Salamone Rossi (II)

In spite of the complicated affairs at the court of Mantua, whose disagreeable side was experienced variously by the brothers Monterverdi and by Frescobaldi, Salamone Rossi managed to maintain the favour of successive rulers. He was again excepted from wearing the Star of David when Francesco became Duke in 1612, and he is known to have continued working for the court, under Francesco’s successor Ferdinando, until 1622.

In fact, his third volume of Varie sonate, sinfonie, gagliarde, brandi e corrente was published in 1613, four years after the second book, and a fourth was published in 1622, each with several reprints. In 1623, the famous Songs of Solomon appeared, containing Jewish liturgical music in Baroque style. The title of the collection is a pun on Rossi’s first name — the Songs are in fact mostly from the book of Psalms, not the Song of Songs.

Rossi’s third collection is for two violins and continuo (he specifies chitarrone), comprising the kind of music that was commonly improvised. It opens with half a dozen sonatas, some based on the formulaic schemes like the Romanesca or the Aria di Ruggiero, the soprano instruments taking turns in brief imitations and figuration over a prescribed bass. As such, they are variations over a repeating bass line, with the passaggi becoming more rapid as the work progresses.

The nine sinfonias are shorter works, more intimate pieces. Each comprises two or more sections, each of which is repeated, and the bass line occasionally takes part in imitation.

Fate was as unkind to the house of Gonzaga as she had been to Ferrara’s Este. Ferdinando renounced his cardinalcy to assume the Duchy of Mantua after his brother Francesco died in 1612. After his own death in 1626, he was succeeded by his younger brother Vincenzo, last of the Gonzaga line. Vincenzo too, was dead within a year, his demise sparking the War of the Mantuan Succession. There were two rival claimants to Mantua, one backed by France, the other by the Holy Roman Emperor. Unfortunately, these two were locked in the conflict known as the Thirty Years’ War, bent on destroying each other and, in the process, decimating much of Europe. While some Jews were able to escape to Venice, many, including Rossi, died either during the outbreak of plague brought by the invaders, or during the sack of the city in 1630.

⇐ Tarquinio Merula | Giovanni Buonamente ⇒

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