4. Flanders, 1607-1608

Guido Bentivoglio’s embassy to Flanders was typical of an age that valued magnificence. Despite (or because of) their style of living, the Bentivoglio were notoriously short of money. However, Enzo raised the substantial sum of eight hundred ducats from his Florentine banker Capponi for his brother (Fabris 1986, 66). Guido thus was able to travel with a suite including the household officials, footmen, and liveried pages dear to the Ferrarese, as well as his two resident musicians, Frescobaldi and the lutenist Girolamo Piccinini. Piccinini also looked after Guido’s administrative affairs, “occupying himself with carriages, horses, servants and sales.”[1]

Some idea of seventeenth-century aristocratic travel can be gained from the “Instructions for making journeys” (Istruzione per far viaggi) of Vincenzo Giustiniani, Marchese of Bassano (1564-1637), who was to write admiringly of Frescobaldi in 1628. The Istruzione distilled Giustiniani’s experience of a cultural pilgrimage in May-August of 1606 through Italy, Germany, the Low Countries, Spain, England, and France. It recommends a suite of at least three servants and a total of not more than six travelers, the capacity of a carriage. Giustiniani advised taking “one or more friends somewhat inferior to oneself in rank” (Bizoni 1942, 106: “uno o più amici alquanto a sé inferiori in alcuna qualità”) and paying their expenses. In 1606 his friends comprised Bernardo Bizzoni, “comrade, and old friend, and confidant,” and the painter Cristoforo Romanelli (ca. 1552-1626, known as Pomarancio). It is a good idea, Giustiniani says, to have someone (in this case Bizzoni) write a detailed account of the voyage. Bizzoni’s journal (Bizzoni 1995) also records visits to Cardinal Antonio Maria Gallo, uncle of the future dedicatee of Frescobaldi’s Toccate II, in Jesi and to Isabella Bendidio Bentivoglio, an old friend of Giustiniani, in Ferrara. (She rather oddly warned the forty-two-year-old Giustiniani against frequenting Venetian prostitutes.)

Guido Bentivoglio’s journey was not a simple excursion across the Alps, but a semiofficial progress broken by a week’s stay in Ferrara and strategic visits to important personages along the way, notably to Cardinal Aldobrandini in Ravenna. After Ferrara, Bentivoglio and his retinue set off in the summer heat for Switzerland by way of Modena, Parma, and Milan: all the rest according to Bentivoglio was “alps, crags, cliffs, one mountain on another, and Saint Gothard above them all, which carries the snows up to the heavens, and which now showed me winter in mid-summer.”[2] The voyagers descended from the Alps at Lucerne and went on to Basel, traveling about thirty miles a day. After a journey of nearly two months they reached Brussels by way of Nancy and Luxemburg.

Bentivoglio and his entourage made their formal entry into Brussels on the eve of San Lorenzo, 9 August 1607, escorted by the court and the Spanish ambassador (fig. 4.1). To the Italians of Bentivoglio’s party, Flanders must have been a revelation. The countryside was still springlike in August, by contrast with the heat and dust of the Ferrarese summer; Italian was little spoken as the court language was Spanish; and even the familiar uses of their religion must have seemed somewhat alien in the gray Gothic churches of Brussels. Bentivoglio himself, however, felt thoroughly at home. Six of his family had fought in the Spanish wars, and “indeed it only remained for me to come here myself to become completely Flemish.”[3] Bentivoglio’s affection for his adopted country shines through his accounts of the Flemish provinces, with their abundance of livestock in bright meadows, their temperate climate, and their handsome, independent inhabitants.[4]

Guido Bentivoglio’s nunciature was not a post of the first rank such as those of Paris and Madrid, the primary axes of political influence in Catholic Europe. The nunciature had been founded on the arrival of Archduke Albert of Austria (1559-1621) in 1595. Its peculiar importance arose from the fact that the nuncio’s jurisdiction included major areas of religious conflict: Flanders, the Low Countries, and Burgundy. Further, the nuncio also functioned as an agent and clearing house for Catholic resistance in the British Isles, the Dutch Provinces, and Germany. His diplomatic duties included regular reports to Paul V’s cardinal-nephew, Scipione Borghese (1577-1633), on the negotiations between Catholics and Protestants that eventually resulted in the Twelve Years’ Truce (1609-21). Bentivoglio’s ecclesiastical responsibilities centered on the reform of the local church and the suppression of heresy, especially in Antwerp, Ghent, and Brussels itself.[5]

Flanders was ruled by the Infanta Isabella of Spain (1566-1633) and her husband Albert, whose wedding had been solemnized in Ferrara by Clement VIII in 1598. The Infanta, as the sister of Philip III, was the nominal ruler but in practice she and Albert were co-regents. Foreign policy was dictated by Spain, religious policy by the Jesuits. Bentivoglio’s accounts of the Regents’ court describe a world of festivity and splendor within a context of Counter-Reformation piety. (In July 1598 Albert had renounced a cardinalate to marry Isabella.) The painters Frans Francken and Frans Pourbus the younger showed the vivacious Isabella and her taciturn spouse presiding over an elegant court ball ca. 1610 (fig. 4.2).[6] (Rubens later depicted the widowed Infanta in the habit of a Franciscan nun.) In the hands of the Regents and their ecclesiastical mentors, the normal piety of Catholic sovereigns became an instrument of state policy, exemplified in the splendid religious processions of the Flemish court. On Corpus Domini (5 June) of 1608 Bentivoglio celebrated Vespers and Mass, and the Regents and their court followed on foot the procession in which he carried the Sacrament through the streets of Brussels (returning home “very tired and sweaty,” he noted privately).[7]

