Girolamo Frescobaldi was a major figure in the transition
between the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods and immensely
influential as a composer of keyboard music. Among the many composers
influenced by Frescobaldi's music is none other than Henry Purcell, G.F. Handel
and J.S. Bach. Furthermore, his most important pupil, Johann Jakob Froberger,
became one of the most influential composers of the Baroque period, whose works
both survived and were still studied during the time of Mozart and Beethoven.
Though his sacred music is considered less important than his keyboard music,
his sole collection of church music, Fiori
musicali, nevertheless served as a model of strict counterpoint well into
the 18th and 19th centuries.
Frescobaldi was born in Ferrara in September, 1583. His
father, a landowner, and possibly an organist himself, may have been his first
music teacher. Frescobaldi exhibited an early inclination for the organ and
garnered the reputation of a child prodigy. Indeed, his skill was enough to
draw the attention of Luzzasco Luzzaschi, a court organist, who took him on as
a pupil. Besides being an organist, Luzzaschi was a respected composer and it
is likely from him that the young Frescobaldi learned his remarkable skills in
counterpoint and harmony.
With a desire to further his career, Frescobaldi eventually
left his hometown and travelled to Rome as early as 1604 and certainly by 1607.
For the first half of that year, he was employed as an organist at Santa Maria
in Trastevere. However, the patronage of Guido Bentivoglio, Archbishop of
Rhodes, took Frescobaldi to Flanders where he served as a musician in
Bentivoglio's entourage. Frescobaldi's time here was also short-lived. In July
of the following year, while he was still in Brussels, Frescobaldi was elected
to succeed Ercole Pasquini as the organist at St. Peter's in Rome. He accepted
the position but did not assume his duties until October 31. The position was
not a financially lucrative one, but it brought Frescobaldi into the employment
of Enzo Bentivoglio, ambassador to Rome from Ferrara. After becoming estranged
from Bentivoglio, Frescobaldi entered the employment of the wealthy Cardinal
Pietro Aldobrandini in 1612. The position brought him financial security and
his growing fame as a composer placed him at the forefront of Italian
Beginning in 1615, the next thirteen years were
Frescobaldi's most productive period with several collections of keyboard and
instrumental pieces appearing in print. In 1628, he was granted a leave from
Rome and on November 22 he departed for Florence. There he entered into the
service of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, a member of the powerful Medici family. In
1634, the composer returned to Rome, taking up once again his duties at St.
Peter's. Frescobaldi died on March 1, 1643.
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