3: Rome, 1607

“O Roma nobilis, cunctarum orbium domina,” sang the Medieval pilgrim, and across the centuries Goethe answered, “Eine Welt zwar bist du, O Rom.” Early seventeenth-century Rome already displayed both faces of the City: the massive ruins of the greatest empire the world had known and, rising from them (often by a process of cannibalization) the most grandiose artistic program since the fall of that empire, the work of a Church that claimed a dominion greater even than that of the Caesars. In 1600 the City had not achieved the coherence that Bernini left at his death in 1680, but the shambles that confronted pope Martin V Colonna on his return from Constance in 1420 was being transformed on the lines laid down by Sixtus V Peretti (reg. 1585-90) to achieve the reform of Roman religious and social customs through the revitalization of the City’s structure. This included the restoration of three Roman aqueducts and their eventual display in more than thirty fountains; movement out from the congested old center of town, the abitato, in the bend of the Tiber (Campo Marzio), Borgo, and Trastevere; some sixty new palaces, twenty new villas, and over fifty new churches; and the cutting of spacious streets through the crowded Medieval quarters to connect the principal pilgrimage churches, which were often located in sparsely-inhabited peripheral areas.

Despite all this, in the 1560s Rome was still “a chaotic city of medieval aspect” (Delumeau 1959, 65): low private dwellings crowded Renaissance palaces, with Roman ruins scattered among them. Of the population of 55,000, some 35,000 were still concentrated in the abitato, while large areas within the Aurelian walls were uninhabited. The dominant accents of the City were Castel Sant’Angelo and Michelangelo’s great dome of St. Peter’s, the Cupolone, towering over a tide of construction that washed up to its very foundations (fig. 3.1).

Rome was a Mecca for young musicians of the early seventeenth century, an entrepôt for those moving either north or south. Francesco Rasi, Monteverdi’s first Orfeo, still remembered in 1601 his first trip to Rome in 1593, when “desirous of seeing novelties and learning noble customs, and at the same time [desirous] of the occasion of displaying the excellence of my talent I prepared myself for an agreeable pilgrimage.” The tenor Francesco Campagnolo, another musician sent to Rome by Vincenzo Gonzaga, wrote to the duke that “to sum it up, the fame of those men consists in the fact that they live in Rome, and this city by itself brings credit to those who live here a long time.”[1]

The date of Frescobaldi’s arrival in Rome is uncertain, but by 1607 he was established there. He may have accompanied Guido Bentivoglio in 1599, or he may have traveled with his teacher Luzzaschi, who joined the Piccinini brothers in the suite of Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini on the latter’s return to Rome from his French embassy in 1601. Cardinal Pietro arrived in Rome on 27 March, and Luzzaschi followed him on 1 April, remaining until June.[2] In dedicating his Fantasie of 1608 to Francesco Borghese, younger brother of pope Paul V and General of the Church, Frescobaldi recalled “that honor, which your ears have deigned several times to do to my hand, while […] I was staying in Rome under the aegis of the Most Illustrious Monsignor Bentivogli Archbishop of Rhodes.”[3] Read literally, this would place the performances between 17 May of 1607, when Bentivoglio was named Archbishop of Rhodes, and 11 June of the same year, when he left Rome for Flanders.

Frescobaldi’s marriage license from the Vicariate of Rome, dated 15 February 1613, describes him as “Girolamo son of the late Filippo Frescobaldi sonatore residing in Rome for about twelve years,” which would place his arrival around February of 1601.[4] This would also fit one reading of Don Gregorio Rasi’s Latin encomium (see Appendix II, 83). Frescobaldi’s activities in Rome until 1607 are conjectural, but an unverifiable nineteenth-century source names him as both singer and organist in the Roman Congregation of Santa Cecilia in 1604.[5]

Whenever Frescobaldi came to Rome, it seems likely that he initially lodged with the Bentivoglio. On his return from Flanders in 1608, when he went to stay with Bernardo Bizzoni, his bed was still in Enzo Bentivoglio’s house: a member of Enzo’s household wrote his master: “S.r Girolamo is staying in the house of the said Bernardo and for this [reason] I did not wish to leave this bed here.”[6]

Members of a noble household such as those of Guido and Enzo Bentivoglio were compensated in a number of ways: a monthly salary (salario); a parte for daily necessities such as food and drink or the equivalent in cash; the companatico, literally something eaten with bread, usually in the form of a monetary payment with the salario; a provisione, a payment for higher ranking servants sometimes encompassing some or all of the preceding; and house rent—a pigione, sometimes a volontaria soventione (Völkel 1993: 84-85). Other payments might include a gratuity (the mancia), livery in the form of clothes and shoes, regalia, gifts, stabling of animals, and medicines.   The typical monthly salary-lists (ruoli) of a noble household first listed the patron’s gentlemen, beginning with the maggiordomo, then in descending order of rank and remuneration other members including musicians, aiutanti di camera, staff for kitchens and stables, and straordinari or outside employees. The usual monthly salary for a member of a noble household was sc. 3.60. Wages for a master workman were about 60 baoicchi a day; for a skilled workman, 30 baiocchi, and for an unskilled one 15 baiocchi.

