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Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643)

Donald Macleod examine's Frescobaldi's music in the context of his times.

Donald Macleod is joined by scholar and performer Christopher Stembridge to explore Frescobaldi's life and work.

They begin with an examination of Frescobaldi's early years in Ferrara, where he absorbed the city's rich cultural heritage, including the music of his predecessors and contemporaries whose influence rubbed off on him: Josquin Desprez, a former maestro di capella at the Ferrara court; Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Frescobaldi's teacher; Alessandro Grandi, Frescobaldi's younger colleague at the Accademia della Morte; Claudio Monteverdi, whom Stembridge sees as playing Handel to Frescobaldi's Bach; a trio of Neapolitan composers, Gesualdo, Mayone and De Macque; and a Venetian one - Giovanni Gabrieli.

Macleod and Christopher Stembridge focus on Frescobaldi's keyboard music and, in particular, on his groundbreaking publication in 1615 of the First Book of Toccatas and Partitas, which the composer rushed into print a year ahead of schedule in his attempts to land a plum job at the Mantuan court. Next his vocal and instrumental work, including a selection of his motets, part-songs and instrumental canzonas from the 1620s, when he was in Rome and presiding at the organ in the basilica of St Peter's. Then, his music for organ, with several instruments from Frescobaldi's era. Featuring the musical compendium regarded by many as his masterpiece, Fiori musicali - Musical Flowers - of which Bach had a copy.

Finally, they consider Frescobaldi's influence on later generations, including Johann Jakob Froberger, who came to study with Frescobaldi in 1637 after a spell as organist at the imperial court in Vienna; Bach, who studied Frescobaldi's Fiori Musicali, and whose own Clavierubung and Art of Fugue show its influence; and Ligeti, who based the eleventh piece in his Musica Ricercata collection on Frescobaldi's Recercar Cromatico.

Release date:


1 hour, 3 minutes


Role Contributor
Composer Girolamo Frescobaldi