An unusual picture of the participation of a Bentivoglio musician in the life of the court is given in a letter of Girolamo Piccinini in Brussels to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara, 3 January 1609:

The day of the Holy Innocents [28 December] I was also in the Holy of Holies [presumably the royal chapel] where there were the Signora Infanta and the Signor Archduke. I did not fail to do my duty with lute, theorbo, and guitar: they showed signs of the greatest satisfaction …[8]

Frescobaldi’s journey to Flanders was something of a rite of passage. It saw his only travel outside Italy, his first personal contact with a non-Italian musical culture, and his first publications, a book of madrigals (Catalogue III.A.1) and three instrumental canzonas in Alessandro Raverij’s Canzoni (Venice, 1608: Catalogue II.1), which also included a canzona à 4 by Luzzaschi. This conformed to the custom of printing a student work with the student’s own master, as the nineteen-year old Gesualdo had inserted a motet in a collection by his teacher Stefano Felis (1585) (Watkins 1973, 95).   Both the publications themselves and Frescobaldi’s letters from the period show his increasing desire to make himself known, to earn money, and to compete on equal terms with established musicians.

Frescobaldi’s mentor Luzzaschi had declined after his return from Rome. In August of 1607 the Roman melomane Cardinal Alessandro Peretti Montalto (1571-1623), the great-nephew of pope Sixtus V Peretti and acting Archpriest of St. Peter’s, asked Bernardo Bizzoni to request the help of Enzo Bentivoglio in acquiring “new works with passaggi” from Luzzaschi for the cardinal’s singer Ippolita Recupita Marotta to perform at the 1608 Medici wedding.[9] When a volume of these was found it turned out to contain only the words; Luzzaschi had merely made a sketch (bozza) of the music and taught it to the ladies “by memory” (a mente).[10]   Bizzoni’s reply to Bentivoglio gives a touching picture of the moribund master:

S.r Luzzasco writes me that through old age the spirit of Music has failed him; and therefore he makes legitimate excuses to which there is no reply, that he cannot oblige and console S.ra Ippolita, … who remains most satisfied of the good will, of that good, holy, and divine old man.”[11]

Frescobaldi’s emerging professionalism was perhaps stimulated by Luzzaschi’s death on 10 September 1607 at the age of seventy-two. The musicians of Ferrara, some eighty in number, accompanied his body to its burial. Luzzaschi’s colleague Ippolito Fiorino placed a gilded laurel wreath on his coffin, “as they considered him worthy of being crowned the greatest master of his profession,” as a bystander wrote to Margherita Gonzaga.[12] While the musical tradition of Renaisssance Ferrara was carried, laurel-crowned, to its grave, the composer who had carried that tradition into the musical culture of its Roman conquerors was preparing “to begin to submit my things to the judgment of the World” (“di cominciar à sottoporre al giuditio del Mondo le cose mie”).[13]

Most of our information about Frescobaldi’s service in the household of Guido Bentivoglio is derived from the dedicatory letter of his first published opus, the set of five-voice madrigals issued at Antwerp in 1608 by the noted firm of Pierre Phalèse II (ca. 1550-1629), a prolific publisher of often-reprinted Italian madrigal collections (fig. 4.3). The letter, Girolamo’s first preserved written statement, is addressed to Guido Bentivoglio, the dedicatee and presumably sponsor of the publication. Although it is dated from Antwerp, 13 June 1608, Frescobaldi was already on his way back to Italy by then:[14]

I have come to Antwerp with the permission of Your Most Illustrious Lordship to see this City, and to try out a collection [muta]* of Madrigals that I have been composing since my arrival in Flanders there in Brussels, in the house of Your Most Illustrious Lordship, & I have satisfied with equal pleasure both these desires of mine, and it has happened meanwhile that since these Signori Musici showed that they were highly pleased by my composition, with great insistence they have persuaded me to consent to have it printed, whence I have chosen rather to obey with some blushes, than to refuse with obstinate boorishness. Therefore this first effort of mine will appear, as is fitting under the Name of Your Most Illustrious Lordship Who with infinite kindness has always deigned to favor me in the exercise of that talent, which it has pleased the blessed God to give me. In the present resolution, which I am making to begin to submit my things to the judgment of the World, I beg Your Most Illustrious Lordship to recognize my singular devotion to you, and my profession of most obliged servant of your Most Illustrious House.[15]

Recent research has shown that in some cases a significant part of Frescobaldi’s compositional activity took place while works were actually in press and that he sometimes made important changes even in the course of a single print-run. Since the publication of the Madrigali apparently marked Frescobaldi’s first personal experience of music printing, we may pause a moment to examine how the process worked.[16]

An average seventeenth-century printing shop seems to have contained two presses, each capable of printing some 1,250 double-sided sheets in a day. Each press required two men to operate: one did the inking, the other fed the paper into the press, pulled the lever, and removed the printed sheet. In addition to the publisher and the two printers per press, the other employees of a shop included two compositors, a proofreader plus his assistant, and a collator, making a total staff of about ten persons.

The expenses of a printed volume of music were assumed by the composer or by a patron, in this case Guido Bentivoglio, who in return received the dedication of the book and all or part of the copies of the edition. The first step in the printing process was the delivery of a fair manuscript copy of the music, either in score, like Gesualdo’s 1613 collection of madrigals, or in separate parts corresponding to the part-books that comprised most printed madrigal collections. In some cases, permission to publish had to be obtained from “superiors” (censors) and was noted on the titlepage and/or on the colophon on the last page. The fair copy was entrusted to a technician, either a musical engraver in the case of a work to be printed from copper plates or a specialist typesetter for a volume to be printed from movable type. The initial task of the publisher or editor was to determine the size of the print run—five hundred copies might have been the choice for a collection in part-books by a relatively unknown composer like Frescobaldi. This in turn determined the amount of paper to be purchased by the patron, his largest single expense. The publisher or editor then planned the layout of the edition, “casting off” the manuscript original by marking out the spacing of the whole work and the individual pages, also determining such matters as syllable separations, alignment between words and notes, and the preservation of the tactus at the end of musical lines.

