I owe to Your Highness, as to a Prince, who by birth retains from his ancestors the ancient, & hereditary protection of the fine arts, the fruit of those musical efforts, to which I gave myself in my first years under the teaching of Signor Luzzasco so rare an Organist & so dear a servant of the Most Serene House of ESTE, which, having been in Italy the most celebrated, & sure stronghold of virtuosi has drawn in its glory the homage of the immortal pens of writers, & particularly of the Ferrarese, who surviving death in dense number, make their Fatherland live eternal, & glorious.
Girolamo Frescobaldi to Alfonso III d’Este, 12 April 1624
And there in the red empty twilight just after Bologna … there she is already in sight, the great, the warm dwelling, there she is, still there, my youth …
The casual traveler to Italy cannot fail to visit Rome—crowded, noisy, smog-ridden, but still exasperatingly beautiful after twenty-eight centuries of recorded history. Only the amateur of musical curiosities, however, will probably notice a modest stone tablet in the porch of a Roman basilica commemorating the burial there of Girolamo Frescobaldi in 1643. The proud “Ferrarese” that someone has added in pencil beside the composer’s name is unlikely to impel the traveler to visit Ferrara, off the beaten tourist track. At the end of the sixteenth century, however, Ferrara was the seat of one of the most brilliant courts of the Renaissance, while Rome was still emerging from the abandon and decay of the Middle Ages.
Another tablet affixed to a modest house just off the main street of Ferrara identifies the home of Girolamo Frescobaldi’s youth (fig. 1.1), built after 1573 and purchased by his father Filippo in 1584. Ferrara was divided into quarters and the quarters into contrade. The Frescobaldi house was located in “the contrada of the Gossips from the Corner of the Giudecca to the contrada of the Maskmaker” (“la contra delle Petegole dal Cantone della zouecha sino al contra del mascararo,” now no. 40 of the present Via Frescobaldi) behind the church of San Guglielmo, in the Strada di Boccanale di San Guglielmo (now Via Palestro). Frescobaldi’s father paid an annual rent of four baiocchi eight denari to the nuns of San Guglielmo, who owned the freehold.
The Contrada delle Pettegole was located north of one of the two main axial streets of Ferrara, the Giovecca, in the Terra Nova or Addizione Erculea, which was created in 1492 by duke Ercole I d’Este. This was a walled expansion of the medieval nucleus of Ferrara to the north which tripled the area of the city and resulted in a complete change in its configuration (see map, fig. 1.2). The original town had grown up on the banks of the Po di Ferrara, a branch of the great Lombard river. On its northern perimeter stood the Este palace, called the Palazzo del Corte, and next to it the fortified Castel Vecchio or Castello Estense, connected to the palace by the Via Coperta built in 1471. Facing the palace was the Romanesque Duomo, and along the south side of the church ran a large piazza that was employed as an outdoor theater for such events as jousts, for which the balconies on the palace façade served as viewing-stands, supplemented by a gallery on the south side of the cathedral (fig. 1.3).
By the creation of the Terra Nova the former northern periphery—palace, castle, cathedral and piazza—became the center of the town. Its focus was the Palazzo del Corte, whose façade balconies facing the principal piazza were ornamented with statues of the twelve Caesars. Two gilded bronze Este dynastic figures on columns flanked the main entrance. The palace contained two large halls for plays and music and a ladies’ chapel, and featured shady arcaded gardens with running water and fountains. A north-south street, the Via degli Angeli, led from the Porta degli Angeli in the new boundary fortifications into the center of the city, ending in a garden which separated it from the castle. (Today, as Corso Ercole I D’Este, the street continues to the castle.) A ditch running north-west/south-east had formed the north-eastern boundary of the old city: with the building of the Terra Nova this was filled in and became the Corso Giovecca. Like the Roman Corso, the Giovecca served as a gathering-place for public viewings and the masked Carnival celebrations that delighted the Ferrarese, with which its name became synonymous: “That evening there was a beautiful Giudecca ridden by All the aforesaid Horsemen and endless Horses, and Carriages, and there was a large open carriage, with Nymphs who sang the sweetnesses of Love” (1583).
The baptismal register of the Ferrara cathedral shows that the infant Girolimo Alissandro, son of Filippo and Lucrezia Frescobaldi, was baptized in September of 1583, probably on or after the fifteenth (fig. 1.4). He was named for his paternal grandfather, his earliest recorded ancestor. Girolamo’s parents also produced a daughter, Giulia. A previous son, Ludovico Nicola, baptised 8 December 1579, whose godfather was Girolamo’s future teacher Luzzasco Luzzaschi, seems not to have survived. After Lucrezia’s death Filippo married Caterina Bianchetti and increased the family by another son and a daughter, Cesare and Vittoria (Bennati 1908).
The fact that Cesare, who became a Cistercian monk of the Ferrarese convent of San Bartolomeo by 1619, was known as a musician may support the tradition that their father was an organist. Filippo Frescobaldi’s property holdings and his social position (he is respectfully termed “illustrissimo” in a notarial document) suggest that he was a man of substance. But despite Antonio Libanori, who described Girolamo in his Ferrara d’oro imbrunito (1665) as “descended from the noble House of Frescobaldi of Florence,” there is no evidence to connect him with that ancient Florentine family: on his letters to the Duke of Mantua Girolamo employed a seal with arms quite different from theirs (fig. 1.5a-b). In later years, even in a Florentine publication dedicated to a high official of the Tuscan court, Girolamo always cited his Ferrarese origin and musical training as the formative influences of his career. Frescobaldi’s middle-class origins are evident in his avoidance of any aspiration to nobility, in contrast with the pretensions of Jacopo Peri or Sigismondo d’India, who proclaimed themselves “nobile” on the title pages of their publications, or the patrician Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger, who published only through intermediaries.
Four centuries after Frescobaldi’s birth, Ferrara still has a unique flavor. The wide streets and the surprising extent of the small, low houses give a neat, self-contained, and—on a gray day—almost Netherlandish air to the city. (The warm pinkish brick characteristic of present-day Ferrara may be deceptive, however: in the sixteenth century buildings seem to have been covered by a wash or intonaco, traces of which still remain in some cases, or by more elaborate paintings.)
Ferrara is less than an hour’s drive north of Bologna, with its mountainous approach and outposts, but in its setting of flat fields planted with wheat, vines, and fruit, the city belongs unmistakably to the plain of the Po. In the sixteenth century the duchy was one of the richest domains in Italy. Its fertile territories occupied the center of the Pianura Padana, bounded by Venice on the north, Bologna (already in the hands of the papacy) on the south, and Mantua on the west. In addition to Ferrara itself, the duchy included Modena, Reggio Emilia, and the port of Comacchio. Irrigated by various branches of the Po, the Reno, and the canal of Modena, it had grain to export, wine, wood, meat, dairy products, and “sturgeon and fresh-water fish from the Po, others from the valleys of Comacchio, besides salt-water fish, and in addition pheasants, partridges, quail, hare, goats, boar, and much other game.” These natural riches were complemented by the production of cloth, tapestries, and ceramics, and by the cannon foundries, whose products appear in the portraits of Duke Alfonso I d’Este by Titian and the Dossi atelier.
