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Alfonso Ferrabosco


Born: January 18, 1543   Died: August 12, 1588; Bologna, Italy  
Alfonso Ferrabosco was an Italian who had great influence on the English musical scene. He was important in bringing the form of the Italian madrigal to England, where it flowered into a distinct and highly refined variety. Although by comparison with his Italian contemporaries his madrigals are not outstanding, they represented something very new to the English, and therefore directly influenced the great age of English madrigalism.

Read more Ferraboscos were a family of musicians originating in Bologna with at least five members who had importance in Italian and English music in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Domenico Maria Ferrabosco (1513 - 1574) was such an esteemed composer that in 1540 the Senate of Bologna voted him a lifetime salary. Alfonso was the eldest and historically most important of his eight children.

Despite his position in Bologna, Domenico Maria often traveled and worked in other cities. In the early 1550s his father took Alfonso with him to Rome so that the boy's evident talents could begin to be recognized. By the time he was 16, Alfonso, as well as two of his brothers, was in the service of Charles of Guise, Cardinal of Lorraine.

He visited England in the company of his uncle Girolamo, impressing Queen Elizabeth I to the extent that in 1562 she settled on him an annuity of 100 marks (66 pounds).

By 1564 he was serving Cardinal Farnese in Rome. Ferrabosco was an impulsive person. Deciding that he would prefer England, he did not bother to ask permission of his patron (a typical member of one of the most notably tyrannical noble families of Italy), but asked permission to take a short trip home to Bologna for family reasons.

He returned to England and promised to serve the Queen. He got a raise of his annuity to 100 pounds, and within a year was in Paris. He wrote to the Queen from there, acknowledged that he had a duty to return, but said he had to go to Bologna to deal with some family business. Once he got there, he wrote that he could not leave without a permit to do so from the Pope without placing his family and their property in peril.

By June 1572 he was back in England, even though he had not obtained the vital papal permission to leave Bologna. (In 1574 he wrote a letter to the Earl of Leicester asserting that as a result he had lost his inheritance.) In practical terms this was correct, for the moment. Technically, the inheritance belonging to Alfonso on the death of his father in 1574 was placed in the care of his uncle Lodovico, less on account of Alfonso's having left without permission, but because he was absent.

Alfonso again pledged his exclusive services to Queen Elizabeth, who was willing to put up with this because of the fact that his mastery of the newly popular form of the madrigal was far in advance of that of English composers. He organized a highly popular masque in Westminster in 1572, and made a fashionable home in Greenwich. There is also a legend that another reason for the Queen's indulgence was that he was some sort of secret agent in her service, accounting for his trips to the continent. While it is likely that she would ask him to pass on to her, as his patroness, any pertinent information he learned while in Europe, there is no real documentation to back up this idea. (Then again, there really wouldn't be, would there?)

He also fathered two illegitimate children between 1575 and 1578. The elder, also named Alfonso Ferrabosco, became as important a composer in England as his father. Also during this period he seems to have exercised to the fullest his penchant for getting into trouble. In one letter to the Earl of Sussex he seeks help in clearing his name of some scandal. Three days later, he writes the Earl admitting that he visited the French ambassador tactlessly and therefore provoked envy and slander at the court. Three weeks later in another letter to the Earl, he begs for assistance and justice regarding a charge of robbing and murdering a young foreigner who turned out to be in the service of Sir Philip Sidney.

In late 1578 his tone has changed; he complains to Stanley that although the Queen judged him innocent, the process took too long and that slander about him was still in currency. This expression was apparently a preface to his suddenly leaving England, no doubt correctly realizing that he was rapidly making enemies and losing the high favor he had enjoyed.

Queen Elizabeth was angered, and tried to get the Queen Mother of France and her representatives in Rome to get Ferrabosco returned to her. Meanwhile, his two children were left at her court. She put them in the care of Gomer van Awsterwyke, a musician on her payroll. In 1582 she received a letter from the Queen, still asking for assistance in obtaining justice and thanking her for her compassion toward the son he had left in England. Later in the year he wrote to Walsingham, pleading that he could not return to England because he was under bond to remain in Italy.