In the expensive life of post-Jubilee Rome Frescobaldi may already have begun to experience the straitened household finances of Guido Bentivoglio’s subsequent nunciature in Flanders. As early as 1603 Guido’s mother Isabella was writing from Rome to Enzo in Ferrara:

Certainly Encio you have no judgment, I say it to tell you freely now: how can you want someone to live on air? And in truth I do not know how this Guido gets by, even though I open my belly from one day to the next to send a little turd of money: but how do you want someone to live here in this Rome where everything costs an eye of the head?[7]

(In the Bentivoglio correspondence the designation “Signora Marchesa” tout court indicates Enzo’s and Guido’s mother Isabella Bendidio Bentivoglio; Marchese Enzo’s wife Caterina Martinengo is referred to as “la Signora Caterina.”)

Girolamo’s stay in Rome may be extended back to the beginning of 1607 by identifying him with the “Girolimo Organista” (a sobriquet by which he was known as late as 1620) salaried by the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere from January through May of 1607. The circumstances of his appointment (see below) suggest that “Girolimo Organista” had been forced on the Chapter of the basilica by some strong exterior pressure—perhaps that of Francesco Borghese, who was in communication with Frescobaldi in the summer of 1608 as the Fantasie were going to press in Milan. A letter from Bernardo Bizzoni in Rome to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara, 20 August 1608, ends: “Also do me the favor of having the present letter read to Geronimo, to whom I am not writing because it is [too] late, and give him the addressed enclosure: for it comes to me from the Most Excellent Signor Francesco Borghese.”[8]

The conditions of Roman musical patronage were unique. The ruling class consisted of the papal families, the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and the great nobility. All were predominantly male, and the first two were generally non-indigenous and in theory non-hereditary. Under these circumstances two institutions dominated the lives of most Roman musicians: the private musica and the Church. In Frescobaldi’s career at this stage the musica was represented by the musical establishment that Guido Bentivoglio assembled for his nunciature to Flanders, consisting of Frescobaldi and the lutenist Girolamo Piccinini; the Church was represented by the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

The household musica of a great Roman ecclesiastic or nobleman was part of the state he was expected to keep, a social and political instrument as well as an artistic entertainment. If the singers and instrumentalists of the musica, who were often composers as well, were sufficiently accomplished, their performances before other eminent personages enhanced their patron’s status, and a request for the loan of their services provided him with a useful bargaining chip. (The performances for Francesco Borghese that Frescobaldi mentions in the dedication of the Fantasie, for example, may have been intended to ingratiate Guido Bentivoglio, a protégé of the Aldobrandini, with the new papal family.)

Typically, an influential patron assumed artists from his home city into his personal court, from which they could enter the mainstream of Roman patronage. The terms of this service were usually nonexclusive and the remuneration correspondingly meager, so that a young musician was free, and often obliged, to accept outside employment as well. This took the form of private pupils, occasional performances for other patrons, and casual or regular service in Roman churches. Rome attracted a corps of competent musicians whose careers can frequently be traced from their initial training or service in such institutions as the German College or the Roman Seminary and whose names recur in the records of Roman churches

The basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere—“St. Mary across the Tiber”—and its adjoining piazza are among the spots that still evoke seventeenth-century Rome, especially in the desertion at Ferragosto when the noise of traffic and transistors gives way to the clang and boom of bells, the distant singing of nuns, the clatter of hooves and carriage-wheels, the twitter of birds, and the splash of fountains. Except for an eighteenth-century portico, the church, the piazza, and its fountain are much as they were in 1600 (fig. 3.2), as are the Trasteverini, quintessential Romans with a succulent dialect of their own.

The interior of Santa Maria mixes Classical and Medieval remains, hieratic mosaics of the twelfth century and more yielding work of the thirteenth, under the superb coffered ceiling commissioned by Cardinal Aldobrandini from Domenichino and enshrining the latter’s Virgin of the Assumption (1617). The organ and the musicians’ galleries still appear largely as they are described in an inventory of 1624 (fig. 3.3):

Organs and choirs for the musicians. One large organ, placed high up in the wall on the side of the Chapel called of the Dark Street [to the right of the apse]: the visible pipes divided up with three divisions, and with arches, and columns of gilded wood; its platform and choir for the musicians also of gilded wood, and adorned with various paintings, and with lattices.”[9]

The organ was built by Fra Lelio da Venereo 1582 and replaced in 1702 by Filippo Testa; its wooden case was built by Mro Flaminio [? Boulanger] 1582 and painted by Gaspare Celio. A “Descriptio basilicae S. Mariae in Transtiberim” of 1713 notes: “… the organ constructed by the builder Venerio at the expense of the Chapter, of most sweet harmony: the decoration of the organ, which is indeed elegant, was all wonderfully gilded by the late Cardinal Altemps [titular cardinal December 1580, d. 1595] and adorned by him with elegant pictures.”[10]

Another large palco [box] of similar workmanship without pipes, but not gilded, and placed high up facing the aforesaid on the side of the Chapel of Duke Altemps [left of the apse], and not finished, which [palco] must serve for another [organ] to be made corresponding to the aforesaid. Two choirs for the musicians with their palchetti of deal [albuccio], and lattices, placed on the floor at the sides of the great choir of the Sig[no]ri Canons, and behind the seats of the beneficed.[11]

The organ in this corresponding gallery was added only in 1873 (Erwee 2014, 483).