However, the duchy was seismic territory (there had been a devastating earthquake in 1570 and others followed in 1574 and 1575), and its climate was unhealthy. In his Relazione of 1589 Orazio Della Rena, secretary of the Florentine legation in Ferrara, observed:
… the place is so low, and very humid, that in addition [to the fact] that there is spread out in all the country a great quantity of water without outlets and very subject to corruption, the rain water lasts a long time and causes an air that is very humid and unhealthy. And now Ferrara begins to be much worse than before because the runoff and renewal of the waters, which are around the City walls at the height of the bed of the Po, which is stagnant, are obstructed, and they cause a very fetid and corrupt air…
Land reclamation was to become a principal occupation of Frescobaldi’s future patron Enzo Bentivoglio.
These economic and climactic conditions combined to produce an unmistakeable Ferrarese character whose sybaritic tendencies sometimes grated on the sensibilities of other Italians. Della Rena found the Ferrarese lazy, vain, dandified, greedy of titles and distinctions, more martial in appearance than in fact, spendthrift and given to gambling, and disdainful of those “in trade” (including the Florentines). Owing to their laziness, their households contained disproportionate numbers of servants. Their former dissoluteness was now confined mostly to the Carnival season, when they took a childish delight in masking when it was permitted by the authorities. Proud of their native city, the Ferrarese were polite and hospitable, their children well brought up (with the exception of some very nasty baiting of the prominent Ferrarese Jewish community). According to Della Rena, the religion of the Ferrarese was not fervent, except for superstitious veneration of the dead. Little of Frescobaldi’s personality emerges from his biography, but a few incidents in his life suggest that his character was not dissimilar to that of his compatriots as portrayed by Della Rena.
The men of Ferrara “have the greatest inclination toward music, and are very studious of music and musical instruments.” The women “delight greatly in music and in playing various instruments, and many of them excel in this profession.” Under the rule of Alfonso II d’Este (1533-97), the last duke of Ferrara (fig. 1.6), in the homes of the city “they sang and played in such a manner, that every Father almost had all his children as singers, and the City could be called one single Academy.” Music was so ingrained in the Ferrarese world-view that an attempt in 1598 to widen membership in the privileged ranks of Ferrarese civil government, the council of the Savi and their head the Giudice dei Savi, was expressed in a musical analogy:
one could not hope for good harmony from that Musical instrument which had all the strings at the same pitch, but it was necessary, that there participate in it, not just the sopranos, and the altos, but the tenors and the basses; & that sometimes a falsetto was not forbidden, which they also added in the Music made by voices.
Despite its surviving monuments and the contemporary accounts of Frescobaldi’s native city, present-day Ferrara breathes little of the spirit that animated the duchy in its final flowering. As Frescobaldi himself asserted, this was the achievement of the ruling house and above all of Alfonso II. Alfonso is described by Della Rena as robust, experienced in foreign languages and cultures, untiring in his favorite pursuit of the chase, devoted to chivalric exercises owing to his upbringing at the court of France, and preferring the life of his country villas to that of the city. Wherever Alfonso was, music was an integral part of his day. Every evening he heard an hour of instrumental music in the rooms of his sister the Duchess of Urbino, followed by some two hours of vocal music before supper in his wife’s apartments (Della Rena in Newcomb 19802 I, 274-77).
In the Este court the painting, music, and poetry were permeated by the spirit of villeggiatura, the life of the ducal pleasances or delizie. There were at least nine of these in Ferrara proper, comprising gardens, artificial mounts, baths, preserves for fish and game, and villas (notably Palazzo Schifanoia, “Sans Souci,” some of whose frescoes still survive). The various delizie were linked by a ring-canal filled with swans and other birds, whose flanking roads were screened by gardens and alleys of olives and vines.
He [the duke] goes walking in the Gardens for exercise, which [gardens] are most convenient for him, since he can leave his Castle and travel around the entire circuit of the city, where are located la Montagna, la Montagnola, and other tree-shaded and delightful avenues, by water or carriage unseen by anyone.
Such alternate routes—waterways, communicating gardens and courtyards (often with aerial bridges), and secret internal palace passages—were not only pleasant and convenient but also had the practical purpose of ensuring the privacy of the ruling family and protecting their safety in times of crisis.
The principal suburban palaces of the Estensi were Belfiore, Belriguardo, and Belvedere. Belfiore was situated outside the medieval city in the ducal barco or hunting-preserve, which was later enclosed as part of the Terra Nova. It was richly decorated with paintings and featured a great loggia, a hall, and at least two courtyards, one with mulberry trees for sericulture.
Belriguardo, a half-day’s journey south-east of Ferrara, was the most conspicuous of the Estense country palaces. Colossal, symmetrical, adorned with red and white merlati and painted chimneys, crowned by towers, the palace had a vista of ten miles, “as far as the eye could see.” A salotto underneath the central great hall gave on to a marble balcony on the entrance side and a loggia facing the second courtyard with space for musicians. The palace was oriented so that at the summer solstice the rising sun was framed by the entrance tower and at the winter solstice the sun set behind the tower. With some 360 rooms, Belriguardo was large enough to house four princes with their entourages.
Belvedere was located on an island in the Po:
An ancient description of Belvedere, a ducal pleasure palace situated between the two branches of the Po, where there is now in part the fortress, carried out and [the palace] undone in 1603 by Mario Farnese by order of the pope: an island of triangular shape, it was in the middle of the Po of Ferrara girt by walls with its merlons well disposed and gracefully painted. In the first entrance there appeared a flourishing green field, all surrounded by small box-trees, with a fountain in the middle which sprayed water. Then there appeared in the distance the splendid ducal Palace with a great supply of chambers, loggias, large and small halls all painted, and with the Church all covered with lead and painted by the Dossi, famous painters of those times. There were gardens, orchards, shady woods, thick groves, pleasant paths, stairs in various places, by which one descended to bathe in the Po, with fine-seeming trees, as well as a prodigious quantity of birds and animals for the pleasures of the chase.