Although we experience a seventeenth-century part-book as a series of pages in numerical order, they were not printed that way. The paper was generally a sheet 41 cm. by 32 cm., a size known as foolscap, with four pages printed on each side. The sheets, which when dried had been coated with animal gelatin for impermeability, were prepared for printing by being unfolded, moistened, and weighted overnight to flatten them. To produce an eight-page unit in oblong quarto format, one side of a sheet contained pages 8, 1, 6, and 3; the other, 2, 7, 4, and 5. When printed, these were cut lengthwise and inserted to produce the correct numerical order, folded in half crosswise and sewn into gatherings, and then bound into separate part-books. The resultant volumes were composed of a number of gatherings or fascicles, each consisting of a single large sheet cut up into bifolios of two pages each. An initial fascicle of three bifolios (signature A) would contain twelve pages (A1-A12), arranged thus: pages A1-2 printed on the first leaf, A11-12 on the second leaf of the first bifolio; pages A3-4, 9-10 on the leaves of the second bifolio; and A5-6 and A7-8 on the leaves of the third, and so on for successive fascicles (signature B etc.).

The sheets were printed from movable metal type set up by the compositor; this was locked into a forme held in place by pieces of wood and enclosed in a rectangular iron frame or “chase.”[17] The most efficient process was to have a second compositor setting up the forme for the reverse side of the sheet so that both formes were ready for printing at the same time, since otherwise the paper would shrink as it dried and the sides of the pages would lose their alignment.

The forme was then inked and a proof pulled on rough paper (the wet proof could also be reversed and blotted to print a counterproof). The proof was checked by the proofreader and his assistant (perhaps by the composer as well) and marked for corrections.[18] When these had been entered into the forme the pages were printed and the forme was broken up so that the characters could be re-used for the next set of pages. (There is some evidence, however, that formes were not always disassembled: see Darbellay 2002, Canzoni, p. xi.) Generally, the printer’s task ended there. When the collation of the gatherings was complete they were folded in half lengthwise and pressed (the task of the collator), since they were more easily transported in that form. The binding was the responsibility of the bookseller or often, in the case of music books, of the purchaser or recipient. The finishing touches included cutting the sheets, making the center fold, checking the order of the pages, and trimming the deckled edges of the pages. Errors discovered after the printing were corrected in a variety of ways: most drastically by inserting corrected printed pages or half-pages (“cancels”); or by pasting in less conspicuous cancel-slips; by the use of inked stamps; or by handwritten corrections in ink. Stages in the process of correction in the course of printing can be traced even in successive examples of the same edition (e.g. Leonhardt 2004, vii). In the case of Frescobaldi’s posthumous 1645 Canzoni various states of the single printing show errors corrected by hand in earlier copies, corrections incorporated into the formes in later examples, and still later corrections added by owners (cf. Darbellay 2006, preface to 1645, p. xv-xvi).

In the case of the re-edition of a volume, the process was streamlined by the fact that the principal task, the impagination, had already been accomplished, and the errors in the original edition had been corrected (although new errors had a way of creeping in)—if not in print in the forme then subsequently at the printer’s, or later by the composer or the owner of a copy. The compositor of a reissue could therefore be a technician of a lower (and less expensive) level of skill.

The texts of the Madrigali include nine by Ferrarese court poets and five by the Rome-based Giovanni Battista Marino.[19] Some of the remaining seven lyrics may have been composed by Guido Bentivoglio himself, to whom poesia per musica has been attributed. Frescobaldi states that the madrigals were composed in the house of Bentivoglio since the composer’s arrival in Flanders. We learn from Monteverdi that composing a madrigal, from his initial meditation on the text and the mental construction of the musical structure, to writing it down, trying it out, and copying the final version, took him about a week. Girolamo spent some forty weeks in Flanders, which would indeed have been sufficient to compose the madrigals while in Bentivoglio’s service as he claimed.

In addition to Frescobaldi and Girolamo Piccinini, Bentivoglio may have employed singers for the performance of the Madrigali. Jan Breughel and Pieter Paul Rubens’s splendid Hearing (fig. 4.4), painted a few years after the publication of the Madrigali, gives some idea of music in a rich Flemish household. (The Archdukes’ country palace of Mariemont is visible in the distance.) In the background madrigals are performed by two singers, transverse flute, recorder, lute, and gamba, while in the foreground an array of these and other instruments—cornetts, a sackbut, a shawm, a rebec, a lira, and a magnificent two-manual Flemish harpsichord—surrounds a music-stand bearing the part-books of a madrigal collection à 6 by Peter Philips, “Organist of the most serene Princes Albert and Isabella,” (“Organista delli serenissimi Principi Alberto et Isabella”). Philips himself may have served as the liason between Phalèse, his own publisher, and Frescobaldi.