“Concerning the choir of the singers. Halfway toward the right side of the apse in the wall is placed a choir in the vicinity of the organ arranged in proportion to it for the convenience of the singers.” In addition, two platforms for musicians were placed on the pavement beside the canons’ choir.[12]   These arrangements suggest the performance of double-chorus music. The presence and clarity of the acoustic would have complemented both polychoral liturgical music and the smaller sacred concertos that were becoming a staple of the Roman repertory.[13]

Before we examine the tenure of “Girolimo Organista” at Santa Maria in Trastevere, it is worth recalling the gap separating religious feeling and practice after the second Vatican Council from the post-Tridentine Catholicism of Frescobaldi’s time. The Church which Girolamo served distinguished sharply between public religion and private devotion. The newer religious orders, lay confraternities, and extra-liturgical cults ministered to the latter, but official public worship—the mass and offices—continued to be celebrated with solemnity, mystery, and splendor essentially without congregational participation. Since the most sacred parts of the liturgy were recited inaudibly, the attention of the congregation was focused on the visual spectacle and its musical accompaniment. Thus the services of an important church like Santa Maria in Trastevere demonstrated a degree of liturgical ceremonial now largely lost even to the great papal functions, although the musical realization of the services at Santa Maria seems to have lagged behind their liturgical elaboration.

As is so often the case with Frescobaldi, a certain amount of mystery surrounds his appointment at Santa Maria in Trastevere. His predecessor was Giovanni Battista Ricchi (d. 2 Sept. 1619), who served as organist of the basilica from October 1605 to December 1606. (Ricchi later participated as continuo organist in numerous polychoral performances at St. Peter’s and at San Giacomo degli Spagnoli.)[14] He was formally dismissed at Santa Maria only on 10 March 1607, although Frescobaldi had been paid as organist since January.

When Frescobaldi was hired in January of 1607 to replace Ricchi, he was the only musician employed by the basilica. On 10 March 1607, however, a new cappella was formed at the expense of the new titular cardinal of the basilica, Mariano Pierbenedetti, at whose possesso ceremony on 10 February Frescobaldi had presumably performed.[15] The cappella consisted of three regular employees: a maestro (Ventura Cristallini, appointed 17 March), an organist, and an organ-blower. To these were added eight singers, including two boys, who were hired for festal occasions. The maestro was paid fifteen scudi a month, of which thirteen went for himself and the singers, sc. 1.50 for the organist, and 50 baiocchi for the organ-blower. On 6 June Ricchi was reinstated; after Frescobaldi’s departure on 11 June he was confirmed as organist on 13 June.[16]

The norms for organ service music were set forth in the Cærimoniale episcoporum Clementis VIII (Rome: Reverenda Camera Apostolica, 1600, 1651 edition). The basic principles involved were alternation of organ and choir and replacement of some liturgical items by the organ. (Chant was also sometimes performed accompanied by the organ.) The principal duty of a church organist was to perform at mass and vespers on Sundays and greater feasts (including Holy Week and Easter, which fell within the tenure of “Girolimo Organista”). When the liturgy was performed complete in music (whether chant, accompanied or unaccompanied stile osservato polyphony, or accompanied concertato settings), solo organ music included a prelude, postlude, intonations, occasional interludes, and alternation with sung verses of chant. At Santa Maria in Trastevere special music with “più voci” (“several voices”) was performed for Dominica in Albis (Low Sunday, the Sunday after Easter) , the Corpus Domini procession, and the stational mass.

Cærimoniale, Chapter XXVIII: “Concerning the organ, the organist, and the musicians or singers, and the rule to be observed by them in divine service.” On all Sundays and non-working feasts [some sixty-five a year, regulated and enforced by the Church], organ music and singing by the musicians must be performed: except on Sundays of Advent and Lent, with the exception of Advent III, “Gaudete,” and Lent IV, “Laetare”; [also] excepting feasts and ferias occurring in those periods which are celebrated solemnly, such as the Annunciation, Maundy Thursday, Holy Saturday and such, and when it occurs to celebrate solemnly and joyfully for any serious reason.

The organ is to be played whenever the bishop enters to celebrate or leaves after. The same with other dignitaries the diocesan wishes to honor.

In solemn Matins of greater feasts the organ may be played at the “Te Deum” as at Vespers: and at Christmas Matins, even from the beginning of them.

Whether in Vespers, Matins, or mass, the first verses of canticles and hymns, and hymn verses at which one genuflects, are to be sung by the choir in an intelligible tone, not [substituted] by the organ: the same with the Gloria Patri, even if the preceding versicle was sung by the choir, also the doxology of hymns [i.e breaking the regular alternation of chant and organ].

