obligations he returned to Bologna in 1547, and became maestro di cappella (choir director) at San Petronio, the church where he had previously been a singer, in 1548. The Bolognese Senate also granted him a non-musical position, Regulator et scriba campionis creditorum Montis portarum. [2] He moved back to Rome in 1550, where he was appointed to be cantore pontificio (singer in the papal chapel) on 27 November, although he did not begin performing the duties of this position until April 1551. [3] Palestrina was one of the other composers and singers working in the principal Roman chapels at that time, and the two of them, along with all the other married singers, were removed from their posts, on pension, in September 1555 under an edict by the new Pope Paul IV, who decided to more rigidly enforce the rule on celibacy for his musicians than had his predecessors. Ferrabosco probably did not go back to Bologna after this, but instead went to Paris with his family, where three of his sons – including Alfonso, who was to become a renowned musician in England much later – enjoyed the patronage of the influential Cardinal of Lorraine, Charles de Guise. [4]

The Cappella Giulia, officially the Reverend Musical Chapel Julia of the Sacrosanct Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, is the choir of St. Peter's Basilica that sings for all solemn functions of the Vatican Chapter, such as Holy Mass, Lauds, and Vespers, when these are not celebrated by the Pope. The choir has played an important role as an interpreter and a proponent of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina Italian Renaissance composer

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition. He had a lasting influence on the development of church music, and his work is considered as the culmination of Renaissance polyphony.

Pope Paul IV 16th-century Catholic pope

Pope Paul IV, C.R., born Gian Pietro Carafa, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 23 May 1555 to his death in 1559. While serving as papal nuncio in Spain, he developed an anti-Spanish outlook that later coloured his papacy. A part of Papal States was invaded by Spain during his papacy and in response to this, he called for a French military intervention. To avoid a conflict at the same time of the Italian War of 1551–1559, the Papacy and Spain reached a compromise with the Treaty of Cave: French and Spanish forces left the Papal States and the Pope adopted a neutral stance between France and Spain.

By 1570 Ferrabosco was back in Bologna taking care of his estate, arranging for succession of his Senate-granted scribal position to his eldest son, and making out his will, which was dated 1573. He died in February 1574 in Bologna; by this time his most famous son, Alfonso, was making a name for himself in England. [2]


Ferrabosco published only one book of his works, a large collection of 45 madrigals for four voices in 1542 (by Antonio Gardano in Venice). They were similar in style to the early madrigals by Jacques Arcadelt, Philippe Verdelot, and Costanzo Festa. Alfred Einstein praised the book, saying of Ferrabosco's art: "His work lasts, because he has access to a form of expression which was completely closed to Cipriano de Rore, namely the expression of the graceful and the attractive." [5] Regarding the music itself he adds: "...homophony is enlivened by light polyphony and reflects a noble sentimentality which is not easily disturbed in its spiritual equilibrium." [3] Unlike Rore, who was the most innovative madrigalist of mid-century, as well as one of the most famous, Ferrabosco was content to write in the style of the pioneers of the 1530s, such as Verdelot, in a light and graceful manner, avoiding the chromaticism and expressive intensity that defined the mid-century madrigal. Yet his music appears alongside Rore's, for example in that composer's second madrigal book for five voices (1544) which includes Ferrabosco's setting of the sonnet Più d'alto Pin ch'in mezz'un'orto sia. [2] [5]

Antonio Gardano was a French-born Italian composer and important music publisher based in Venice.

Jacques Arcadelt Netherlandish composer of the Renaissance

Jacques Arcadelt was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance, active in both Italy and France, and principally known as a composer of secular vocal music. Although he also wrote sacred vocal music, he was one of the most famous of the early composers of madrigals; his first book of madrigals, published within a decade of the appearance of the earliest examples of the form, was the most widely printed collection of madrigals of the entire era. In addition to his work as a madrigalist, and distinguishing him from the other prominent early composers of madrigals – Philippe Verdelot and Costanzo Festa – he was equally prolific and adept at composing chansons, particularly late in his career when he lived in Paris.

Philippe Verdelot French composer

Philippe Verdelot was a French composer of the Renaissance, who spent most of his life in Italy. He is commonly considered to be the father of the Italian madrigal, and certainly was one of its earliest and most prolific composers; in addition he was prominent in the musical life of Florence during the period after the recapture of the city by the Medici from the followers of Girolamo Savonarola.

Some of his music shows the influence of the contemporary French chanson, for example a strambotto he set prior to 1554, in the collection De diversi autori il quarto libro de Madrigali a quattro voci a note bianche indicates a possible connection with a set of chansons published in 1548 in Lyon by Dominique Phinot, both in its subject matter, rhythm, and sonority. [6]

A chanson is in general any lyric-driven French song, usually polyphonic and secular. A singer specializing in chansons is known as a "chanteur" (male) or "chanteuse" (female); a collection of chansons, especially from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, is also known as a chansonnier.

Lyon Prefecture and commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Lyon is the third-largest city and second-largest urban area of France. It is located in the country's east-central part at the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Saône, about 470 km (292 mi) south from Paris, 320 km (199 mi) north from Marseille and 56 km (35 mi) northeast from Saint-Étienne. Inhabitants of the city are called Lyonnais.

Dominique Phinot was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance, active in Italy and southern France. He was highly regarded at the time for his motets, which anticipate the style of Palestrina, and in addition he was an early pioneer of polychoral writing.

As texts for his madrigals, Ferrabosco preferred love lyrics, including works by Petrarch, Pietro Bembo, Ludovico Ariosto, and others; many of the poets remain anonymous. [2]

By far Ferrabosco's most famous composition was the madrigal Io mi son giovinetta, a ballata from Boccaccio's Decameron (Neifile's song from the end of the ninth day), a madrigal which became so extraordinarily popular that it appeared in dozens of madrigal prints for the next hundred years, matching the popularity of Jacques Arcadelt's Il bianco e dolce cigno. It appeared in the 1542 anthology Primo libro d'i Madrigali de diversi eccellentissimi autori a misura di breve, along with the works of many other composers; Palestrina used it as the basis for a mass for four voices, presumably after making Ferrabosco's acquaintance in Rome; he published the mass in 1570. Vincenzo Galilei, father of the astronomer, arranged it for lute, and its last known reprint dates from 1654. [2] [3]

In addition to his madrigals, Ferrabosco wrote motets, some of which appear in anthologies. He wrote a five-voice setting of Ascendens Christus as well as a five-voice setting of Usquequo, Domine. Ferrabosco's complete works are available in an edition by R. Charteris in Corpus mensurabilis musicae, vol. 102 (1992). [2]

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  1. John V. Cockshoot, "Ferrabosco". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980. ISBN   1-56159-174-2
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 John V. Cockshoot and Christopher D.S. Field. "Ferrabosco." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed 20 October 2009).
  3. 1 2 3 Alfred Einstein, The Italian Madrigal. Three volumes: Vol. I p. 308. Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1949. ISBN   0-691-09112-9
  4. John V. Cockshoot and Christopher D.S. Field. "(2) Ferrabosco, Alfonso (i)" In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed 21 October 2009).
  5. 1 2 Alfred Einstein, The Italian Madrigal. Three volumes: Vol. I p. 307. Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1949. ISBN   0-691-09112-9
  6. Einstein, p. 310-11

Further reading