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.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Luca Marenzio – composer

Madrigal writer influenced Monteverdi


Luca Marenzio is believed to have been a  singer employed by the Gonzaga family
Luca Marenzio is believed to have been a
singer employed by the Gonzaga family
Luca Marenzio, a prolific composer of madrigals during the late Renaissance period, died on this day in 1599 in the garden of the Villa Medici on Monte Pincio in Rome.

Marenzio wrote at least 500 madrigals, some of which are considered to be the most famous examples of the form, and he was an important influence on the composer Claudio Monteverdi.

Born at Coccaglio, a small town near Brescia in 1553, Marenzio was one of seven children belonging to a poor family, but he received some early musical training at Brescia Cathedral where he was a choirboy.

It is believed he went to Mantua with the maestro di cappella from Brescia to serve the Gonzaga family as a singer.

Marenzio was then employed as a singer in Rome by Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo and, after the Cardinal’s death, he served at the court of Cardinal Luigi d’Este.

He travelled to Ferrara with Luigi d’Este and took part in the wedding festivities for Vincenzo Gonzaga and Margherita Farnese.

While he was there he wrote two books of madrigals and dedicated them to Alfonso II and Lucrezia d’Este.

Marenzio's first book of madrigals was published in 1580
Marenzio's first book of madrigals was published in 1580
Marenzio went on to establish an international reputation as a talented composer of madrigals and he was also an expert lutenist. He was much admired in England and his madrigals were printed in N Yonge’s Musica Transalpina, published in 1588, a collection of music that stimulated the composition of English madrigals.

After the death of Luigi d’Este, Marenzio entered the service of Ferdinando I de’ Medici in Florence, where he formed friendships with composers Piero Strozzi and Antonio de Bicci.

On his return to Rome he entered the service of Virginio Orsini, nephew of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and he lived in the Orsini palace. Another important patron was Cardinal Cinzio Aldobrandini, nephew of the reigning pope, Clement VIII, who assigned him an apartment in the Vatican.

Marenzio then travelled to Poland to be maestro di cappella at the court of Sigismund III Vasa in Warsaw. He wrote and directed sacred music there, which unfortunately has since been lost.

The visit to Poland affected his health and he did not live long after his return to Rome. While his brother was looking after him, he died in the garden at the Villa Medici on August 22, 1599.

Marenzio was buried in the Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina in Rome.

Vineyards near Coccaglio, which is on the edge of the  Franciacorta wine-making area, near Brescia
Vineyards near Coccaglio, which is on the edge of the
Franciacorta wine-making area, near Brescia
Travel tip:

Coccaglio, Marenzio’s birthplace, is a town in Lombardy, about 32km (20 miles) west of Brescia and 35km (22 miles) southeast of Bergamo.  The municipality is located in the southern edge of Franciacorta, the area famous for its sparkling wine of the same name, which is known as the Italian answer to Champagne, being produced using the same method as the classic French bubbly, as opposed to the faster fermentation process used in the popular Prosecco.

The Villa Medici has been the home of the French Academy in Rome since 1803
The Villa Medici has been the home of the
French Academy in Rome since 1803
Travel tip:

The Villa Medici, where Marenzio died, is on the Pincian Hill next to the church of Trinità dei Monti in Rome, at the head of the Spanish Steps. The villa, built in 1554 in the Mannerist style to a design by Bartolomeo Ammanati, has housed the French Academy in Rome since 1803. In ancient times the site of the Villa Medici was part of the gardens of Lucullus. Behind the Villa Medici stretches out the vast park and gardens of the Villa Borghese.

More reading:

The genius of Claudio Monteverdi

Federico II Gonzaga, the ruler of Mantua who spent his childhood as a political hostage

How Eleonora Gonzaga became Holy Roman Empress

Also on this day:

1849: History's first air raid hits Venice

1914: The death of the progressive Bishop Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi

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