This vanished world of gardens, fountains, and superbly decorated rooms was filled with music. Alfonso II’s official musical establishment was described in detail by the theorist Ercole Bottrigari (1531-1612), who lived in Ferrara from 1576 to 1587, in his treatise Il Desiderio (Bottrigari 1594: Venice, Amadino). The ducal musica was under the direction of two musicians known to the Frescobaldi family: Ippolito Fiorino (ca. 1549-1621), “Maestro di Cappella, & head of all the Musical establishments [Musiche] of His Highness, public, as well as private, domestic, and secret,” and Frescobaldi’s teacher Luzzasco Luzzaschi (ca. 1545-1607), “Organist of the most Serene Lord Duke of Ferrara.” The musica contained both Italian and Flemish musicians, singers as well as instrumentalists. The keyboard players had at their disposal four claviorgana, five organs of various types, and five harpsichords. (For a surviving instrument from the court of Alfonso II see fig. 11.13: Wraight 19862, fig. 13).
Rooms for musicians, including one containing an organ with paper pipes, are documented in the palace as far back as 1481. According to Bottrigari:
His Highness has two large honored rooms, called the Musicians’ rooms; since the Musical servants regularly salaried by His Highness withdraw there as they will, of whom there are many, both Italian & Oltremontani, both of fine voice and handsome and gracious manners in singing, as of highest excellence in playing these Cornetts, those Trombones, dolzaine, piffarotti; These other Viols, Violins [ribechini], those other Lutes, Citterns, Harps, & Harpsichords ….
Therefore in these rooms … these Musicians, either all or part, whenever they please and wish withdraw there, and exercise themselves in playing & singing; since in addition to Musical compositions in manuscript, there are many & many books of printed Music, & maintained in their places in perfect order by excellent men appointed to that end: And all the instruments are always in order, & tuned so they can be picked up and played at any moment. And they are maintained thus by skilled Masters, who both tune and build them most excellently: And for that reason they are constantly maintained, and provisioned by His Serene Highness.
An inventory of 1625 records that Duke Alfonso’s musical library, consisting of compositions in manuscript and “many, many books of printed Music,” which had passed to his Este cousins in Modena, contained some 254 items: masses, motets, madrigals, and lighter secular genres. The composers represented included not only Ferrarese musicians such as Luzzaschi and Alessandro Milleville, but also the Neapolitans Scipione Dentice, Scipione Stella, and Carlo Gesualdo, the Venetians Adrian Willaert and Andrea Gabrieli, and the cosmopolitans Luca Marenzio, Cipriano da Rore, and Orlando di Lasso.
The public ensemble of the ducal musicians was the concerto grande under the direction of Ippolito Fiorino, which performed for the “Cardinals, Dukes, Princes, & other great personages” who visited Ferrara, including Carlo Gesualdo himself. This group, some sixty voices and instruments in 1571, included not only all the singers and players in the duke’s employ, but also “every Ferrarese who can sing and play well enough to be judged by Fiorino and Luzzasco good enough to participate in such a concert.” As a student of Luzzaschi with family connections to him and Fiorino, the precociously talented Girolamo probably performed in the concerto grande. The ensemble actually played “no other composition, than one of the two written only for this purpose, one by the late Alfonso della Viola, the other by Luzzasco.” This limitation was owing principally to the problems of intonation in an ensemble combining voices with instruments of fixed pitch (harpsichords, organs), partly variable pitch (lutes, viols, cornetts), and completely variable pitch (trombones, violins). Despite the supposed restriction of repertory, there are also reports of a large group employed to accompany dances. In January of 1582 duchess Margherita Gonzaga danced a ballo with eleven other ladies, half costumed in armor as men, half as women: “The ballo was done twice, [once] with masks and [once] without, to the music of a large ensemble of instruments [the gran concerto], and with voices.”
The performances of the concerto grande were scrupulously rehearsed:
Therefore whenever the Most Serene Duke commands to Fiorino, his Maestro di Cappella, & head of all His Highness’ Musiche, public as well as private, domestic and secret, that the Concerto Grande, which is called thus, that famous Concerto mentioned by you; which is almost never demanded by his Highness, unless for the entertainment of Cardinals, Dukes, Princes, and other great personages, of whom he is, as almost continuously, the most splendid & most happy host … Fiorino immediately conveys the Duke’s command first to Luzzasco, if he was not present for that command, as almost always happens owing to their assiduous & and I would say almost continuous common service, & then with all the other aforesaid Musicians, singers and players, & in addition to that he informs every Ferrarese, who knows how to sing & play in such fashion that he is judged by Fiorino and Luzzasco sufficient to take part in such a concerto, that they must come to the Music rooms, & there with much solicitude he informs them all that they must return to those rooms the following day, or the next, whichever, if the foreign prince was making a long stay in this City, to begin rehearsing for that Concert, in which enter all those sorts of instruments, that you have told [me] were in the Concerto you heard today … 
Performers in the concerto grande might attract the attention of Duke Alfonso himself, who frequently attended rehearsals and offered criticism:
Therefore, when not only one & two, but many rehearsals had been made; in the which standing with the greatest obedience, & attention, they aim at nothing but good accord together, & the greatest union possible, & therefore without any deference whatever: but with gracious modesty each one comes, when he is informed, & and corrected by the Maestro di cappella: & to that end sometimes with most kindly and serene countenance, & fraternal majesty the Duke arrives in person, & listening to them he often gives them with his perfect judgment those efficacious admonitions, & healthy observations: that are necessary, to animate them, both to behave well, & to do themselves honor: Whence at the time specified by His Highness, they come harmoniously to perform that Concerto in the appointed place, to the great delight, & infinite pleasure of their listener the foreign Prince, & of all the other bystanders, for the wondrous Harmony following it ….
Among the distinguished guests for whom the concerto grande performed were the Florentine melomane Count Giovanni Bardi in 1582, the composer Costanzo Porta in April of 1583, and duke Anne de Joyeuse, the mignon of Henri III of France, in May of the same year. On occasion the audience of the concerto grande and even of the much more select ensemble of the dame principalissime was not limited to such visiting dignitaries and their suites: in 1582 “Yesterday evening the concerto grande performed accompanied by the voices of those Ladies, and all the gentlemen were allowed to enter,” including even some Frenchmen who had come to the Ferrarese court (a model of chivalric exercises) to learn to ride.
As Della Rena noted, Ferrara was known for the musical performances of its women. Performances of nuns were actively encouraged by duke Alfonso and his sister, in contrast to their discouragement or outright repression in cities such as Milan, under the jurisdiction of the woman-hating Carlo Borromeo:
the Duke … knowing, that there remained to him little more of life, wished to spend this remainder with every kind of reasonable pleasure … thus he called from many places Most Excellent Musicians, who served as much for the honor, & worship of God in his Chapel, as in other occasions, & especially in the lodgings of foreign Princes … [his sister Lucrezia, duchess of Urbino] did the same, but of Ladies, who at her every wish sang, & played, & especially in the days of Holy Week, in her rooms, with the sweetest melody that could issue from a womanly bosom, & mouth. Not content with that the Duke wished that in every Monastery the Nuns should occupy themselves … in the study of Music, in which the nuns of S. Antonio, S. Silvestro, & San Vito especially succeeded…
Of these houses, Sant’Antonio was a convent of Augustinian nuns, the burial place of the Blessed Beatrice d’Este, in Polesine, near Porta Romana; San Silvestro was a Benedictine convent on the Giudecca; and San Vito was a house of Augustinian nuns in Borgo di Sotto, now via Scandiana:
and to this day they are still most excellent, & among these last [San Vito] marvelously and a rare Organist beyond all belief (although greatly aged) is Mother Suor Raffaella, daughter of the late Signor Giovanni Battista Aleotti, Engineer, called l’Argenta.