In the other canonical hours, sung in choir, it is not customary to interpose the organ. But in some places it may be played, as at Terce, when it is sung while the bishop vests solemnly for mass. When the organ alternates with the choir the missing words must be pronounced audibly by someone in choir. And it is praiseworthy if some cantor sings it clearly with the organ.

In solemn Vespers the organ plays at the end of each psalm and alternatim in the hymn and Magnificat, following the above rules.

At solemn Mass the organ may play alternatim in the Kyrie and Gloria at the beginning of the Mass; at the end of the Epistle; after the Offertory verse; Sanctus and Agnus are alternatim; at the Elevation [between the sanctus and Benedictus] the organ is played “in a more serious and sweet sound”; it is played in the versicle before the Post-Communion, and at end of Mass. The organ is not mixed in the Creed, which should be sung by choir in intelligible song.

Beware lest the sound of the organ be lascivious or impure, and that chant which does not belong to the service is performed, nor profane and theatrical, nor should instruments other than the organ be added. Vocal harmony should be distinct and intelligible, conducive to devotion.

In Masses and Offices for the dead neither organ nor figured song is used, but cantus firmus, as in ferias of Advent and Lent.[17]


These directions were explicated and amplified for the church organist in a number of musical handbooks, notably Adriano Banchieri’s Lorgano suonarino (published in a variety of editions from 1605 to 1668) and his Conclusioni nel suono dellorgano (1609); the second part of Girolamo Diruta’s Il Transilvano (1610-11); and the Choro et organo (1614) of Frescobaldi’s compatriot Fra Bernardino Bottazzi. Where the Cærimoniale usually indicated only the general placement of the organ interlude, these guides provided greater detail and specified the character of the organ interpolation.

Beginning with Girolamo Cavazzoni’s organ masses of the 1540s, the chants selected for alternatim organ settings were the ordinaries of the masses for Sunday, feasts of the Apostles, and feasts of the Madonna, which in practice covered most of the liturgical year.[18] In such plainsong masses a piece for full organ (ripieno) was inserted at the repeat of the Introit (his instructions are somewhat contradictory: Lorgano suonarino, 2: “the repeat of the Introit will serve as the first Kyrie”; 38: “When the Choir has finished the Sicut erat of the Introit the Kyries are played”), and the organ alternated with the choir in the Kyrie and the Gloria. A ripieno or short fuga after the Epistle replaced the chant Gradual, and an organ response was added after the verse of the Alleluia when it occurred in Paschaltide. A motet or ricercar was played at the Offertory, with two brief organ versets at the Sanctus. At the Elevation of the Host the Cæremoniale prescribed music “in a graver, sweeter sound,” interpreted by Banchieri as a serious work “with gravity, that it may render devotion” (“con gravità, che rendi devotione”). After the kiss of peace the organ played the Agnus Dei; the second repetition of the Agnus by the choir was followed by a capriccio or aria alla francese, “pretty, but Musical” (“vaga, ma Musicale”); a short ripieno, sometimes replacing the response “Deo gratias” to the dismissal Ite Missa Est or Benedicamus Domino, concluded the service. Since the dismissal “Ite missa est” was often sung to the melody of the opening Kyrie, a verset on the Kyrie could also serve as the organ response to the dismissal.

Specific feasts permitted other interpolations. At Easter, for example, it was customary to play a battaglia, “decent and fitting to the Holy Easter Sequence [Victimæ paschali ],” with its image of the “wondrous duel” between life and death (“mors & vita duello conflixere mirando”).[19]

Following the rubrics of the Cærimoniale episcoporum, vespers began, after an organ ripieno, with five psalms, each preceded by a chant antiphon; the organ was played either after each psalm in place of the repeat of the antiphon (doubling), or after the last psalm only. The verses of the Office hymn and the vespers canticle, the Magnificat, and Marian antiphon, and a canzona or motet after the Magnificat were performed with the organ alternating with the choir.[20]   The response “Deo gratias” to the dismissal “Benedicamus Domino” could be replaced by a motet or by the organ with “un poco di Ripieno.”[21] On a Lenten Friday (the eve of St. Thomas Aquinas) at St. Peter’s in 1615: “it was a common vespers for all the clergy, which was sung in choir by the benefitiati with the cope, and vespers was sung almost entirely in music, with organ interludes as is customary in double vespers of the canons.”[22] Banchieri extended the Cærimoniales prohibition of “lascivious, or impure” organ music and inappropriate, profane, or theatrical melodies to include “lascivious songs, with vulgar words, dances, morescas, & such instrumental pieces” (“cantilene lascive, di parole volgari, balli, moresche, & suonate tali”).[23]

Although the organ was banned for most of Advent, Lent, and Holy Week these prohibitions were not ironclad in practice. It was tolerated at Requiem masses for prelates and princes, but only when played “with the principal alone, without preludes or ornamentations, & with its curtain, or shutter covered” (“con principale solo, senza ingressi ne diminutioni, & coperta la coltrina, overo sportello di esso”).[24] On the other hand, the organ was required for certain occasions, such as the visit of a cardinal or bishop, as in the possesso of the new titular of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Cardinal Pierbenedetti, on 10 February 1607.[25] The performance of organ interludes at mass and vespers, together with the official limitations on their character, may have been a factor in the composition of the rather severe Fantasie which Girolamo dedicated to Francesco Borghese (see Chapter 9).