In 1582 Ferrabosco entered the service of the Duke of Savoy. He had already married Susanna di Simonibus of Antwerp. In 1583 his Uncle Lodovico died, and the property Alfonso should have inherited finally came into his possession. Now he petitioned Queen Elizabeth to return custody of the two children in England back to him. The Queen flatly refused, and in 1586 she was still trying to get someone to ship Ferrabosco back to her realm. He died suddenly during a trip back home to Bologna. Read less
Ferrabosco: Psalm 103, Etc / Van Nevel, Huelgas Ensemble
Release Date: 09/13/2005   Label: Harmonia Mundi  
Catalog: 901874   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 1-25 of 56 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Byrd: Infelix Ego… / Herreweghe
    Label: Phi   Catalog: 14 Release Date: 11/18/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd,  Alfonso Ferrabosco,  Philippe de Monte
    Conductor:  Philippe Herreweghe
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ghent Collegium Vocale
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  • 2.
    Richardson: Complete Works For Harpsichord  / Glen Wilson
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 572997 Release Date: 04/29/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ferdinando Richardson,  Thomas Morley,  Alfonso Ferrabosco,  William Byrd  ... 
    Performer:  Glen Wilson
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  • 3.
    16th Century Music For Viols
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 1333 Release Date: 08/13/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Tallis,  Christopher Tye,  William Cornysh,  William Byrd  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork,  Rose Consort of Viols
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  • 4.
    Time Stands Still / Emma Kirby, Anthony Rooley
    Label: Helios   Catalog: 55462 Release Date: 08/13/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Campion,  John Danyel,  John Dowland,  Thomas Ford  ... 
    Performer:  Emma Kirkby,  Anthony Rooley
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  • 5.
    Scordatura: Lira Da Gamba
    Label: Quartz Records   Catalog: 2100 Release Date: 04/09/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alfonso Ferrabosco,  Lorenzo da Firenze,  Anonymous,  Domenico Gabrielli  ... 
    Performer:  Fernando [Lyra Viol] Marin
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  • 6.
    The Manchester Gamba Book / Dietmar Berger
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8572863 Release Date: 07/31/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Gervise Gerrarde,  Stephen Goodall,  Richard Sumarte,  Thomas Martine  ... 
    Performer:  Dietmar Berger
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  • 7.
    Avie Records - 10th Anniversary
    Label: Avie   Catalog: 2265 Release Date: 07/10/2012   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  George Enescu,  Gabriel Fauré,  George Frideric Handel  ... 
    Performer:  Monica Huggett,  Gonzalo Ruiz,  Luiza Borac,  Charles Owen  ... 
    Conductor:  Monica Huggett,  Harry Bicket,  Imogen Cooper,  Vasily Petrenko  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Sonnerie,  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment,  Northern Sinfonia  ... 
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  • 8.
    The Lamentations Of Jeremiah
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34068 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Tallis,  Alfonso Ferrabosco,  William Byrd,  Osbert Parsley  ... 
    Conductor:  Timothy Byram-Wigfield
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Windsor Castle Lay Clerks of St. George's Chapel
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  • 9.
    Orlando Furioso - Madrigali Sul Poema Di Ludovico Ariosto / La Compagnia Del Madrigale
    Label: Arcana   Catalog: 363 Release Date: 09/13/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hoste da Reggio,  Orlando de Lassus,  William Byrd,  Giaches de Wert  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Compagnia del Madrigale
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  • 10.
    Music From A Tudor Concert
    Label: Gift Of Music   Catalog: 1250 Release Date: 04/26/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Robinson,  John Danyel,  Francis Pilkington,  Anonymous  ... 
    Performer:  Matthew Spring,  Lynda Sayce
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  • 11.
    In Nomine - English Music For Viols / Fretwork
    Label: Amon Ra   Catalog: 29 Release Date: 01/11/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Johnson,  Alfonso Ferrabosco,  Thomas Tallis,  Robert Parsons  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fretwork
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  • 12.
    Sacred Music In The Renaissance Vol 2 - Tallis Scholars
    Label: Gimell   Catalog: 302 Release Date: 11/09/2010   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Antoine Brumel,  Heinrich Isaac,  Jacob Obrecht,  Alfonso Ferrabosco  ... 
    Conductor:  Peter Phillips
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tallis Scholars
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  • 13.
    eVIOLution / Fernando Marin
    Label: Quartz Records   Catalog: 2075 Release Date: 09/14/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Diego Ortiz,  Antonio De Cabezón,  Alfonso Ferrabosco,  Jean de Sainte-Colombe  ... 