Girolamo’s contacts with the local musicians at Antwerp suggest that he had also investigated his peers at the court of the regents in Brussels, whose cosmopolitan musical establishment included Italian, Spanish, and English as well as native musicians. At least two musicians—the court organists of the Archduke, who seems to have had a special feeling for the instrument—were composers and keyboard performers of the first rank. Although few of the keyboard works of Pierre Cornet (ca. 1575-1633) survive, their size, variety, and finish establish him as the Catholic counterpart of Sweelinck. The great school of the English virginalists was represented at Brussels by Peter Philips (ca. 1560-1628), who had become organist to the archduke in 1597, sixteen years before the arrival of the more flamboyant John Bull. Philips’s rich, rather Crashaw-like style attracted a Catholic compatriot to include him in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, but also prompted a Continental Protestant, Sweelinck, to write variations on a Pavana Philipi.[20]

The keyboard manuscript Kraków, Biblioteka Jagiellonska, Mus ms. 40316 codex (olim Berlin, Staatsbibliothek) may preserve some trace of Frescobaldi’s musical experience in Flanders. It appears to have been copied between 1608 and 1625 by a South German composer-scribe working at the Brussels court. The collection includes pieces by the court organists, Philips and Cornet, as well as works by Bull, Dowland, Sweelinck, and Hans Leo Hassler. The first copyist (there were three) included four fantasie from Frescobaldi’s 1608 collection (nos. VII-X) transcribed into keyboard intavolatura from the original four-staff partitura. The manuscript also attributes to Frescobaldi variations on “la Manista” (la Monica), a “Toccada,” and a capriccio on the Cu-Cu.

It is sometimes stated that Frescobaldi himself was significantly influenced by Sweelinck. The young Girolamo may have journeyed to Amsterdam, like Philips in 1593, to hear the older master. On the other hand, Frescobaldi’s obligations in Brussels and the shortness of his stay in Flanders, less than a year, cast doubt on this assumption, and it is known that Sweelinck never left Amsterdam for more than a few days at a time during this period. Superbi’s phrase, “He was brought to Flanders where he gave great proof of his skill for many years” (“Fu condotto nella Fiandra ove diede gran saggio di lui molt’anni”), while inaccurate, at least suggests that Girolamo was already regarded as a finished musician. In any case, the elements in Frescobaldi’s style that most closely resemble Sweelinck’s keyboard writing, such as his contrapuntal virtuosity and his rigor in the treatment of musical material, are the products of Girolamo’s Ferrarese training and are already evident in the Fantasie, which (at least in part) must antedate his journey to Flanders. Moreover, nothing could be further from the ruthless consistency (and occasional monotony) of Sweelinck’s figural writing than the nervous and ever-changing patterns of Frescobaldi’s figuration.

Girolamo’s statement that he went to Antwerp to see the city is the only recorded interest that he ever expressed in his surroundings. It must have been well worth seeing. An English visitor in 1616, Sir Dudley Carleton, described it as exceeding “any I ever saw any where else, for bewtie and the uniformity of buildings, heith and largeness of streets, and strength and fairness of the rampars.” But after its final capture by the Spanish in 1585 Antwerp had declined precipitously from its position as a major port and commercial center. Carleton continued:

In ye whole time we spent there I could never sett my eyes in the whole length of a street uppon 40 persons at once: I never mett coach nor saw man on horseback: none of owr companie (though both were workie dayes) saw one pennie worth of ware ether in shops or in streetes bought or solde.[21]

In his Relationi of 1629 Bentivoglio described the city as one of the two “most infected by heresy, that the Provinces of the Archdukes possess” (“più infette dall’heresia, c’habbiano le Province de gli Arciduchi” ) (156).

Despite its irreversible commercial decline, Antwerp still had an active cultural life, about to flower with Rubens’s return from Italy late in 1608. In addition to Pierre Phalèse and his circle, who gave Frescobaldi’s madrigals so flattering a welcome, Antwerp offered other inducements to the visiting musician. The musical life of the city included a guild of instrument-builders, a guild of instrumentalists, and a band of town musicians playing winds, brass, and strings. The city’s principal church, Our Lady, where John Bull was organist 1615-28, presented performances by a choir of some twenty singers (fig. 4.5). It contained four organs, including one with three manuals, thirty-four stops, and an independent pedal division.[22] Chief among the city’s many instrument-builders was the Ruckers family, whose harpsichords and virginals were known throughout Europe and were exported as far as Peru. The Ruckers made plucked keyboard instruments in a variety of shapes, sizes, and dispositions greater than that of contemporary Italian instruments: their rich, diffuse sound must have been a surprise to a player accustomed to the sinewy clarity of Italian harpsichords.[23]

Girolamo’s visit to Antwerp probably concluded his stay in Flanders.[24] The conclusion of the dedication to the Madrigali, “my profession of most obliged servant of your Most Illustrious House,” suggests that Frescobaldi’s service with Guido was only part of his general obligation to the Bentivoglio family. Enzo, the head of the family, was about to take up the post of Ferrarese ambassador at Rome, a post created as a sop to the Ferrarese on the part of the papal government, and he summoned Frescobaldi to enter his service. In August of 1608 Guido wrote to his brother, ceding Frescobaldi to him: “I am happy that Frescobaldi should come to Rome with Your Lordship for the pleasure you show in having him in your household.”[25] Not only did Enzo have a prior claim, but Guido was already in straitened circumstances by early 1608:

… and indeed if things should go on like this [he wrote Enzo], I would fear that I had come to Flanders to lose my reputation instead of acquiring one. Indeed I don’t know how I have maintained it up until now, since from the very beginning I have had to take bread, beer, wood, and a thousand other necessities on credit; Your Lordship can well understand that in this period that I have been penniless I have not been able to live on air, with so many mouths [household members] on my shoulders.