As for the works which Girolamo performed with the choir, enough survives of the musical library of the basilica to give some idea of its repertory. The remains dating back to the tenure of “Girolimo” are meager, but their emphasis—as in the printed collections that the basilica began to acquire around 1614—is on functional, rather modest settings of the ordinary and proper of the mass, vespers, litanies (especially of the Virgin), and processional hymns in simple polyphony for Corpus Domini.[26] The model for this repertory was Palestrina, whose own settings constituted the nucleus of Roman church music in the first half of the seventeenth century and represented the most celebrated model of the stylus ecclesiasticus. In the preface to his lost book of masses of 1639 Stefano Landi wrote that he had “taken great care not to depart from the particular & long-standing practice of this basilica [St. Peter’s] which is well suited for the style of vocal music, having been preceded by the invincible Petro Aloysio PALESTRINA …”[27]

In addition to providing solo organ interludes and participating as a continuo player in this simple and retrospective repertory, it is likely that “Girolimo” was also called upon to perform more modern works in the concertato idiom as well, most famously represented by the small sacred concertos of Ludovico Grossi da Viadana of 1602. According to Banchieri, such works should be “affective, devout, pleasing, & recitative, imitating the words” (“affettuoso, devoto, vago, & recitativo, imitando le parole”) and avoiding elaborate contrapuntal devices which obscured the text. Recent research has suggested that Rome had an important part in the development of the sacred concerto in the 1580s and 90s, and that the performance of vocal solos with organ dated back to mid-century there. A little-known Roman collection of small sacred concerti, Chorici Psalmi et Motecta (Rome: N. Mutij), was issued in 1599 by Asprilio Pacelli, “composed more as concerti with Organ, such as is nowadays the custom in Rome … rather than as ordinary Church Music.”[28]   Pacelli recommended omitting the third part of a four-voice texture to produce a trio-sonata medium of two sopranos and bass, accompanied by the organ. On the other hand, on occasion concertato pieces might be expanded to as many as four choirs of voices, violins, viols, and a continuo section including organ, harpsichord, violone, lutes, and chitarroni. In such cases the organist played an important role by adjusting his registrations and the details of his continuo-realization to the changing textures of the ensemble.[29]   Banchieri published a letter of Agostino Agazzari (Rome, 25 April 1606), describing the practice of “questi Signori Musici Romani”: “That when playing together, the Organist serving as the basis, he must play with great judgment paying attention to the quantity, & quality of the voices, & instruments, when they are few, using few registers, & consonances, if they are in quantity adding, & subtracting, as the occasion asks.” Guidiccioni: “playing to direct a choir must be the simplest of all, with no contrapuntal artifice; only with good consonances and with graceful accompaniments, that support the voices with style.”[30]

[These observations are supported by the written-out continuo parts in the manuscript Carlo G, available on the internet.]

A young organist in a Roman basilica, like Frescobaldi, was thus exposed to the whole spectrum of contemporary church music: free and cantus-firmus organ works, vocal pieces in stile antico ranging from modest settings to the monuments of the style, and contemporary works employing recitative, concertato, and polychoral media.

One bond between the musicians who served Roman private musical establishments and churches was membership in the Congregation of Santa Cecilia (Compagnia di Musici di Roma). In the mid-sixteenth century the musicians of the Cappella Pontificia, most of them enjoying clerical status, had constituted a closed society from which the rabble of Roman musicians was excluded. One of the notable efforts of the Counter-Reformation was the outreach to the laity in the sanctification of their personal and professional lives beyond the formal ritual of the Church, an effort epitomized in St. Philip Neri’s Congregation of the Oratorio. The Congregation of Santa Cecilia was formed on the model of the Virtuosi del Pantheon, the artists’ confraternity, and was confirmed in 1585 by Sixtus V as an association of lay musicians outside the papal chapel. As such, it was bitterly opposed by the musicians of the Cappella Pontificia.

From its earliest years, Santa Cecilia moved between two poles of attraction of Roman musical life: St. Peter’s, and the Oratorio with its later offshoots. The membership of the Congregation as represented in Le gioie, a collection of sacred madrigals published in 1589, constituted a musical élite ranging in allegiance from the traditional citadel of St. Peter’s (Palestrina, Felice Anerio, Ruggiero Giovannelli, Arcangelo Crivelli) to the new Counter-Reformation centers allied with the Oratorio (Orazio Griffi, Paolo Quagliati), and spanning Italy from the courts of Ferrara and Florence (Luca Marenzio, Cristofano Malvezzi) to the Kingdom of Naples (Bartolomeo Roy, Giovanni de Macque). Membership in the Congregation was divided into four categories: maestri di cappella, organists, instrumentalists, and singers. From about 1596 on, applicants had to pass an audition that including knowing how to beat time and intone for the instrumentalists and how to play figured basses ably (“correr li bassi”) for organists.[31] The Congregation seems to have been in decline by 1620.

