While Banchieri worked toward inventorying liturgical music according to Catholic tradition and the ecclesiastical dictates of Tridentine reform, one Salamone Rossi was embracing the new forms and practices cultivated in his native Mantua. An extraordinarily gifted violinist, Rossi was hired at the Gonzaga court in 1587 where, alongside the likes of Monteverdi, Wert and Viadana, he produced music and intermedii for banquets and weddings. Probably, he played in the orchestra for Monteverdi’s Orfeo.
He did not, however, play in any Christian worship services, because he was Jewish. Indeed, he is often called Salamone
Rossi Ebreo (“the Hebrew”), despite being exempt from wearing the yellow badge required of Jews who were, of
Rossi, Songs of Solomon, title page
(IMSLP) course, still segregated into their very own Mantuan ghetto. Rossi’s sister was the well–known singer ‘Madame Europa’ who probably sang Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna at the opera’s first performance.
Like Monteverdi, Rossi published Canzonette (1589) and books of madrigals for five voices, the first two of which appeared in 1600. In addition to an extensive collection of Jewish liturgical music that would be published later, Rossi is especially remembered for his contribution to instrumental music that embraced the monodic outlook.
His Primo libro delle sinfonie et gagliarde per sonar due viole, overo doi cornetti & un chitarrone... (“First Book of Sinfonias and Galliards for Two Violins or Two Cornettos and Chitarrone”) for three, four and five voices appeared in 1607, and was followed the next year by a second. Most of the works are relatively brief, and characterized by dance–like rhythms despite being given names such as canzon or sinfonia. Indeed, although there are imitative devices, there is more emphasis on a lighter texture, since Rossi specifies that some of the parts may be dropped altogether. Many of the numbers are in two halves, with each half repeated — not strictly “binary” (AABB) form, since the section cadences typically stick to the same “key” — but another feature of dance music.
Rossi is often cited as one of the forerunners of the Baroque’s trio sonata, making use of the lighter canzonetta style in a strictly instrumental setting.