Raffaella was not only “without equal in playing the organ,” but under the tutelage of Ercole Pasquini she had also published a volume of motets and one of madrigals “highly esteemed.”
The large ensemble of the nuns of San Vito, directed by Suora Raffaella, comprised twenty-three performers, including two cornetts, trombones, violins, viole bastarde, double harps, lutes, bagpipes, flutes, harpsichords, and voices—notably two sopranos, two female “good tenors” (“tenori buoni”), and a female “singular and astonishing bass” (“basso singolare e di stupore”). The theorist Giovanni Maria Artusi concluded that “this is the most excellent, unified, and well proportioned Ensemble that Italy possesses.” (see fig. 1.7).
Bottrigari described a performance of the San Vito concerto:
… to the place where there is prepared a long table, on which on one side is a large harpsichord, you would see them enter one by one, very slowly, each one bringing with her her instrument, whether stringed, or wind, whatever, because they perform on all types, & approaching that table, without making the least noise those who have to play their instruments seated, sit in their appointed place: & the others remain standing. Finally the Maestra of the Concerto [Raffaella] sits down at the other side of the table, & with a long, & slender, & well polished little rod set before her, when she has seen, & clearly known that all the other sisters are prepared, without any noise whatever she gives a sign to begin, & then follows the measure of the tempo; which they must obey in singing and playing … … Neither Fiorino, nor Luzzasco, although both are held in great honor by them, nor any other [male] musician nor living man takes part there…
Even on “masculine” instruments such as cornetts and trombones, the nuns performed graceful virtuoso passaggi, “not of those so chopped up, & and so furious, & continuous [ones]… but they are drawn out in time, & place with such delightful liveliness, that they render ornament, & great Spirit.
Unlike the citywide concerto grande and the performing nuns, the greatest musical jewel of Ferrara, the concerto delle dame principalissime, was intended primarily for the private enjoyment of Alfonso himself and his intimates. The duke was jealous of his performers and of their repertory, both texts and music. When the court poet Annibale Pocaterra, whom the duke had encouraged to compose madrigal verse, died in 1593, Alfonso expropriated his literary remains, and Luzzaschi’s madrigals for the dame were not published until well after the duke’s death.
From 1567 until Alfonso’s marriage (his third) with the fifteen-year-old Margherita Gonzaga in 1579 (fig. 1.8), the concerto delle dame had consisted of cultivated aristocratic amateur women singers—Isabella and Lucrezia Bendidio, Leonora Sanvitale, and Vittoria Bentivoglio, along with the virtuoso soldier-bass Giulio Cesare Brancaccio—accompanied by professional musicians. After Alfonso’s marriage new recruitments under Margherita’s aegis created the classic concerto delle dame principalissime, a virtuoso chamber ensemble built around three sopranos of middle-class origin: Laura Peverara (d. 1601), Livia d’Arco (d. 1611), and Anna Guarini (d. 1598), daughter of the poet Giovanni Battista. They also played harp, viol, and lute respectively (specially decorated instruments were built for them, of which the harp survives [Durante 1982]). Brancaccio continued to serve until 1583, and in 1589-97 the Roman bass Melchiorre Palontrotti formed part of the ensemble. Luzzaschi accompanied as keyboard player and Fiorino as performer on the archlute or pandora.
The concerto delle dame achieved its definitive form in February 1582 with the assumption of Livia d’Arco after three years of musical training, in which configuration it was heard by the Florentine connoisseurs Giulio Caccini and Count Giovanni Bardi in Carnival of 1583 (Newcomb 19802, I, 69). By the mid-1580s in addition to Bardi and Caccini the concerto had performed for Luca Marenzio, Giaches de Wert, Costanzo Porta, Orlando di Lasso, Alessandro Striggio, Ottavio Rinuccini, and Alfonso della Viola. In summer their performances lasted from the nineteenth to the twenty-first hour (about half-past four to six-thirty in the afternoon), in winter from the first hour of night to past the third hour (approximately six to eight p.m.). On at least one occasion Laura Peverara prolonged the concert for four hours.
The repertory of the dame was remarkable. In 1590 Bardi heard them sing “more than three hundred thirty Madrigals by memory, a wonderful thing, nor did they ever spoil even a syllable of it” (“più di trecento trenta Madrigali alla mente, cosa miracolosa, né mai guastarne pure una sillaba”). The singers performed in the apartments of Duchess Margherita or Duchess Lucrezia, who otherwise avoided the rooms of her sister-in-law. (As future events were to show, Lucrezia detested her family. Separated from her husband, she had formed a liason with a Ferrarese noble. The father of her cousin Don Cesare revealed this to the duke, who had the man strangled.)
Much of the repertory of the dame principalissime seems to have been learned viva voce. Some idea of the unwritten refinements of their performing style can be gathered from Vincenzo Giustiniani’s 1628 description of the dame vying with their counterparts at Mantua:
… and in addition moderating or increasing the voice loud or soft, thinning it or thickening it, which according as it came in turn [a’ tagli], now dragging it, now stopping it with the accompaniment of a sweet interrupted sigh, now drawing out long passaggi, well pursued, standing out; now in groups [groppi?], now in leaps, now with long trills and now with short ones; now with passages sweet and sung softly, from which sometimes unexpectedly one heard echoes answer, and principally with the action of the face and the glances and the gestures that appropriately accompanied the music and the conceits [concetti]; and above all without disgraceful movements of the body and of the mouth and the hands, that were not directed to the purpose for which they sang, and making the words stand out in such manner that one heard also the last syllable of each word, which was not interrupted and suppressed by the passaggi and other embellishments… 
We can only guess at Frescobaldi’s contacts with the musical life of Ferrara as he was growing up. Experience of the music for public ceremonies and religious occasions in the cathedral and other churches of the city, including organ music, may be taken for granted. Given the city-wide composition of the concerto grande under the direction of Luzzaschi and Fiorini, it is likely that Girolamo performed there either as singer or instrumentalist. He may have been admitted to performances of the nuns of S. Vito, but the ensemble of the ladies was another matter: even courtiers were sometimes rudely excluded. On one occasion the singers were summoned to Lucrezia’s rooms, “and then the door [was] shut leaving all the other women in the lurch in the hall.” On the other hand, in dedicating his first book of madrigals à 6 of 1583 (Ferrara: Baldini) to Alfonso II, Girolamo Belli, another pupil of Luzzaschi, recalled the duke’s favors “to my own person, by your deigning more than once to admit me to your marvelous secret music [musica ritirata].”
