5 October 2006 -
7 January 2007

At Home in Renaissance Italy

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The Concert Enlarge image of The Concert

The Concert
Leandro Bassano 1592, Venice
Oil on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

La Violina Enlarge image of La Violina

La Violina
Probably by Giulio Cesare Croce (pseud. Giulio Grotto)
1590 Printed by Vittorio Baldini, Ferrara
Letterpress with woodcut illustration
British Library, London

Spinet Enlarge image of the Spinet

About 1600, Italy
Cypress, sycamore, pear wood, beech, ebony and ivory


Domestic music-making underwent an extraordinary transformation between 1400 and 1600. Italy became an important centre of production for musical instruments, and their availability increased. The invention of printing also had a profound effect: the first printed music book appeared in Italy in 1501 and by the 1540s music was published on a large scale, much of it directed at an amateur audience. New music appropriate for playing at home emerged, from the sung madrigal to instrumental music for lute and keyboard. Few non-courtly households would have owned an instrument at the beginning of the fifteenth century; by the end of the sixteenth, barbers, wool merchants and cheese sellers are recorded as possessing lutes or small keyboard instruments.

There were many forms of domestic music-making. Payment records, diaries and other written descriptions indicate that professional singers and instrumentalists were hired to perform at wedding banquets or parties at a wide range of social levels. But not all domestic music was 'bought in'. The Renaissance house also had its own lively musical culture, from children learning and practising instruments, mothers soothing their babies with lullabies, to the singing and playing that formed a vital part of domestic entertainment. Growth in the availability of books and instruments brought the pleasures of music-making into the domestic sphere to an unprecedented degree.

These diverse pieces represent the music that was played in Renaissance houses. They have been specially recorded for the exhibition by the Italian ensemble Trictilla. We are grateful to Villa I Tatti, The Harvard Center for Italian Reaissance Studies for its generous support of this project, and to the Budini-Gattai family for kindly enabling the recording to be made within their sixteenth-century Florentine palazzo.

Click on the titles to hear short extracts of the pieces listed below, which come from publications and manuscripts of this period. Including a dance and a song, these pieces are played on the lute, harp, lyra da braccio and harpsichord, and were all appropriate for domestic performance. Some of the pieces are well-known; others are recorded here for the first time.

Get Quicktime.

Anonymous 'Romanesca di lyra' (Pesaro, Biblioteca Oliveriana, MS 1144, late 14th century)
Duration: 2 mins 46 secs

'Romanesca di lyra' is also available from here: http://dl.groovygecko.net/anon.groovy/clients/vam/01_Track_01_hba.mov.

Girolamo dalla Casa 'Divisions on Orlando di Lasso's Suzanne ung jour' (Il vero modo di diminuir, Venice, 1584)
Duration: 3 mins 49 secs

'Divisions on Orlando di Lasso's Suzanne ung jour' is also available from here: http://dl.groovygecko.net/anon.groovy/clients/vam/02_Track_02_hba.mov.

Anonymous 'La pastorella si leva per tempo' (written for Giuliano de' Medici on a text by Poliziano, late 15th century)
Duration: 2 mins 18 secs

'La pastorella si leva per tempo' is also available from here: http://dl.groovygecko.net/anon.groovy/clients/vam/03_Track_03_hba.mov".

Francesco da Milano 'Canone' (with a second lute part by Johannes Matelart) (Intabolatura de lautto, Venice, 1548)
Duration: 1 min 33 secs

'Canone' is also available from here: http://dl.groovygecko.net/anon.groovy/clients/vam/04_Track_04_hba.mov.

Diego Ortiz 'Divisions on Arcadelt's O felici occhi miei' (Trattato de glosas, Rome, 1553)
Duration: 2 mins 31 secs

'Divisions on Arcadelt's O felici occhi miei' is also available from here: http://dl.groovygecko.net/anon.groovy/clients/vam/05_Track_05_hba.mov.

All pieces copyright © Trictilla, 2006.
All excerpts courtesy of Trictilla who are:
Lucia Sciannimanico, mezzo-soprano
Valerio Losito, violin and lyra da braccio
Marta Graziolino, harp
André Henrich, lute
Giulia Nuti, harpsichord with gut strings and recorder