Born: 1582; Palermo, Italy
Died: April 19, 1629; Modena, Italy
All that is known about Sigismondo d'India's early life comes from what he said himself on the title pages of his publications: He claimed that he was of a noble Sicilian family and that he had received his training from "learned men of music." He was probably in Florence around 1600, judging from the dedication of his 1621 "Le musichi e balli" to the Queen Mother of France, Maria de' Medici. He published a book of madrigalsRead more in 1606, and its introduction suggests he was in Mantua. If so, he could have met Claudio Monteverdi there.
He visited Florence in 1608, earning the admiration of Vittoria Archilei and Caccini. Cardinal Farnese praised his songs when he visited Rome somewhat later, and in 1610, he was in Parma and Piacenza, where he supplied some festival music.
He settled down in Turin in 1611 when he became director of chamber music at the court of Carlo Emanuele I, Duke of Savoy. Most of his music dates from the period of his employment there. This was a position requiring the production of secular music, both instrumental and vocal. But it is most likely that his predilection was not for religious music. He produced music in the new style that deemphasized polyphony, which found great favor with the Duke.
Malicious courtiers undercut him with vicious gossip, and he left the court in 1623. From October 1623 to April 1624, he was attached to the Este court in Modena on a temporary basis. Moving on to Rome, he took a position with Cardinal Maurizio, who was a son of the Duke of Savoy, and shared his father's tastes. He produced more religious music at this time, including a famous Missa Domine, clamavi ad te, written for Pope Urban VIII. He also composed an opera with a religious theme, Sant' Eustachio. In the same year, 1625, d'India took a permanent position in the court of the Este family and directed a funeral mass for Isabella d'Este (it is not known if this was one written by him or someone else).
The historical record grows thin at this point: in 1627, he was competing for a commission for a marriage between the Farnese and Medici houses, but lost to Monteverdi. He was also appointed to the court of Maximilian I of Bavaria. It is not known whether he ever made it there, or exactly when, where, or how he died. A document dated April 19, 1629, is addressed to the heirs of Sig. d'India, establishing that he died some time earlier.
Sigismondo d'India is regarded as the most important early Italian composer of secular vocal music in the new monodic style, with the exception of Claudio Monteverdi. He also wrote very good polyphonic motets and madrigals. His music is marked by strong, dramatic emotional content and bold, original, and personal harmonic progressions. Among the most typical of his subjects are laments by rejected or jilted lovers, their heartbreak expressed in a reliance on chromatic half-steps and strong dissonances that resolve in unusual ways. Read less
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