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.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Girolamo Frescobaldi – composer

Organist was a ‘father of Italian music’


Girolamo Frescobaldi was a strong influence on a number of composers, including Bach
Girolamo Frescobaldi was a strong influence on
a number of composers, including Bach
Girolamo Alessandro Frescobaldi, one of the first great masters of organ composition, was born on this day in 1583 in Ferrara.

Frescobaldi is famous for his instrumental works, many of which are compositions for the keyboard, but his canzone are of historical importance for the part they played in the development of pieces for small instrumental ensembles and he was to have a strong influence on the German Baroque school.

Frescobaldi began his career as organist at the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome in 1607. He travelled to the Netherlands the same year and published his first work, a book of madrigals, in Antwerp.

In 1608 he became the organist at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and, except for a few years when he was court organist in Florence, he worked at St Peter’s until his death.

He married Orsola Travaglini in 1613 and they had five children.

Frescobaldi published 12 fantasie that are notable for their contrapuntal mastery.

The title page of Frescobaldi's important and influential work, Fiori Musicali
The title page of Frescobaldi's important and
influential work, Fiori Musicali
In a collection of music published in 1626 he provides valuable information about performing his work. He writes in the preface: ‘Should the player find it tedious to play a piece right through he may choose such sections as he pleases provided only that he ends in the main key.’

A lot of his keyboard music was intended for the harpsichord as well as the organ. In another collection of his music published in 1627 he gives valuable information about the interpretation of Baroque instrumental music. He advises: ‘Play the opening of a toccata slowly and arpeggiando…if one hand has a trill while the other plays a passage, do not play note against note, but play the trill rapidly and the other expressively.’ Such directions indicate the extent to which keyboard style had developed between the Renaissance and the early Baroque period.

One of Frescobaldi’s most influential collections of compositions, Fiori Musicali, was published in 1635.

His work is known to have influenced Johann Sebastian Bach, Henry Purcell, Johann Pachelbel and many other composers. Bach is known to have owned a manuscript copy of Frescobaldi’s Fiori Musicali.

Frescobaldi died in Rome in 1643, aged 59. He was buried in the Church of Santi Apostoli but his tomb disappeared during work carried out on the church in the late 18th century. However, a grave bearing his name and honouring him as one of the fathers of Italian music exists in the church today.

A plaque marks Frescobaldi's
birthplace in Ferrara 
Travel tip:


There is a commemorative plaque on the front of the birthplace of Girolamo Frescobaldi in Ferrara, a city in Emilia-Romagna, about 50km (31 miles) northeast of Bologna. Ferrara was ruled by the Este family between 1240 and 1598. Building work on the magnificent Este Castle in the centre of the city began in 1385 and it was added to and improved by successive rulers of Ferrara until the end of the Este line.



The Church of Santi Apostoli in Rome, where Girolamo Frescobaldi was buried following his death in 1643
The Church of Santi Apostoli in Rome, where Girolamo
Frescobaldi was buried following his death in 1643


Travel tip:

Girolamo Frescobaldi was buried in the Church of Santi Apostoli - the Church of the 12 Holy Apostles - a minor basilica in Piazza Santi Apostoli near Palazzo Quirinale in Rome. The Church was dedicated to St James and St Philip, whose remains are kept there and later to all the Apostles. Among the many Cardinal Priests who have served there are Pope Clement XIV, whose tomb by Canova is in the church, and Henry Benedict Stuart, the final Jacobite heir to claim the thrones of England, Scotland, France and Ireland publicly.

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