By 1614 Guido had accumulated 26,000 florins of debt.[26]

The date of Frescobaldi’s departure from Flanders is unknown, but it must have preceded the date on the dedication of the Madrigali (Antwerp, 13 June 1608). Reaching Milan, he lodged in the great monastery of Sant’Ambrogio Maggiore (fig. 4.6), whose governance was divided between the Cistercian Order and the canons of the diocese of Milan. Frescobaldi was encouraged to stay in Milan by the fathers of the monastery and other gentlemen, possibly including the outside musicians hired by the monks. (The competition between the two authorities of the Monastery had led to a diocesan inquiry in 1605-06 about the employment of such musicians, a practice which had been banned by Carlo Borromeo.)[27]

Frescobaldi may have had previous connections with Milan. In 1599-1601 his teacher Luzzaschi had been in correspondence with the cardinal of Milan, Carlo Gesualdo’s cousin the legendary Federigo Borromeo (1564-1631), about the same time that the cardinal was re-establishing the authority of the monks of Sant’Ambrogio. (At the time of Frescobaldi’s arrival in Milan in 1608 Cardinal Federigo was dealing with the case of Suor Virginia de Leyra, the real-life original of Alessandro Manzoni’s homicidal Nun of Monza in I promessi sposi.) Milan, which had numerous artistic and ecclesiastical links with Rome, supported a flourishing musical life with numerous musicians employed in the city’s churches. It also boasted a prolific publishing house founded by the Tini family (1585-1612) and joined by Filippo Lomazzo (1603-30). An index of the firm’s publications dated 1596 contains no less than 132 items, mostly sacred and secular vocal music but also including instrumental collections by Ottavio Bariolla (active 1573-1619), organist of the important Milanese church of Santa Maria press San Celso.[28]

Frescobaldi’s first surviving personal letters date from late June 1608 and already contain hints of the tension that was to characterize his relations with Enzo Bentivoglio. Instead of coming directly to Enzo in Ferrara as he had promised, Girolamo dallied in Milan with the hope of some favorable occasion to make himself known (letter to Enzo of 25 June 1608):

I thought to be able personally to find myself serving Your Most Illustrious Lordship much sooner than fortune allows me to do, since I have been detained here in Milan by the fathers of Santo Ambrogio in their Monastery, with great satisfaction of some other gentlemen; and I have stayed to try my luck in various places, and also to have the opportunity to make myself known, although my aim was to return to Rome with the good graces and favor of the Most Illustrious Monsignore your brother, to whom I remain the most affectionate and obliged servant and the same to Your Most Illustrious Lordship and a make a most humble bow, and also to the Signora Marchesa, praying you every greatest happiness and long life from God our Lord…[29]

The next day Frescobaldi wrote Enzo again, saying that some gentlemen desired him to remain in Milan until the end of August, with the prospect of earning some money:

I remain much obliged to the affection of Your Most Illustrious Lordship. I was almost thinking, being begged by these fathers of Sant’Ambrogio and also by other gentlemen, of staying in Milan; that perhaps some occasion will occur. And when I resolve to remain in Milan, since I am greatly desired, I will not lack the opportunity of earning; so that not to refuse the opportunity and the singular courtesy of Your Most Illustrious Lordship, I know how useful it would be to my reputation it would be not to refuse the opportunity of serving Your Most Illustrious Lordship, begging you that to satisfy these gentlemen I remain until August in Milan, so that I will be ready to serve Your Most Illustrious Lordship, and your will do me a favor by letting me know when Your Most Illustrious Lordship will depart for Rome, offering myself as your most obliged and most affectionate servant, and I bow to you most humbly.[30]

In a letter from Milan, 27 June 1608, Camillo della Torre informed Enzo that he had delivered to Frescobaldi a letter from Enzo enclosed with one written to him on 21 June, and that Frescobaldi was ready to come to serve Enzo in Rome, although he had been distracted by the possibility of finding some “profitable accommodation” in Milan, “from which I dissuaded him, as one more experienced about the humors of Milan than he [is].” Della Torre added, “having to travel in this hot season,” the proverbial time of malaria, “is a bit of a nuisance.”

I gave into the hands of ms. Girolamo Frescobaldi the letter sent to me by Your Most Illustrious Lordship, with Yours of the 21st, and I made with him the passage that you imposed on me, having found him very disposed, and ready to come to serve you, although here he was on the point of finding some profitable accommodation, from which I dissuaded him as being one more experienced about the humors of Milan than he, whence he gave me his word that he would come to serve Your Most Illustrious Lordship in this journey to Rome of yours, as you can understand from his enclosed [letter]; while it gives him a bit of a nuisance to have to travel in this hot season, all the same you will advise me when it pleases you to have him there, I will have him come immediately, and if by chance I should go to Modena, as might easily happen, I give my word to bring him to the said City, which is [all] that I can tell Your Most Illustrious Lordship …[31]

On 23 July Della Torre wrote Enzo, revealing that Frescobaldi had repeatedly broken his promise to him and to Enzo:

I then had the letter of His Lordship with that for Frescobaldi, to whom I gave it, but he tells me to tell you that he has failed you and me in the word that he gave, not once but several times, to come with Your Most Illustrious Lordship to Rome, and he confirmed it to me just now, since I had sent today to ask about setting him off in good company, he freely said that he did not wish to do otherwise, and that he did not wish to leave Milan, I believe that Your Most Illustrious Lordship can consider how I remained seeing myself failed in his word given so many times, and with all that I had made him consider the ill that could happen to him for his failure to observe the promise made to you, and to me, I could not remove him from his intention. How much I am offended by such a manner of dealing, I leave to you to judge, and if he had failed only me I would be in great concern, but since you also are involved, I will let you order what you please, secure that I will always serve you with all my power in anything whatever …[32]

On 29 July Frescobaldi, still in Milan, wrote Enzo to apologize for failing to visit him (Enzo had come to Milan secretly twice, apparently to treat with Girolamo):

I went twice to find Your Most Illustrious Lordship and the last time I found that you had left at midnight. Now having thought how great is the obligation which I hold to your Most Illustrious house I cannot fail to obey the command of Your Most Illustrious Lordship, also because of your many courtesies which oblige me to serve you and obey your every command. Now I beg Your Most Illustrious Lordship to hold me excused if I have not behaved as I should toward you. For the desire I have to make myself known and to fulfill the opinion of these musicians I have wished with the work to give a worthy sign of my knowledge.

