Michelangelo Rossi


Born: 1602 Died: July 6, 1656
Violinist, keyboard player and composer Michelangelo Rossi left his native Genoa to pursue a professional career in music; in early seventeenth-century Italy, that meant Rome and that meant opera. Eventually, he completed three distinct periods of musical work in Rome, in addition to service before other elevated patrons around Europe; he wrote at least two operas and contributed as well to the popular genre of the keyboard toccata and the waning Italian madrigal. An anecdote by Athanasius Kircher suggests he may have helped codify the intimate though nascent genre of the trio sonata.

Though some confusion reigns in the historical record -- as many as three contemporary Italian violinists were named Michelangelo -- Rossi's upbringing in Genoa seems secure. His earliest training almost certainly was at the hands of his monastic uncle Lelio; Michelangelo served as assistant cathedral organist under him at least until 1620. His first independent musical post was in the court of Cardinal Maurizio of Savoy, in Rome and Turin from 1624-29. In this time, he likely composed madrigals alongside Sigismondo d'India, also a protégé of Cardinal Murizio, and may have befriended and studied keyboard with Frescobaldi. All but one of his madrigals may date from this period, and they are overtly similar to those of d'India. The circumstances of Rossi's dismissal from the Cardinal's service are unclear, but the rift may have been unexpected and unfortunate.

Rossi's first known opera dates from his second period of Roman service, while in the retinue of the rich Taddeo Barberini. Rossi's oepra Emilio sul Giordano (on a story from Torquato Tasso, with a libretto by Rospigliosi) was produced during Carnival of 1633, and Rossi himself apparently sang on stage as the sun-god Apollo. In 1634, Rossi left Rome in the entourage of Giulio Mazzarini (Mazarin), though he only got as far as Modena. From 1634 to 1638, he gave of his musical talents to the Este family, including writing his second opera, Andromeda. By 1649, he had returned to Rome and was residing in the palace of Camilo Pamphili (relative of the Pope), perhaps in semi-retirement. He died in July of 1656 and may have been buried in the Minimi church of Saint Andrea delle Fratte.

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