The participation of the Frescobaldi family in the musical life of Ferrara is suggested by the presence of Luzzaschi, the leading musician of the Ferrarese court, as godfather to Lodovico Frescobaldi (fig. 1.9). Luzzasco’s colleague Ippolito Fiorino was later involved with Frescobaldi’s Roman pre-marital difficulties. Another acquaintance of the Frescobaldi family who was also a prominent member of the Ferrarese musical environment was “Signor Goretti”: Antonio Goretti (c. 1570-1649), a noted Ferrarese amateur and later a collaborator of Monteverdi. Goretti was a pupil of Luigi Mazzi, who dedicated his 1596 instrumental Ricercari to Goretti. Goretti maintained a large music library and instrumentarium, which eventually housed Vicentino’s archicembalo. At Goretti’s house Giovanni Maria Artusi heard on 16 November 1598 the madrigals that prompted his attack on Monteverdi (L’Artusi, 1600):
we went to the house of Sig. Antonio Goretti a Noble Ferrarese, a young virtuoso, and lover of Musicians, as much as any other, that I have yet known: there I found Sig. Luzasco, and Sig. Ippolito Fiorini, distinguished men, with whom were gathered many noble spirits, and connoisseurs of Music…
The earliest account of Girolamo’s career, that of Agostino Superbi published in 1620, stresses his precocity from his youth in Ferrara:
At present there still lives to the honor of his native city Girolamo Frescobaldi, a man of most beautiful talent and of elevated spirit. He distinguished himself not only in music and in composition, but especially on the organ so that he acquired reputation and fame, and he belongs among the most distinguished [men]. Already in his first youth he played the organ in his native city and performed sublime things. Then he was brought to Flanders, where for many years he made himself talked of, now he resides in Rome, as organist of S. Pietro, and he possess such ability, that at present he must be numbered among the first organists of our time. By him there exist many works, which were printed, part in Flanders, part in Milan and in Rome; in addition many Madrigals and innumerable works for the Church, which are circulated in manuscript [sotto mano].
In 1621 Guarini wrote that Luzzaschi “was the Master of that Girolamo Frescobaldi, still a musician of great reputation, and organist of S. Pietro in Rome.”
Antonio Libanori’s somewhat suspect account of 1674 is more circumstantial:
As a boy he was deemed an Angel of the heavenly Choir for the delicacy of his voice in singing, and the swiftness of his hand in playing. While still a Youth, brought through various principal Cities of Italy, with his sweet song and sound on all the Instruments of Music, both those played by the breath, and by the hand, but especially the harpsichord and Organ, he drew the ears to hear him, and the tongues of all to praise him. He touched the keys of the Organ with such art, and fine order, and quickness of hand, that he astonished those who saw and heard him.
An encomiastic Latin poem written before 1658 supports the account of Frescobaldi’s precocity: “When he had scarcely attained the seventeenth year of his age  the City heard him playing the organ with wondrous art, and was astounded.”
The breadth of Luzzasco Luzzaschi’s musical experience must have made him an ideal mentor for Frescobaldi. Born sometime before 1545, Luzzaschi had studied with Cipriano da Rore until Rore’s departure from Ferrara in 1557, after which he probably completed his training in composition with Alfonso della Viola; his organ teacher seems to have been Jacques Brumel. Luzzaschi served the Ferrarese court in a variety of capacities. He was a singer in the ducal chapel by 1563; at Brumel’s death in 1564 he became first organist to Alfonso II. About 1570 he succeeded Alfonso della Viola as director of court chamber music. On 30 September 1572 he was named organist of the cathedral of Ferrara, and by 1581 he was ranked with Giuseppe Guami and Claudio Merulo as one of the three great organists of the time. (Only much later, in 1640, was his keyboard skill called into question by Pietro Della Valle, citing Lelio Guidiccioni.)
Luzzaschi indicated his own confidence in his abilities as a teacher in a letter of 10 November 1573 to Guidobaldo della Rovere: “… I will employ all diligence in teaching the son of Messer Jachet [of Mantua, d. 1559] of happy memory, and may it please God that my art may succeed corresponding to [my] spirit, so that in a few days he might return a worthy man to serve Your Excellency.”
Luzzasco was remembered warmly in Ferrara: in 1620 Superbi wrote of him:
… he was an honored man, of exemplary life, a most perfect Musician, & Musician of the Most Serene Alfonso II, fifth Duke, of whom he was director of the Concerti, that were done at the Court, now with the Dame, & now with Musicians: the rarest and most singular concerts that were ever heard; and he was also eminent & most famous for playing the Organ, he was a friendly rival of Claudio [Merulo] of Correggio, and both were the greatest Organists that Italy has had; he gave a thousand proofs of his most graceful playing, and aroused astonishment, and he was greatly esteemed by the Prince of Venosa (a most excellent Musician); many of his works are seen, such as many books of Madrigals, many Motets, & other most worthy works for ensemble.
Despite his contemporary fame as a keyboardist, Luzzaschi is now remembered chiefly as a vocal composer. His post of director of the duke’s musica da camera presumably prompted the composition of the five-part unaccompanied madrigals that he published in 1571, 1576, and 1582. His very different madrigals for one to three solo voices and obbligato keyboard, although not issued until 1601, were clearly intended for the concerto delle dame before Alfonso II’s death in 1597. In 1598 Luzzaschi published a volume of sacred music dedicated to Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini.
In addition to his abilities as a singer, teacher, keyboard player, and composer, Luzzaschi was one of the few musicians capable not only of playing but even of composing for Nicola Vicentino’s archicembalo, a complex harpsichord designed to produce all three of the ancient Greek genera—diatonic, chromatic, and enharmonic—by the use of thirty-one notes to the octave. Derived from ancient Greek musical theory, the genera provided three ways of calculating the three divisions of the perfect fourth: tone, tone, semitone (diatonic); minor third, semitone, semitone (chromatic); major third and two quarter-tones (enharmonic). (A performance of Vicentino’s Madonna il poco dulce by Johannes Keller on a reproduction of the archicembalo is available on the Internet.)
Bottrigari described the instrument (fig. 1.10a-b):
a large Clavacembalo, with all three Harmonic genera, according to the invention, & division made of twenty-six Diatonic pitches in more than one-hundred-thirty strings, with two keyboards full of semitones, or double black keys, & split, by Don Nicola Vicentino… it is only rarely used for the great difficulty in part in tuning it, and in maintaining once it has been tuned; therefore there is no skilled master tuner, [or] practised, & experienced Organist of worth, who is not almost terrified just at being presented with so great a quantity of strings, with these keys divided, as I have said, into two keyboards with the usual black semitones, split in two, & still others added; as well as in order to facilitate somewhat such difficulty it is often necessary for the the player to press and hold down with one hand some keys of both keyboards at the same time: & occasionally do the same at the same time with one, & the other hand.