Girolamo’s tenure at Santa Maria in Trastevere was terminated by the new responsibilities of his patron Guido Bentivoglio. In his Memorie Guido presented a vivid picture of his life at the court of Clement VIII, to which he was attached as a cameriere segreto, a papal private chamberlain. The unusual length of Clement’s reign and the consequent paucity of opportunities for advancement discouraged Guido from attempting a career in the Curia, and he began instead to prepare himself for a diplomatic post abroad by the study of law, history, geography, and languages, especially Spanish.

His foresight was rewarded when the thirteen years of Clement’s pontificate ended abruptly with the pope’s death on 5 March of 1605. While the daily life of the papal court witnessed the shifting of members of the reigning family and their favorites as new positions of power fell vacant, the death of a pope swept much of the board clean for a new game, a new set of maneuvers and alliances. Although his seven years’ supremacy as the favorite nephew of Clement VIII had gained Cardinal Aldobrandini the enmity of many of his colleagues, he still commanded a bloc of votes large enough to insure the election of Leo XI Medici. Battle was again joined after the almost immediate death of the new pope, and Camillo Borghese was elected as a compromise candidate through the collaboration of Cardinals Montalto and Aldobrandini.

Paul V, as he chose to be called, was the youngest of the papabili. His age augured a long reign; his character and that of his cardinal-nephew, Scipione Borghese Caffarelli—intelligent, vigorous, a lover of the arts, avid for power—promised a strong papacy. Although Aldobrandini had more to hope from the Borghese than from Leo XI, he may have decided that it was more prudent to avail himself of the Tridentine residential obligations for bishops and to devote himself to his archdiocese of Ravenna. Aldobrandini left Rome in May of 1605, not to return until February of 1610. During his absence his relations with the new papacy deteriorated, and the new pope deprived him of the Legateship of Ferrara in September of 1606.[32]

Guido Bentivoglio’s early association with the Aldobrandini did not cost him the favor of the new papal family, since it was balanced by his brother Enzo’s opportunistic services in obtaining Ferrarese works of art for Scipione Borghese. On 7 May of 1607 Guido was named papal nuncio to Flanders, and a few days later the pope confirmed the post publicly and named the new nuncio titular Archbishop of Rhodes, although he was slightly under the canonical age for the episcopate. When Bentivoglio set out for Brussels on 11 June 1607, the twenty-four-year-old Girolamo had served his apprenticeship as a household musician, church organist, and composer, and had begun to frequent the great Roman families he was to serve throughout his career. His musical education was now to be completed by exposure to the Netherlandish tradition on its native soil.


