Luzzasco Luzzaschi


Born: 1545 Died: September 10, 1607
The Italian composer Luzzasco Luzzaschi seems to have spent his entire life in Ferrara, not that there was any pressing compunction to leave since he was among the most prominent musicians there, making a three-tiered reputation as a first rank composer, virtuoso organist, and teacher. Luzzaschi's abilities at the keyboard were supposedly unrivaled; he's even said to have been able to handle Nicola Vincentino's unruly archicembalo. Few of his students are known, although they would have been numerous. The most significant among them was Girolamo Frescobaldi, who continued to praise him publicly long after Luzzaschi's death. Luzzaschi's most lasting influence was probably felt through his keyboard works, however. He was among the pioneers of purely instrumental, contrapuntal music. His works in this genre had influence far beyond his native city. Schools of instrumental composition based on his work were founded in both Naples and Rome.

Among his early teachers, Luzzaschi himself named Cipriano de Rore for composition, and he seems to have been the favored organ student of Jacques Brunel. May, 1561, marked the year Luzzaschi landed his unshakeable position in the d'Este court, becoming one of the organists there. Three years later, upon the death of Brunel, the then 19-year-old Luzzaschi became the head organist, the official position he was to keep for the rest of his life. Throughout the following years, Luzzaschi's duties at the court broadened until he was, for all intents and purposes, a second maestro di cappella alongside Ippolito Fiorini. He directed the court orchestras, trained the new musicians in his charge, and composed vocal and instrumental music for the court. Besides all this, Luzzaschi held the position of organist at the Ferrara Cathedral and at the Accademia della Morte.

The most historically significant period of Luzzaschi's life concerns his association with Duke Alfonso's musica da camera after 1570 in a series of exclusive, private performances. The star attractions in the cabinet were the celebrated "singing ladies" of Ferrara, among whom were three especially famous ones: Lucrezia Bendidio, Laura Peverara, and Tarquinia Molza. Bendidio was the former muse of poet Torquato Tasso and eventual wife of Niccolo Machiavelli. The ladies performed works from a repertoire developed especially for them and which was kept secret by Alfonso. Luzzaschi made important contributions to the repertoire of "secret music" and directed and played keyboard at the performances. His 1561 collection Madrigali per cantare et sonare a 1-3 soprani includes some of his music for the three ladies.

In 1597, fortunes shifted in Ferrara, leading to the fall of the d'Este house that had kept Luzzaschi in such a comfortable way for so long. He probably stayed in Ferrara to serve the new ruler, Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, since he was part of Aldobrandini's retinue in Rome in 1601. Luzzaschi's death in 1607 was mourned by the entire musical community of Ferrara, which came out in droves to his funeral service and placed a gilded wreath of laurel upon his catafalque.

There are 29 Luzzasco Luzzaschi recordings available.

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