Carlo Gesualdo’s musician Scipione Stella was so impressed by Luzzaschi’s performance on the archicembalo that he ordered one for himself. Despite its complexity, the instrument rendered “a new harmony to the ears” and “a new sight to the eyes” when Luzzaschi “touches it very delicately, with some Musical compositions made by himself for this purpose alone.” In his Melopeo y maestro (1613), the theorist Pietro Cerone declared: “There was never heard so perfect an harmony as when Luzzasco performed on the said instrument compositions expressly created by him” (“Non si udì mai una tale armonia perfetta come quando Luzzasco eseguiva sul detto strumento composizioni da lui espressamente create”: Lunelli 1958, 84).
Girolamo’s apprentice years in Ferrara coincided with the significant musical developments of the 1580s and 1590s, in which Duke Alfonso’s musical establishment played a central role. The same years saw a revival of interest in the polyphonic madrigal at the Ferrarese court, and these musical trends were fused in the “luxuriant” madrigal. The madrigal took on something of the structural clarity and superficial ornamentation of less sophisticated genres, resulting in a texture based not upon the older ideal of equality of voices but upon a simpler homophonic fabric enlivened by the new style of vocal diminution rather than by structural counterpoint.
Although the Ferrarese displayed little interest in monody, recitative, or opera (except for scenography), the visits of Counts Bardi and Corsi and the close association of Giulio Caccini and Ottavio Rinuccini with Ferrara in the 1580s and 1590s show that the Florentine avant-garde was conversant with musical trends there. In 1588 Jacopo Peri was asked to send music to Ferrara (Carter 2013, 390). Monteverdi’s intention of presenting a manuscript collection of madrigals to Alfonso II was frustrated by the duke’s death, but in 1603 he dedicated his fourth book of madrigals (many on texts by Ferrarese poets) to the new Ferrarese Accademia degli Intrepidi.
Two volumes of madrigals, the Lauro secco, the first madrigal anthology of the decade (1582), and the Lauro verde (1583), were published by the Ferrarese ducal printer Baldini. Compiled by Tasso and his friends (the Accademia dei Rinnovati) in honor of the singer Laura Peverara, they comprised works by northern Italian and Roman composers and gathered together “all of the most vital styles in the madrigal around 1580” (Newcomb 19802, I, 76): the traditional madrigal; the madrigale arioso of the 1550s-60s; the Venetian pastoral canzonetta; the Roman madrigal, influenced by the villanella; and the new luxuriant style with lines saturated at some points by diminution. The Lauro secco and Lauro verde initiated a series of madrigal-publications continuing almost to the end of the duchy and comprising works by Luzzaschi, Gesualdo, Alfonso Fontanelli and others. The most important figure in the development of the luxuriant style was Luca Marenzio, who dedicated his Madrigali II/5 of 1581 to Lucrezia d’Este.
Although the new luxuriant madrigal was a natural development for younger composers, notably the Romans Marenzio and Ruggero Giovannelli, it required a distinct effort on the part of the most distinguished senior composers of the Ferrarese circle, Luzzaschi and Wert. Luzzaschi in particular seems to have been uncomfortable with the new style. This, along with the bass Giulio Cesare Brancaccio’s departure in 1583, may account for his relatively small output in the 1580s.
The turning point in the further evolution of the madrigal at Ferrara came with the advent of Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, to marry Donna Leonora d’Este, the sister of Duke Alfonso’s cousin and heir presumptive, Don Cesare d’Este, who was herself an accomplished singer. The marriage had a political subtext: Gesualdo’s uncle, Cardinal Alfonso Gesualdo, Dean of the Sacred College, was a leading opponent of the investiture of Don Cesare as Duke Alfonso’s successor, whose opposition might be softened by a family connection with the Estensi. The marriage contract, by which the bride brought a staggering dowry of 50,000 scudi, had been signed on 20 March 1593 (Watkins 1973, 39-40).
Gesualdo was met at Argenta by Count Alfonso Fontanelli, a Ferrarese courtier and composer, and arrived in Ferrara on Saturday 19 February of 1594. The prince was accompanied by a suite of Southern musicians: the lutenist Fabrizio Filomarino, the keyboard player and composer Scipione Stella, and the harpist Rinaldo Trematerra dell’Arpa. (Although not a member of Gesualdo’s entourage, Scipione Dentice, “del Cimbalo,” a Neapolitan musician in the service of Cardinal Montalto, was already in contact with the court of Ferrara in August of 1591, when he dedicated a collection of madrigals to Alfonso II.)
The Ferrarese chronicler Faustini noted:
… on the occasion of whose [Gesualdo’s] coming all the Musicians, & in particular, those of the Duke had occasion to show their prowess, since that Prince was most versed in that noble faculty appropriate only to noble spirits; whence among all of them, that he [Gesualdo] heard he particularly praised Sig. Luzzasco de’ Lazzaschi [!] Organist, for his exquisite manner of playing, & for a certain Enharmonic instrument, which he played for him.
The festivities for the wedding of Gesualdo and Donna Eleanora began on Carnival Sunday (20 February) with a supper in the Sala dei Giganti of the Palazzo del Corte, followed by a tournament (campo aperto) in the Sala del Pallone, the gran sala di commedie of the palace. The forces comprised twenty-one knights on horseback, thirty-one on foot, and three mantenitori or champions: Cesare d’Este, Ippolito Bentivoglio, and Giulio Thiene. The floor of the hall was laid with stone and sanded for the horses, and a complete temporary theater, brightly illuminated, was built. After the torneo the masked audience danced until dawn.
On Monday (21 February) the Gesualdo-Este wedding was celebrated in the palace chiesetta of the duchess by the bishop of Ferrara. The Sala del Pallone was refurbished for a moresca:
… there appeared there, several masked Ladies, garbed in armor made of mica [talco], with rings of braid, fitting to their state as female warriors, who to the time of musical sounds, of viols, and violins, danced together, shaking certain arrows, with that masterful grace, that the Moors customarily make dancing together, a thing which was of the greatest delight, not just to the entire Theater, but to the Prince Bridegroom himself, who had never seen a like combat done by Ladies.
On Tuesday (Mardi Gras, 22 Feb.) the cavalieri of the court in new liveries and fanciful helmets ran a quintain on the piazza alongside the cathedral for the entertainment of the populace, after which the knights went to supper at Don Cesare’s Palazzo dei diamanti in the Terra Nova. The ensuing entertainments included a Giovecca (Sunday 27 February), musical performances by the nuns of San Silvestro and San Vito (3-4 March), a pastorale (Sunday 6 March), a visit to Belriguardo (7-10 March), and a performance by the concerto grande (Sunday 13 March) in the Teatro delle Stalle.