For the first time, we hear almost casually of the “worthy sign” of his knowledge:

I am making every effort to make them speed the printing of this work of mine, so I will immediately be in Ferrara to carry out the commands of Your Most Illustrious Lordship and I recall myself to you as a most Affectionate servant and I bow most humbly.[33]

 “[T]his work of mine” was the Fantasie, in press with Tini and Lomazzo.

It is not clear when Frescobaldi learned of his election as organist of the Cappella Giulia of St. Peter’s on 21 July. At the end of the month he was still in Milan, where a canon of the basilica, Count Estense Tassoni, wrote him on 9 August (the same day that Guido Bentivoglio released Frescobaldi from his service). Before 20 August Frescobaldi had left Milan, and a letter of the same date from Bizzoni in Rome to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara reveals that Frescobaldi was already in Ferrara with Enzo:

Also do me the favor of reading the present [letter] to Geronimo, to whom I am not writing since it is [too] late, and give him immediately the above-mentioned enclosure, which comes to me from the Most Excellent Signore Francesco Borghese.

Francesco Borghese (1556-1620) thus appears on stage without preparation.[34] Borghese, the younger brother of pope Paul V, was General of the Church and shared the title of Duke of Regnano with his brother Giovanni. Frescobaldi offered his Fantasie to Francesco in a dedication dated “Di Ferrara li 8. Novembre 1608”: when the work actually appeared is uncertain, since by that date the composer had been in Rome for over a week.[35] (Like the impossible date of the Madrigali dedication, this is a warning that such dates—possibly as often the work of publisher as of composer—cannot be relied upon without further corroboration.[36])

Frescobaldi recalls:

… that special devotion, that I bear to your name, and to that honor, which your ears have deigned to do several times to my hand, while, when I was staying in Rome under the aegis of the Most Illustrious Monsignor Bentivoglio, Archbishop of Rhodes, I made you hear with the sound of the keys many of these musical Fantasies, which I now send you figured in these pages …

It has been conjectured that the Fantasie, a masterpiece of musical planning and contrapuntal virtuosity, were conceived to impress an audience of connoisseurs at musical academies that Francesco Borghese held in the new family palace, activities documented in February of 1607 and June and September of 1613.[37] Ruggero Giovannelli’s puntatore book for the Cappella Pontificia records on 7 February 1607 a request to excuse the singer Teofilo Gargari so that he “might be put down as present, [being] missing at the morning service in order to assist in the evening at the accademia of His Excellency.”[38] In 1613 three musicians from Enzo Bentivoglio’s household visited Palazzo Borghese: “the Hunchback,” “il Gobbo,” the singing teacher Arrigo Vilardi; the soprano Francesca; and the bass Francescone. Ercole Provenzale in Rome wrote to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara, 26 June 1613:

… that S.ra Francesca go to stay at the house of the Most Excellent S.r Francesco [Borghese], so that the Hunchback might have the convenience of giving her a lesson two or three times a day: …I hear that when S.ra Francesca went to the house of S.r Francesco Borghese, those musicians all said that she had another voice from what Ippolita has.[39]

Ippolito Machiavelli in Rome to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara, 21 Sept. 1613: “I took him [Francescone] to the musical performances [musica] of S.r Francesco Borghese to arouse him…”[40]          Like the Madrigali, the Fantasie were never reprinted, but they were not forgotten. More than five decades after the appearance of the original print, it was included by Ludovico Fuga (1643-1722) in his testament of 1721 as “The Fantasie of Frescobaldi printed in partitura, the first work of so great a composer.”[41] From their publication, the Fantasie circulated also in samizdat versions. (In the seventeenth century, hand copies had a special cachet [see Richardson 2009]: J. S. Bach’s copy of the Fiori musicali, which had been issued in a printing large enough to leave sixteen surviving exemplars, was nonetheless a manuscript copy by a professional scribe.) The Krakow manuscript Biblioteka Jagiellonska, Mus ms. 40316 transmits Fantasies 7-[10], copied directly from the print by a scribe probably anterior to 1612. The Architectonice musices universalis of Wolfgang Schönsleder (Ingolstadt, 1631) contains fifteen musical examples ascribed to Frescobaldi, which have been identified as excerpts from fantasies 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, and 10. Fantasies 6-9 were copied in Vienna, Minoritenkonvent, Musikarchiv XIV, 714 (South German, roughly 1624-31: facsimile in Silbiger 1989, 24). Fantasia 9 appeared with extensive excerpts from Recercari, Toccate I, and Capricci in the manuscript Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Mus. Ms. 1581 (first half of 17th century: see FTCO for online copy). The first three fantasies and the first 58 bars of fantasia 4, the complete fantasia 5, and the first 61 bars of fantasia 6 were copied in the“PARTITVRE DI GEROLAMO FRESCOBALDI. AD VSVM AVGVS[ti]ni BONAVEN[tur]re COLETTI.”[42] Coletti (d. 1752) was an organist at San Marco, Venice, where he served as “palchetto” in 1714 and first organist from 1736. The most distinguished recension of the Fantasie is the “Book copied in his own hand, and for his [own] use, by Sig. Bernardo Pasquini” (“Libro copiato di propria mano, e per suo uso, dal Sig: Bernardo Pasquini.”[43]

The reputation Frescobaldi established in these first publications, together with the patronage of the Bentivoglio, brought him the opportunity that was to determine his future career: his appointment to succeed Ercole Pasquini as organist of the Cappella Giulia in San Pietro. He was now to be provided with a regular income, a forum for performance and composition, and a secure position in the musical life of Rome.


