Famed Italian Organist and Innovative Composer

Girolamo Frescobaldi was an Italian born in 1583 who not only was a devoted student to the best of early 17th century Italian music but picked up some of ideas from the Netherlands during excursions to Belgium.

The Italian school he understudied contributed the Madrigal from the 15th and 16th century. This being the romantic multi-part harmonies developing along with inventions and their offshoots in keyboards, including Clavichord, Pianoforte, Harpsichord, Virginal, Spinet, organ and Clavier. But, more importantly, the Renaissance was experiencing a demand for instrumentals on these wonderful new instruments and the exploration of a new musical universe.

So now just before he was born the Sonata was born in Holland by Adrian Willaert of the Netherlands school, and his pupils influenced Girolamo during his visit. Another important development during this artistic re-birth, was the trend to look to two part dance tunes, instead of just the Church music.

After some of the dance based music was published in 1551 still clumsily married to the church pieces, some finally were assembled with the new harmonic style combining Variety with Unity, this profound form derived from this synthesis was called the Suite.

Girolamo Frescobaldi used his technique of starting a melodic phrase, a specific kind of passage, and then re-introducing it in the unfolding composition, changed somewhat, but always identifiable, and cohesive: at his organ debut at St. Peter's at Rome in 1615. He wrote for clavier, also, and he wrote: Ricercari, Canzone, and Capricci. These compositions revealed never heard-before themes, nonstandard harmonies, chromatic progression, and virtuosity that were unified in pieces worthy of later scholarly exploration. He succeeded in leaving a heritage before his death at 61 years.

Source: History of Music, W. J. Baltzell; 1905

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