At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Franchino Gaffurio – composer

Musician whose name has lived on for centuries in Milan


Da Vinci's Portrait of a Musician, of which Gaffurio is thought to have been the subject
Da Vinci's Portrait of a Musician, of which
Gaffurio is thought to have been the subject 
Renaissance composer Franchino Gaffurio was born on this day in 1451 in Lodi, a city in Lombardy some 40km (25 miles) southeast of Milan.

He was to become a friend of Leonardo da Vinci later in life and may have been the person depicted in Leonardo’s famous painting, Portrait of a Musician.

The oil on wood painting, which Da Vinci is thought to have completed in around 1490, is housed in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan.

Gaffurio was born into an aristocratic family, who sent him to a Benedictine monastery, where he acquired musical training.

He later became a priest and lived in Mantua and Verona before setting in Milan, where he became maestro di cappella (choirmaster) at the Duomo in 1484. He was to retain the post for the rest of his life.

Gaffurio was one of Italy’s most famous musicians in the late 15th and early 16th centuries and as such met composers from all over Europe while working in Milan and wrote books of instruction for young composers.

One of his most famous comments was that the tactus, the tempo of a semibreve, is equal to the pulse of a man who is breathing quietly, at about 72 beats per minute.

The entrance to the Franco Gaffurio Music School in Lodi
The entrance to the Franco Gaffurio
Music School in Lodi
During his years in Milan, Gaffurio wrote masses, motets and hymns, many for ceremonial occasions held by the Sforza family.

Some of his music shows the influence of Josquin des Prez, a French composer he became friends with, and also the many composers from the Netherlands, who were drawn to Milan, which was a centre of musical activity at the time.

The Duomo in Milan to this day has a school for choirboys known as The Franchino Gaffurio School, named after the choirmaster, composer and teacher, whose music had resounded in the Duomo 600 years before.

Gaffurio died in 1522 in Milan and was buried in the Church of San Marcellino at Porta Comasina, one of the gates to the city, which was renamed Porta Garibaldi in 1860.

The Piazza della Vittoria in Lodi
The Piazza della Vittoria in Lodi
Travel tip:

One of the main sights in Lodi, where Gaffurio was born, is Piazza della Vittoria, listed by the Italian Touring Club as one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, as it features porticoes on all four sides. Accademia Gaffurio in Via Solferino teaches music and dance and organises musical events and concerts. It was founded as the Franchino Gaffurio Music School in 1917.

The Duomo in Milan, where Gaffurio was maestro di cappella from 1484 until his death in 1522
The Duomo in Milan, where Gaffurio was maestro di
cappella from 1484 until his death in 1522
Travel tip:

The Duomo in Milan, where Gaffurio was maestro di cappella, was built in 1386 using Candoglia marble, which was transported along the Navigli canals. It was consecrated in 1418, yet remained unfinished until the 19th century, when Napoleon had the façade completed, before being crowned King of Italy there.




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