[1] Kirkendale 1986, 304: Francesco Rasi to Vincenzo Gonzaga, 30 April 1601: “…desideroso di vedere novità e d’apparare nobili usanze, et insieme d’occasione di palesare l’eccellenza del mio ingegno ad una dolce peregrinazione mi preparai”; Parisi 1996, 133, n. 34: Francesco Campagnolo to Vincenzo Gonzaga, 4 August 1607: “In somma la fama di costoro consiste che vivono in Roma, et questa città per se stessa apporta credito a chi longo tempo ci habita.”
[2] On Adobrandini’s movements see Annibaldi 19871, 63-67.
[3] See Appendix III.2.
[4] Document 26.
[5] The questions of Frescobaldi’s arrival in Rome, the circumstances of his employment at Santa Maria in Trastevere, and the permission for his wedding are treated in Annibaldi 20011. The assertion that Frescobaldi became a member of Santa Cecilia in 1604 is based not on original documentation (which is largely lacking before 1651), but on a Stato nominativo generale of the Congregation compiled by its secretary, Luigi Rossi, between 1830 and 1849 after nearly twenty years of “laboriose ricerche” (Cametti 19081 , 702; Giazotto 1970, I, 119). While Cametti saw no reason to doubt Rossi’s information, Giazotto found that for the years 1584-1640 the Stato shows “incongruities, inexactitudes … and … ingenuous judgments as well as inexplicable and unpardonable lacunae” (Giazotto 1970, I, 121). See also Summers 1982, 10, who notes that the materials supposedly employed by Rossi are no longer traceable in the archive of Santa Cecilia, possibly owing to the confusion generated by the researches of Giazotto himself. Pacquette-Abt 2003, states that the date has now been confirmed but cites no source. It is also accepted without documentation in Fabris 1999 and Rostirolla 2014.
[6] Fabris 1997, #162: Piero Bozio in Rome to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara, 12 November 1608: “Il S.r Girolamo se ne sta in casa di detto S.r Bernardo e per questo non ho voluto lassare qui sto letto.”
[7] Fabris 1997, 84, n. 284: Isabella Bendidio Bentivoglio in Rome to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara, 13 March 1603: “Certo Encio voi non avete discrecione, dico a dirvela mo alla libera: come volete che si viva d’aria? E invero non so come questo Guido se la passa, se ben apro il goso d’ogi indomani a mandar un poco di merda di danari: ma come volete che si viva qui a questa Roma che ogni cosa costa un occhio?”
[8] Document 9.
[9] Cannon 1969, 199-212: “Organi e chori per li musici. Organo uno grande, posto in alto nel muro alla banda della Cappella detta di Strada Cupa: repartito nelle canne apparenti con tre divisioni, e con archi, e colonne di legno indorato; il suo palco e choro per li musici pure di legno indorato, e ornato di varie pitture, e con le gelosie.”
[10] I-Ra, ms. 1713, p. 18: “Descriptio basilicae S. Mariae in Transtiberim”: “De organo. Ad sinistrum cornum absidis septemturionem [sic] versus in superiori parte positum est organum a Venerio artefice sumptibus capituli constructum, harmonia admodum suavi; ornamentum organi quod valde elegans est, totum fuit mirifice deaureatum a bo: me: cardinali Altaemps et ab eodem elegantibus picturis ornatum.” This account places the Altemps organ on the wrong side of the apse.
“Cannon 1969, loc. cit.: “Un altro palco grande senza canne di manifattura simile, ma non indorato, e posto in alto a fronte del suddetto della banda della Cappella del Sigr. Duca Altemps, e non finito, il quale dovra servire per un altro da farsi corrispondente al Soprad[etto]. Chori due per li musici con sui palchetti di albuccio, e gelosie, posti nel pavimento a i lati del choro grande de’ Sig.ri Canonici, e dietro alli sedili de’ Benefitiati.”
[12] Morelli 2004, 299-300, n. 20: “De choro cantorum. Meridium versus ad dexteram absidis partem in pariete est apensus chorus e regioni organi ad ejus proportionem [deductus?] propter comoditatem cantorum.” “Ad dexteram” means on the right side going from the apse to the nave. Domenichino’s Cappella della Strada Cupa dates from 1628-30. For a general guide to Rome at this period see D’Onofrio 1969, which reproduces the manuscript guide to the City written by Fioravante Martinelli between 1660 and 1663 and annotated by Francesco Borromini. The 1624 inventory of Santa Maria in Trastevere is given in Cannon 1969, 201. While not always reliable in detail, Blunt 1982 is useful as a compendium. The standard Roman chronicle for the years 1607-70 is Gigli 1994.
[13] On Roman small sacred concerti see O’Regan 2000.
[14] On Frescobaldi’s service at Santa Maria in Trastevere see Annibaldi 20011, 110-12, 121-22. On Ricchi see Lionnet 1994, 483, Rostirolla 2004, 461, and Jeanneret 2009, 540.
[15] Annibaldi 20011, 109, n. 26. For purposes of comparison, Cardinal Borghese’s possesso at the nearby basilica of S. Crisogono on 26 November 1605 featured music by three choirs.
[16] ASVR: Capitolo di Santa Maria in Trastevere, volume 270: Libro della Sagrestia 1573-1616, Armadio XII, 9, fols. 224-25 [Annibaldi: cc. 114r-115r]. “Girolimo” was paid 1.50 scudi per month. (The scudo was both a coin and a money of account. The gold scudo di oro in oro was worth 105 baiocchi, the scudo di moneta equalled 10 giuli or 100 baiocchi.) “Girolimo’s” name does not appear in the Chapter records of the basilica, presumably because a decree of 1607 gave the head sacristan the right to change organists at will (Liber Decretorum Capituli S.tae Mariae Transtiberim 1600-12, Armadio III, 3, fol. 51r). “Girolimo’s” immediate predecessors as organist were Sebastiano Bilancetti (August 1598-December 1601), Alessandro Costantini (later Frescobaldi’s rival for the post of organist of the Cappella Giulia and his eventual successor there, January-September 1602), Jacomo Mainardi (October 1602-January 1603), D. Geronimo Melcarne (February-June 1603), Arnoldo Moretti (July 1603-August 1605) (Sagrestia 1573-1616, fols, 210-24). Of these, only Costantini seems to have been prominent enough to be hired for St. Peter’s on numerous occasions (Rostirolla 2004, 460). For September Moretti was replaced by a nameless “organista,” after which Gio. Battista Ricchi took over the post until Frescobaldi’s advent in January of 1607. Ricchi is later documented as serving as a supplementary organist at St. Peter’s for the feasts of the Dedication and Peter and Paul in 1614-17, 1619-20, 1623-25 (Rostirolla 2004, 461).