[1] Fabris 1999, 60: “Girolamo cura gli affari amministrativi di Guido Bentivoglio, occupandosi di carrozze, cavalli, servi, e vendite ..”
[2] Letter of 21 July 1607 to Mons. di Modigliana, Bishop of Borgo San Sepolcro, describing the journey from Ferrara to Lucerne (Bentivoglio 1828, 22-23): “… alpi, balze, dirupi, precipizi, una sopra una altra montagna, e san Gotardo sopra di tutte, che porta le nevi in cielo, e ch’a me ora ha fatto vedere l’inverno di mezza state.” Guido recounted the trip from Rome to Ferrara in a letter of 24 June (ibid. 15-16) and his arrival in Brussels in a letter of 11 August (32-35). Bentivoglio’s unpublished correspondence with Cardinal Scipione Borghese (BAV, ASV, Fondo Borghese, ser. II, nos. 98, 100, 103, 111, 115, for 1607-08) gives few details of his household.
[3] “ … ch’appunto non restava altro che il venir quà io medesimo per diventar Fiammingo del tutto”: Bentivoglio 1828, 32-35, letter of 11 August 1607 to Mons. di Modigliana.
[4] See Bentivoglio 1629, I, 121.
[5] See Elias 1928 and Belvederi 1962, 51-52.
[6] Isabella sang, danced, and played the harp, viol, and keyboards (Isabel 2011, 75-76, 86).
[7] Guido to Enzo Bentivoglio, June 1608, in Bentivoglio 1807, III, 20. Guido also described the occasion in a letter of the same date to Cardinal Borghese (BAV, ASV, Borghese II, 115, fols. 221v-222; other details of the regents’ devotions are given on fols. 119, 132). On New Year’s Day Isabella and Albert dined in public and Bentivoglio gave the benediction.
[8] Fabris 1999, #164: “Il giorno delli Innocenti fui pur anco in Santa Santorum dove c’era la Sig.ra Infanta, e il Sig.re Arciduca. Non mancai di far il debito con leuto, tiorba, e chitara: mostrorno segni di grandissima sodisfatione …”
[9] “nove opere passeggiate”: Annibaldi 1999, reads “nove” for Hill’s “le Sue.”
[10] Vincenzo Gonzaga to Giovanni Magni, 11 December 1605, in Parisi 1989, 184-85.
[11] Bizzoni to Enzo Bentivoglio, 22 August 1607: “Il S.r Luzzasco mi scrive che per la vecchiezza gli sono mancati gli spiriti di Musica; e perciò fa scuse legitime alle quali non si può replicare, di non poter favorire, e consolare la S.ra Hippolita, la quale … resta satisfattissima della bona volontà, di quel bono, santo e divino vecchio …”: Hill 1997 I, 306-7; Durante 1998, 44-46.
[12] Giulio Moro in Ferrara to Margherita Gonzaga d’Este in Mantua, 16 September 1607: “… fu dal S.r Hippolito fiorino posto una Girlanda di lauro dorata apreso il capo del cataletto, doue si troua il suo corpo, si ch[e] si conosci ch[e] stimauano la sua uirtù qua[n]to meritaua, et ch[e] lo conosceuano degno di esser coronato per principalissimo d[e]lla sua profesione.” Cavicchi 1965, 14 and n.; Durante 2010, 43. Luzzaschi’s testament of 6 Sept. 1607 named Enzo Bentivoglio as one of three executors: Durante 1998, 17, 28, 30.
[13] Document III/1.
[14] Newcomb 1964, 113, suggests that Frescobaldi in fact left Flanders by mid-May. On Phalèse see NewGr 2000, s.v. In 1608 he moved his shop to “Den Coperen Pot.”
[15] Dedication to Guido Bentivoglio of “DI GIROLAMO/FRESCOBALDI/ IL PRIMO LIBRO DE/MADRIGALI/A CINQVE VOCI” (see Catalogue III. A. 1, Documentary Appendix III. 1). Girolamo’s journey to Antwerp is perhaps more significant in light of the fact that the nuncio and his suite resided in Brussels rather than following the peripatetic court of the regents (letter of Guido Bentivoglio to Cardinal Borghese, 1 December 1607, ASV, Borghese II, 100, fol. 311). *Durante 1998, 103, n. 108: “The ordinary muta was composed of some twenty pieces, distributed on twenty-four pages for every fascicle (three printed folios) …”
[16] This account is based heavily on Weaver 1995, 64, 144-49, 177-80, 249-84. See also Nuovo 2015.
[17] Weaver 1995, 266, n. 63, gives a vivid picture of the process of assembling formes: “When the compositor had completed several lines or filled his stick, he emptied it onto a galley, a wooden tray with two or three sides not much larger than the page he was setting. He tied the page with string, wrapped it in paper, and stored it until all type needed for the forme was set. When ready, the pages were transferred to an imposing surface, commonly a slab of marble or limestone. They were then placed in their proper order and supplied with appropriate headlines. Next the compositor surrounded the set type with a chase—a metal frame divided into sections by bars. The space between the pages and the sides of the chase was filled with wood: long wedges surrounded the borders of the pages; short pieces (quoins) bridged the remaining distance to the frame’s edges. The quoins were placed in loosely at first, so the string surrounding the pages could be removed and any protruding pieces of type levelled. After that the quoins were driven in tightly to create enough pressure so that the pages would hold securely in place while the forme was in the press.”
[18] For an incomplete and unpublished volume of masses by Paolo Agostini see Franchi 2006, 1626/1.