“The Prince Bridegroom remained in Ferrara all the Lent that followed, and not only until Easter [10 April], but until the Lord’s Ascension [9 May], in which time he went several times to hear not only the Singing Ladies of the Duchess of Urbino, but the Musical Ensembles of all the Nuns, remaining greatly satisfied with their singing.” On the day before the vigil of the Ascension Gesualdo took ship for Venice to see the ceremony of the sposalizio on Ascension Day.
Despite Gesualdo’s approbation of Luzzaschi’s performance on the archicembalo, Luzzaschi’s madrigal writing proved to have greater influence on Gesualdo’s career. To Count Alfonso Fontanelli, Gesualdo “[s]ays he has left that first style and has set himself to imitate Luzzasco, highly loved and celebrated by him, although he says that not all of Luzzasco’s madrigals are equally well written, as he claims to wish to point out to Luzzasco himself.” Gesualdo demonstrated his esteem by dedicating to Luzzaschi his fourth book of madrigals, issued at Ferrara in 1596, in which he set nine texts from Luzzaschi’s Book VI (1596—check this).
The Prince’s extended visits to Ferrara seem in turn to have galvanized Luzzaschi, who issued no less than three madrigal collections between 1594 and 1596, manifestos of a stylistic counterrevolution in the direction of serious and expressive madrigal writing influential far beyond Ferrara.
The earlier strong Venetian influence on Ferrarese music does not seem to have extended much beyond an occasional polychoral mass, but works by both Luzzaschi and Frescobaldi (including a double-choir canzona) appeared in the Venetian Alessandro Raverij’s Canzoni of 1608, together with six canzonas of Giovanni Gabrieli. Luzzaschi’s three collections of four-voice keyboard ricercars, of which only the second book survives (in a manuscript copy), were published by Gardano of Venice. The Venetian printer Giacomo Vincenti included two ricercari and a toccata of Luzzaschi in Girolamo Diruta’s Il Transilvano (I: 1593, II: 1609-10) together with works by the two Gabrieli, Claudio Merulo, Paolo Quagliati, and Gioseffo Guami. Vincenti issued Luzzaschi’s seventh book of five-part madrigals (1604); an anonymous collection of sixteen organ versets on the eight church tones, the Intavolatura d’Organo facilissima accomodata, published by Vincenti in 1598, has also been ascribed to Luzzaschi. Although most of his contemporaries praised Luzzaschi’s playing, in 1640 Pietro della Valle addressed Lelio Guidiccioni: “nonetheless I marvel at what Your Lordship told me of Lucciasco, the he did not know how to make a trill and that he played so rustically only by skill [arte] the finest subtleties of his counterpoints, without any accompaniment of elegance.”
The sources of Ferrarese keyboard style presumably lay in the work of Jacques Brumel, whose keyboard writing balances considerations of part-writing and cantus firmus treatment with those of freer organ sonority. A group of fourteen anonymous imitative instrumental pieces in a manuscript now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, has four concordances with the Vatican manuscript Chigi Q. VIII. 206, where they are attributed to “Giaches,” who has been variously identified as Wert or Brumel. If so, this would make them rare examples of a Ferrarese-Mantuan school of instrumental music. Dinko Fabris, however, has suggested attributing them to the Neapolitan Fabrizio Dentice.
The influence of the Ferrarese tradition of keyboard music is evident in the careers of two of Luzzaschi’s other pupils: Fabio Richetti, organist of the cathedral of Modena; and Carlo Mentini, called Fillago (Rovigo c. 1586-Venice, 1644, organist of the cathedral in Treviso 1608-23, of Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice, and first organist of San Marco (1623: Caffi 1987, 195-96).
Alessandro Milleville (d. 1589), the second organist of the Ferrarese court under Luzzaschi, was the teacher of Ercole Pasquini. On 1 May 1592 Pasquini was organist of the ridotti of Mario Bevilacqua and of the Olivetan church of Santa Maria in Organo, Verona, where he published a play, I fidi amanti (Verona, 1593), for the Gesualdo wedding. In its dedication he described it as “this fruit of my profession not so much distant as unexpected“ (“questo frutto non tanto lontano quanto inaspettato dalla profession mia”). On the death of Bevilacqua Pasquini returned to Ferrara. In Giovanni Battista Aleotti’s preface to the Sacræ cantiones of his daughter the nun Raffaella (Venice: Amadino, 1593), he refers to her teacher as a “buon vecchio,” suggesting that Pasquini was born ca. 1540-50. Pasquini took over the instruction of Raffaella on the death of their teacher Milleville in 1589 (Ladewig says he probably taught her 1583-86). In 1591 Cesare d’Este proposed Pasquini as organist of the Holy House of Loreto to Cardinal Antonio Maria Gallo, its Protector, but without success.
According to Superbi, Pasquini “was very spirited, & most excellent in Music, & the Organ & for many years played the principal organs in his native city.” (Despite his “delicate and rapid hand,” “Ercole Pasquini, because being an expert Organist, but however not employed at Court because he was young, & Milleville and Luzzaschi still lived, & others older than him, with the loss of the favor of his Prince, passing to Rome, finally going insane, he died in misery as Organist of St. Peter’s in that City.”)
Pasquini was admitted organist of the Cappella Giulia at St. Peter’s in October 1597 and dismissed on 19 May 1608 “justis de causis”—presumably for insanity, since for two months in 1605 his salary had been assigned to the maestro di casa of the Ospedale dei Pazzi. On at least two occasions Pasquini performed in the Este city of Modena, already displaying signs of mental instability. 
The wide geographical range of Alfonso d’Este’s music library suggests that the important keyboard collections issued at the end of the century in Rome and Venice, such as Il Transilvano, were also known in Ferrara. The equally important tradition of southern Italian keyboard writing, presumably transmitted by the close cultural links between the Neapolitan and Ferrarese courts, was represented in person at Ferrara by Gesualdo’s follower Scipione Stella. Gesualdo was also closely connected with another composer working at Naples, Giovanni di Macque, of whom thirty-five keyboard pieces survive. The diminutions of vocal works for viola da gamba and continuo by two other musicians of the Ferrarese court circle, the gambist Orazio Bassano (based in Parma, d. before 1609) and the organist Vincenzo Bonizzi (d. 1630), a pupil of Merulo, suggest that ornamental diminution was characteristic of Ferrarese instrumental style, as it was of vocal music.