    Performer:  Fernando [Lyra Viol] Marin
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  • 14.
    Recorders Greate & Smale / Mezzaluna
    Label: Ramee   Catalog: 907 Release Date: 05/11/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Augustine Bassano,  Alfonso (II) Ferrabosco,  Luca Marenzio,  Giovanni Ferretti  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mezzaluna
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  • 15.
    Not Just Dowland: Songs For Soprano And Lute
    Label: Wigmore Hall Live   Catalog: 34 Release Date: 02/23/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Philip Rosseter,  Alfonso Ferrabosco,  Anonymous,  Claudio Monteverdi  ... 
    Performer:  Matthew Wadsworth
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  • 16.
    Waytes: English Music For A Renaissance Band / Piffaro
    Label: Navona   Catalog: 5823 Release Date: 01/26/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Jones,  Anonymous,  Thomas Bateson,  John Mundy  ... 
    Performer:  Daphna Mor
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Piffaro
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  • 17.
    New Fashions Of London Circa 1500 / Redbyrd
    Label: Crd Records   Catalog: 3487 Release Date: 05/01/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Cobbold,  William Byrd,  Anthony Holborne,  Anonymous  ... 
    Performer:  Hille Perl,  Sarah Cunningham,  Dirk Freymuth,  Erin Headley  ... 
    Conductor:  Nancy Hadden
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Red Byrd,  Ensemble Circa 1500
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  • 18.
    The Artistry Of Emma Kirkby
    Label: Bis   Catalog: 1734/5 Release Date: 02/24/2009   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  John Weldon,  Maurice Greene,  Alfonso Ferrabosco,  John Wilson  ... 
    Performer:  Emma Kirkby,  Anthony Rooley,  Jakob Lindberg,  Lars Ulrik Mortensen  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Medlam,  Laurence Cummings
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Baroque,  Royal Academy of Music Baroque Orchestra
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  • 19.
    Why Not Here - Music For Two Viols - Ford, Ferrabosco, Etc / Perl, Heumann, Santata, Freimuth
    Label: Accent   Catalog: 24205 Release Date: 10/28/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alfonso Ferrabosco,  William Lawes,  Anthony Holborne,  John Danyel  ... 
    Performer:  Hille Perl,  Friederike Heumann,  Michael Freimuth,  Lee Santana
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  • 20.
    The Complete Conchita Supervia Vol 3 - Parlophone And Odeon 1930-1932
    Label: Marston   Catalog: 52060 Release Date: 10/12/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Modesto Pomero,  Federico Longás Torres,  Juan Manén,  D'Hardelot  ... 
    Performer:  Conchita Supervia,  Pedro Vallribera,  Ivor Newton,  Alejandro Vilalta  ... 
    Conductor:  Paul Minssart,  Gustav Cloëz,  Unknown,  Antonio Capdevila
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
    CD: $36.99
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  • 21.
    Music Of Renaissance, Baroque / American Brass Quintet
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3003 Release Date: 07/17/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Andrea Gabrieli,  Giovanni Gabrieli,  John Coprario,  Johann Georg C. Störl  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  American Brass Quintet
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  • 22.
    Crystal Tears - Dowland, Ward, Byrd, Johnson, Etc / Scholl, Behr, Concerto Di Viole
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 901993 Release Date: 06/10/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Ward,  John Dowland,  Richard Mico,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Julian Behr,  Andreas Scholl
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto di Viole Basel
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  • 23.
    Grainger: Transcriptions for Wind Orchestra / Rundell, Royal Northern
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 10455 Release Date: 04/29/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Katharine Parker,  Sir Eugene Goossens,  Gabriel Fauré,  César Franck  ... 
    Performer:  Ivan Hovorun
    Conductor:  Clark Rundell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra
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  • 24.
    Consort Music & Airs For Flute - Holborne, Dowland, Scheidt, Etc / Martin, Sempe, Capriccio Stravagante
    Label: Paradizo   Catalog: 1 Release Date: 04/08/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anthony Holborne,  Samuel Scheidt,  Tobias Hume,  Alfonso Ferrabosco  ... 
    Performer:  Joshua Cheatham,  Skip Sempé,  Julien Martin
    Conductor:  Skip Sempé
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capriccio Stravagante
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  • 25.
    Alfonso Ferrabosco Jr. & William Byrd: Consort Music
    Label: Ricercar   Catalog: 256 Release Date: 01/08/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Alfonso Ferrabosco,  Anonymous,  Richard Nicholson,  William Byrd
    Conductor:  Philippe Pierlot
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ricercar Consort
    CD: $11.99
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