Born: 1470; Verdelot, Les Loges, Seine-et-Marne, France
Died: circa 1551; Florence, Italy
Philippe Verdelot was a crucial pioneer of the Italian madrigal, considered the most important composer in that genre before Jacques Arcadelt; in fact, he contributed work to the first-ever printed book of madrigals, in 1520. Although nothing is known of his early life, Verdelot probably spent the early part of it in Northern France, where he would have received his initial musical training. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, he hadRead more apparently begun to establish himself as a musician in Italy. The manuscript sources of his music provide further clues about his movements during his credibility building phase, although the details remain unclear. The madrigals Torela mo vial and O singular dolcezza, in a Venetian manuscript of the 1520s, show that he probably spent some time in both Venice, as stated, and Bologna; a manuscript of the motet Beati qui habitant places him in Rome between 1510 - 1513 and again in 1520. One of his contemporaries wrote that, in 1511, Verdelot had his portrait painted by the artist Sebastiano del Piombo in Venice, a service that would not have been done for just anyone.
When he arrives in Florence in 1521, however, things become much more certain. He must have already had a hefty reputation by this time, for he was granted, almost upon arrival, both of the most prestigious musical appointments in the city. In 1522, he became maestro di cappella at the baptistery of S Maria del Fiore, a position he held until 1525. In 1523, he was also made maestro di cappella at the cathedral -- a position he kept until 1527. And when it rains, it pours: Verdelot was one of the three musicians chosen by Giulio de' Medici to be present at his papal coronation as Pope Clement VII in 1524; he had obviously worked deep inroads into the highest Florentine social, cultural, and political circles. Among the illuminati he mingled with there was Niccolo Machiavelli himself. A number of Verdelot's madrigals are settings of poems by the infamous author of The Prince, including the balata to his mistress Barbera Salutati. The two men may well have been friends.
During the warring republican period of Florence (1527 - 1530), Verdelot seems to have changed loyalties, siding against the papal and imperial forces who wanted to re-install the Medecis as the rulers of Florence. Although it's not certain if he was still in the city during the siege of 1529 - 1530, it is possible that he died in the attack, for all traces of his music disappear after 1530. The trail only reappears in 1552, when Ortenzio Landi writes of him posthumously: "Verdelot, the Frenchman, was singular in his time." Indeed, his contemporary reputation was as enormous as the details of his life are obscure. Until at least 1566, his madrigals continued to be reprinted and as late as 1567, theorist Guicciardini did Verdelot the great honor of setting his name beside those of Clemens non Papa and Josquin Desprez as the composers who had "restored music to its true perfection." Read less
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