            In March 1607 the Chapter of Santa Maria in Trastevere assigned thirteen scudi per month to be paid to the maestro di cappella and the eight extra singers (Liber Decretorum, fol. 53), and a priest, Pellegrino (presumably the head sacristan of that name) was deputed to act as maestro (ibid., fol. 53v), while Ventura Cristallini, who had served as a boy soprano in 1597, received a half-month’s salary for the same post and a full salary for the next month (Sagrestia, fol. 224v). In May Luca Sabatelli was paid as maestro (ibid., fol. 225), and in June the turnover seems to have been halted through the election by the Chapter of Gio. Battista Alessio as maestro and Ricchi as organist (at a salary of two scudi a month) (Liber Decretorum, fol. 54). The choir included boys, presumably for the performance of polyphonic music (ibid., fol. 53), and payments are recorded for “large books for the Music” (probably chant-books) (Uscita di S. Maria in Trastevere 1594-1624, “esattore,” Armadio XIII, 12, fol. 54, April 1607) and for extra singers on Low Sunday, when the basilica’s principal relics were displayed (ibid.; D’Onofrio 1969, 135). During Girolimo’s tenure the basilica held a procession, presumably for singing the Rogation Litanies, on St. Mark’s day, 25 April (Uscita, “esattore,” fol. 54v). The musicians of Santa Maria in Trastevere served at St. Peter’s. for the feasts of Peter and Paul and the Dedication. G. B. Alessi was employed to beat time in 1628, and the soprano Luca Sabatelli appeared in 1601 and 1602-04 (Rostirolla 2004, 452-59).
[17] Cærimoniale episcoporum Clementis VIII,“De organo, organista, et musicis seu cantoribus, et norma per eos servanda in divinis. Cap. XXVIII.”
[18] On the history and performance of organ masses see Apel 1972, 109-28, 418-19. On the employment of the organ in large churches, especially San Marco in Venice, see MooreJ 1987.
[19] See Bonta 1969, 84, n. 62 [?]. The account of the organist’s functions at mass is a compendium of Schaefer 1985; Banchieri 1605, 2-38; Banchieri 1609, 18-19, 22-23; and Botttazzi 1614, 4-83.
[20] On the performance of organ music in the offices see Banchieri 1605, 39-[126], Banchieri 1609, 20-21, and Bottazzi 1614, 86-136.
[21] Banchieri 1605, 38; Annibaldi 20112, 175, n. 52: Amici records that for Passion Sunday Vespers the Cappella sang the first and last psalms alternatim in falsobordone, the hymn and Magnificat part in music and part in canto fermo, the antiphons all in contrapunto.
[22] O’Regan 1999, 131: “fu vespero commune per tutto il clero, quale fu cantato in coro da benefitiati con la cappa, et si cantò in musica quasi tutto il vespero, con tramezzarvi l’organo come si suole fare nelli vesperi canonicali doppii.”
[23] Banchieri 1605, 38; Banchieri 1609, 16.
[24] Banchieri 1609, 17.
[25] Cærimoniale episcoporum, quoted in Annibaldi 2001, 109, n. 26.
[26] The musical library of Santa Maria in Trastevere is fortunately still largely preserved, having been transferred from the basilica to the Archivio Storico del Vicariato di Roma at San Giovanni in Laterano. The surviving material from “Girolimo’s” period of service includes four Passions, a Holy Week book, and the Palestrina hymn-settings (see Annibaldi 1998). Among the composers of the first quarter of the century we find Abundio Antonello (Sacrarum cantionum, a collection of mass propers, 1614), G. F. Anerio, represented by the Responsoria Nativitatis of 1614, and Gio. Maria Sabino’s Psalmi di Vespere à 4 (Naples, 1607), along with the Selectae Cantiones (1614) of Fabio Costantini (Archivio Storico del Vicariato, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Archivio Musicale, Armadio VII, 1, 2, 16; VIII, 9). See Cannon 1969, Simi Bonini 2000, and Paquette-Abt, 227. Cannon 1969: 203: 1586 Passio, 1587 Holy Week 208: Palestrina Hymns 1589.
[27] “A propria, & inveterata huius basilicæ germana disciplina, & apto ad canendum scribendi stylo nihil discedere impensius curavi, proeeunte [sic] me invicto duce Petro Aloysio PRÆNESTINO …”; quoted in Miller 1998, I, 3-4 and n.
[28] O’Regan 2000, 10: “… fatti più per concerti con Organo, quali hoggidi si usano in Roma … che per Musica ordinaria di Cappella.”
[29] On small sacred concerti see Banchieri 1609, 18. On p. 61 he describes a mass of his own for four choirs. On the performance of Roman polychoral music see O’Regan 1995.
[30] Banchieri 1609, 68-70: “Che in conserto, servendo l’Organista per fondamento, deve suonare con molto giuditio havendo riguardo alla quantità, & qualità delle voci, & strome[n]ti, esse[n]do poche, usare poco registro, & consonanze, essendo qualtità di aggiungnere, & scemar secondo, che l’occasione ricerca.” Guidiccioni in Solerti 1903, 160: “il sonare per reggere un coro ha da essere il più semplice di tutti, con nessuno artificio di contrappunto; solo con buone consonanze e con graziosi accompagnamenti, che secondino le voci con garbo.”
[31] From a manuscript diary of Pietro Boncore (d. 1741), cited in Giazotto 1970, I, 48. Frescobaldi’s first surviving sacred vocal work appeared in a collection published by Fabio Costantini in 1616 that also included music by some of the composers of the Gioie. Paquette-Abt 2003, 177 doubts the specific connection of Costantini’s publications of 1616 and 1618—both containing works by Frescobaldi—with the Oratorio del Crocifisso proposed in Testi 1972, II, 203-04.
[32] On the conclaves and their aftermath see Pastor 1886; on Pietro Aldobrandini see Annibaldi 19871, 121.