[19] Further on Frescobaldi’s texts see Bianconi 1996.
[20] On Cornet and Philips see Apel 1972, 338-44, 296-300; the works of Cornet, ed. Apel, appear as vol. 26 of the Corpus of early Keyboard Music. On Sweelinck see Dirksen 1997.
[21] Sir Dudley Carleton to John Chamberlaine, Hagh [The Hague], 5/15 September 1616, quoted in Hubbard 1965, 76.
[22] Weaver 1995, 26-37.
[23] See O’Brien 1990. Unfortunately, the “instrument that Mons. the Most Illustrious Nuncio sent from Flanders” (“istromento che mandò di Fiandra Mons.r Ill.mo Nuntio”) to Cardinal Borghese turns out to have been not a harpsichord but a telescope: Newcomb 1964, 121, corrected in Fabris 1997, #173.
[24] Superbi 1620, 133, which is probably the source of a statement by Johann Mattheson (who seems to have been misinformed about virtually every aspect of Frescobaldi’s career) that he “spent many years in Flanders.” This was expanded by F. J. Fétis in an account of Frescobaldi published in Louise Farrenc’s Trésor des pianistes (Paris, 1868, vol. 13) into the assertion that Girolamo was organist at Malines in 1607, which was carefully refuted in Cametti 19081, 705-07.
[25] Cametti 19081, 708: “Avrò caro che’l Frescobaldi venga a Roma con Vostra Signoria per il gusto ch’ella mostra d’averlo in casa sua.” Enzo had traveled to Rome on other occasions, partly for the purpose of combating influences hostile to the Bentivoglio family in the circle of Cardinal Borghese (ASV, Borghese II, 100, fol. 305, Guido Bentivoglio to Cardinal Borghese, 24 November 1607; see also 115, fol. 96, letter of 8 March 1608 in which Guido thanks Borghese for the “demonstrations, that you have deigned to make recently toward my brother Enzo and toward all our House” [“dimostrationi, che s’e degnata di fare ultimam[en]te verso mio fratello Entio e verso tutta la nostra Casa”]—presumably Enzo’s appointment as Ferrarese ambassador.)
[26] Bentivoglio 1807, III, 14-15, partially in Fabris 1997, 84, n. 283: Guido Bentivoglio in Flanders to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara, 9 February 1608, “ … e veramente se le cose dovessero continovar così, io temerei di non essere venuto in Fiandra a perder la reputazione in cambio d’acquistarne. Anzi io non so come finora l’avrò ben mantenuta, […] potendo considerare Vostra Signoria che in questo tempo ch’io sono stato senza denari non ho potuto viver d’aria con tante bocche alle spalle.”
[27] On Sant’Ambrogio see Kendrick 2002, 79.
[28] Mischiati 1984, 106-10. The original editions of Bariolla are lost but were reconstructed from the Turin tablatures: see Bariolla 1986.
[29] Document 1.
[30] Document 2.
[31] Document 3.
[32] Document 4.
[33] Document 5.
[34] He had Ferrarese connections: G. B. Aleotti dedicated his Pianta di Ferrara (1605) to Borghese.
[35] Catalogue I.A.1, III; Prefatory Material, 2. Francesco Borghese had little influence with his elder brother Paul V (incorrectly identified as his uncle in Newcomb 1964, 116, and repeatedly as his younger brother in Annibaldi 20011 and Annibaldi 2002), especially by comparison with their nephew, Bernini’s patron Scipione Caffarelli Borghese. Annibaldi states that the title Duca di Regnano, which Frescobaldi applies to Borghese in 1608 and does not in fact seem to have been his until after the death of another brother in 1609, was granted by the pope in 1607 and was shared by the two (Annibaldi 20011, 114; see Bellasich 1995).
[36] A trap into which Annibaldi falls in Annibaldi 20011, 115.
[37] On Borghese’s academies see Annibaldi 20011, 114-20; 20112, 191. Annibaldi’s statement that they were “frequented by the most distinguished musicians and connoisseurs of the city” (20011, 114) is offered without proof. Francesco and his wife Ortensia Santacroce moved into the existing block of the palace: their apartment centered on the large sala vecchia, four bays running across the façade on the piano nobile, followed by smaller rooms (Waddy 1990, 78).
[38] BAV, ACSP, CG 1607, 1619-20 punti (Cappella Giulia absence records and fines): “[che] fusse messo come p[re]sente mancando la matina al servitio p[er] assistere la sera alla academia di S. Ecc.a”.
[39] Fabris 1999, #341: “… e del Ecc.mo S.r Francesco che sarìa che la S.ra Francesca andase a stare aprese a casa sua, perche il Gobo avese comodità di darli lecione due o tre volte il giorno … Sento che quando andò la S.ra Francesca a casa del S.r Francesco Borghese, quelli musici tutto disero che aveva altra voce che non ha la Ipollitta.” Annabaldi’s reading of these three documents, with an hiatus of six years between them and only one mention of the word “accademia,” as a continuing practice stretches the evidence.
[40] Fabris 1986, 68, n. 15: “lo condussi alla musica del S.r Francesco Borghese per stimolarlo…”
[41] “Le Fantasie del Frescobaldi stampate in partitura, prima opera di si grande autore”: Vio 1982, 552.
[42] Ms. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Mus. Rés. Vma. ms. 965, ff. 67v-70v, 77v-79v.
[43] Berlin, Deutsche Staatsbibliothek, Mus. ms. L 121.