Girolamo Frescobaldi

Girolamo Frescobaldi

Girolamo Frescobaldi (baptized mid-September 1583 – March 1, 1643) was an Italian musician, one of the most important composers of keyboard music in the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods. There is no evidence that the Frescobaldi of Ferrara were related to the homonymous Florentine noble house.


Frescobaldi was born in Ferrara.

He studied under the organist and famous madrigalist Luzzasco Luzzaschi at Ferrara and is also considered to have been influenced by Carlo Gesualdo, who was in Ferrara at the time. His patron Guido Bentivoglio [] helped him get the position as an organist at the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome in the spring of 1607. Frescobaldi travelled with Bentivoglio to the Low Countries before Frescobaldi became organist of St Peter's in Rome in 1608, a post he held until his death. From 1628 to 1634 he was organist at the court of the Medicis in Florence.

Frescobaldi died in Rome at the age of 59, and a grave bearing his name and honoring him as one of the fathers of Italian music exists in the Church of the XXII Apostles in the same city.

Keyboard works

The majority of Frescobaldi's extant output consists of keyboard music. His renowned prowess at the keyboard earned him several important international students, such as Johann Jacob Froberger, who composed pieces highly reminiscent of Frescobaldi's. The Fiori Musicali and the two books of Toccatas and Partitas are his most important keyboard works.

The "Fiori musicali" (1635) is a collection of organ works designed to be played during the mass service. It also features ricercari, a delicate and sophisticated form of musical counterpoint which includes imitative (or fugal) devices.

His two books of Toccatas and Partitas are written in copper-engraved keyboard tablature for the harpsichord or organ, and were published between 1615 and 1637. Both books open with a set of twelve toccatas written in a flamboyant improvisatory style and alternating fast-note runs or "passaggi" with more intimate and meditative parts, called "affetti", plus short bursts of contrapuntal imitation. In these toccatas, Frescobaldi makes ample use of sharp, unprepared dissonances and other harmonies daring for the time, as well as of virtuosic techniques that make some of these pieces challenging even for modern performers--such as his Toccata IX of Book II, which he himself labeled with the words "Not without toil will you get to the end."

Besides the toccatas, these books feature partitas on popular motives and basses of the time, as well as 6 canzoni, dances, hymns and other compositions such as the Cento Partite Sopra Passachagli, one of his most virtuosic and experimental works. These two books are prefaced by Frescobaldi's own advice on interpretation, where the composer articulates the "theory of musical affections" prevalent at the time.

Other works

His other extant instrumental output consists chiefly in the 1st Volume of Canzoni to be Played with any Type of Instrument, 1628. This work includes instrumental canzonas for one, two, three and four parts over thoroughbass, as well as a few other pieces such as the Toccata for Spinet and Violin.

His vocal music includes a number of masses, motets and madrigals.

Frescobaldi was one of the inventors of the modern conception of tempo, making a compromise between the ancient white mensural notation with a rigid tactus and the modern notion of tempo, which is characterized by acceleration and deceleration within a piece.

Frescobaldi's music was a very important influence on later composers, among them Johann Jakob Froberger and Johann Sebastian Bach (Bach is known to have owned a copy of Frescobaldi's "Fiori musicali").


* Sometimes jovially referred to as "Frisky Bald Guy" in musicological circles. A play on his name, it is a fitting description of his characteristically sporadic style of composition, and the receding hairline that is evident in his later portraits.
* A piece attributed to Frescobaldi, a Toccata for cello and piano, was actually written by Gaspar Cassadó.


See also

*Stylus fantasticus


* Domenico Morgante, Girolamo Frescobaldi, in "Dizionario Enciclopedico Universale della Musica e dei Musicisti" (DEUMM), Le Biografie, vol. III, Torino, UTET, 1986.
* Frederick Hammond: "Girolamo Frescobaldi". Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1983. ISBN 0-674-35438-9
* FREDERICK HAMMOND (1–7, bibliography), ALEXANDERSILBIGER (8–15, work-list): 'Frescobaldi, Girolamo Alessandro, §1: Ferrara, Rome and Flanders, 1583–1608', Grove Music Online (Accessed December 4, 2006),

External links

* Kunst der Fuge: [ Girolamo Frescobaldi - MIDI files]
* [ "Toccata (Full Orchestra) arr. by James Higgins"]
* [ "Toccata (String Orchestra) arr. by James Higgins"]

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