The importance of lute music at the Ferrarese court is evident in the careers of Leonardo Maria Piccinini (c. 1530-after 1597) and his three sons, Alessandro (1566-before 1638), Girolamo (1573-1610), and Filippo (1576-1648). Leonardo Maria served duke Alfonso from 1582 until the duke’s death in 1597. Alessandro first appears on the court rolls in 1590 and his brothers in 1597. After the dissolution of the court in 1597 all three entered the service of Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini in June of 1598 and followed him to Rome late in the year; Filippo remained in the Cardinal’s service until 1612. Girolamo Piccinini accompanied the papal nuncio Guido Bentivoglio to Flanders and died there. Alessandro became a musical advisor to Frescobaldi’s future patron, Guido Bentivoglio’s brother Enzo, and furnished compositions for Enzo’s musica in 1609-10. Describing the pieces for two and three lutes on his Intavolatura of 1623, dedicated to Enzo, Alessandro says that he performed them with his brothers, first in Ferrara, then for Cardinal Aldobrandini in Rome. Girolamo Piccinini “played with a more serious manner, & and played the larger Lute,” while Filippo “played with more fancy; & played the smaller Lute.”
Frescobaldi’s Lehrjahre thus witnessed the development of the luxuriant madrigal in the 1580s and 1590s, the reciprocal influence of Gesualdo and Luzzaschi that led to the more serious and expressive madrigal after 1594, and the less clearly defined but no less important developments in Ferrarese instrumental music, as influenced by the Neapolitan musicians of Gesualdo’s suite and others and transmitted through Luzzaschi, the most celebrated composer and keyboard player of the duchy. The art of Rore and Brumel, as Girolamo received it from Luzzaschi, was a compendium of mainstream Netherlands practice and idiomatic keyboard style, but it also contained the seeds of seventeenth-century style, as Giulio Cesare Monteverdi indicated in naming Rore and Luzzaschi among the founders of the seconda pratica. On the evidence of Luzzaschi’s surviving vocal and instrumental works, Frescobaldi must have learned from him not only the rudiments of the composer’s art but also Luzzaschi’s contrapuntal skill, sophisticated handling of diminution, harmonic boldness, and sensitivity to texture. Like Luzzaschi, Girolamo became one of the few competent performers on enharmonic instruments, a tradition that he apparently transmitted to his own pupils. His later chromatic experiments within the context of more conventional tunings may also have been inspired by Luzzaschi.
A letter from Bernardo Bizzoni to Enzo Bentivoglio reveals one possible influence on Frescobaldi’s musical formation: “old Ricercari without words by Adrian [Willaert] made only to be played.” The collection in question must have been Willaert’s only set of published “Ricercari without words”: FANTASIE RECERCARI / CONTRAPVNTI A TRE VOCI DI /M. adriano & de altri Autori appropriati per Cantare & Sonare d’ogni / sorte di Stromenti … (Willaert 1986) in three part books, CTB. With reference to the three-voice medium, in his preface to the Vespertina psalmodia of Tullio Cima (Rome, 1673), the publisher Giovanni Angelo Muti claimed Frescobaldi as his teacher and singled out “playing from Score, and making three-part Counterpoints” as elements in his youthful training.
The first record of Girolamo’s musical activity appears in a brief and less than totally reliable list compiled in 1683 of maestri di cappella and musicians of the Ferrarese Accademia della Morte. The Accademia, a hybrid of religious confraternity and humanistic academy, was one of the organizations that took up the slack left for Ferrarese musicians by the dissolution of the ducal musica, enlivening its principal religious functions with notable musical performances. From the 1590s, according to the list, its organists were Luzzaschi, Ercole Pasquini, and Frescobaldi, who apparently succeded at the age of fourteen on Pasquini’s departure in 1597. The organists served under a number of able maestri: Ippolito Fiorini (maestro 1594-97), Giulio Belli, Alessandro Grandi (1597-1604), and Paolo Isnardi (maestro 1604-09), perhaps the son of the homonymous maestro of the Ferrara cathedral.
Frescobaldi’s first known patrons were the brothers Enzo and Guido Bentivoglio.
After the Estensi, the Bentivoglio were the greatest family in Ferrara, former lords of Bologna (from which they had been evicted by a papal conspiracy a century earlier), and connections both of the Estensi and of the house of Aragon. Their palace, with its flamboyant façade of martial trophies (finished 1585: fig. 1.11), still evokes a race of noble soldiers, diplomats, and historians whose ambitions reached far beyond Ferrara to the Low Countries and even to the papal throne.
The Bentivoglio maintained the division of functions characteristic of a noble Renaissance clan. Ippolito (d. 1619), the eldest son of Marchese Cornelio Bentivoglio (d. 1585) by his first marriage, was a soldier who had commanded the forces of Cesare d’Este, whom he followed to Modena. Ippolito’s half-brother Enzo (d. 1639), the fruit of Cornelio’s late second marriage with Isabella Bendidio (1573), acted as head of the family in Ferrara—courtier, diplomat, impresario of spectacular events. Enzo’s younger brother, Guido (1577-1644), like many other noble younger sons of intellectual bent, was destined for the Church, to be advanced through the ecclesiastical hierarchy with the support of the family money and prestige in hopes of a cardinalate or even the papacy, the ultimate prize.
How Frescobaldi came to the notice of the Bentivoglio is not known—perhaps through his service in the Accademia della Morte founded in 1592, whose rival, the Accademia dello Spirito Santo, was founded in 1597. Guido is Girolamo’s earliest recorded patron, in Rome in 1607, but it is possible that Enzo, as head of the Ferrarese branch of the family, first discovered Frescobaldi. In any case, the influence of Casa Bentivoglio overshadowed Frescobaldi’s life long after he left Guido’s immediate service.
Guido Bentivoglio (fig. 1.12) was six years older than Girolamo. His interest in music may have been inherited from his mother, Isabella Bendidio, sister of the more famous Lucrezia of the first version of the Ferrarese dame principalissime. The family also had literary connections: Lucrezia had been an early love of Torquato Tasso, who wrote over a hundred lyrics in her honor. Giovanni Battista Guarini (1538-1612), the author of Il pastor fido and the lyric poet most in vogue among madrigal composers, was Enzo’s uncle-in-law by his marriage with Enzo’s maternal aunt Taddea Bendidio: Enzo was later to draw considerable advantage for his theatrical activities from having his uncle the great lyric and dramatic poet on tap. (Guarini also ghost-wrote Luzzaschi’s dedication of his Madrigals VI/5  to Lucrezia d’Este.)
Although their half-brother, Ippolito, had supported Don Cesare, Guido’s own older brother, Enzo, prudently sided with the papal government. Guido initially attracted the attention of Cardinal Aldobrandini by interceding for Ippolito with the ingenuous excuse that the renegade had been trained as a soldier rather than as a theologian. Like almost everyone else, Cardinal Pietro—only six years older than Guido—seems to have felt the charm of the young nobleman, and Guido was promised a post as cameriere segreto, a member of the pope’s personal household, upon the completion of his studies at the University of Padua.