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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 6 (2000) No. 1

Marco da Gagliano in 1608: Choices, Decisions, and Consequences**

Edmond Strainchamps*


This article examines, through a series of documents drawn from archives in Florence and Mantua, the remarkable events that surrounded the appointment of Marco da Gagliano as maestro di cappella of Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral of Florence, in 1608, and shortly thereafter, as maestro di cappella to the Medici court. These dual appointments, which determined the central position Gagliano would hold in Florentine music for the next 35 years, also affected appointments and directions taken by the Gonzaga court in Mantua and had a bearing on relationships among several Gonzaga princes (later dukes) and musicians in their employ. The documents, largely unknown, are for the most part letters from, among others, Ottavio Rinuccini, Ferdinando Gonzaga, Gagliano himself, and several court secretaries representing their princes. They disclose the complexity and calculated ambiguity of the competing negotiations for Gagliano's services in Rome, Mantua and Florence, including the uncharacteristically and startlingly angry outburst by Cardinal Ferdinando Gonzaga at his failure to win Gagliano for his own service. Also revealed is the complex of causal relationships in the system of patronage in 17th-century court culture, involving artistic choice, politics, personality and psychology.

1. Introduction

2. Gagliano's Exploratory Letter to Ferdinando Gonzaga

3. Gagliano's Early Musical Activities

4. Cardinal Ferdinando and His Relations with Gagliano

5. Rinuccini's Letter of Support and Ferdinando's Concession

6. Correspondence Surrounding Gagliano's Florentine Appointment

7. The Inevitability of the Appointment

8. Gagliano's Further Attempts to Explain His Position

9. Rinuccini's Letter Vindicating Gagliano

10. Subsequent Events



1. Introduction

1.1 The present paper is based on data from several archives in Florence and Mantua for a few years of the early Seicento. The data have been gleaned from a variety of primary documents, including letters, petitions, the minutes of a guild, court diaries, the records of a chapter of canons, and notarized contracts filed with both civil and ecclesiastical authorities. Taken together, these documents expand upon a few simple facts, facts already known and easily stated: that in 1608, Marco da Gagliano was appointed maestro di cappella of Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral of Florence, and that not long after he was named maestro di cappella to the grand duke of Tuscany. Behind these simple facts, though, is a complex of causal relationships involving artistic choice, the system of patronage as it existed in seventeenth-century Italian court culture, politics, psychology, and personality. And by placing the simple facts stated above within this background there is produced, I would submit, a greater truth, or at least a more resonant one. It is a search for this greater truth, an attempt at finding a full explanation of the factual, historical events, that has engendered this paper.

2. Gagliano's Exploratory Letter to Ferdinando Gonzaga

2.1 On October 21, 1608, Marco da Gagliano wrote a letter to Cardinal Ferdinando Gonzaga of Mantua which started a tormented process of political and psychological maneuvering that concluded only after several months. And at the end of the process, the Florentine musical establishment was reconfigured (and, at longer range, that of Mantua was affected as well), and Gagliano had achieved what he most desired. But Cardinal Ferdinando, being greatly angered, was no longer Gagliano's friend or, more importantly, his patron. The letter reads in part:

My Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Lord:

. . . I wrote to your most illustrious Lordship giving you an account of how, with the death of messer Luca Bati, the maestranza della cappella was vacated and [also] the canonicate at San Lorenzo, and [of how] the necessity of giving such a charge and rank to a musician seems to me to be not far away. If, therefore, your most illustrious Lordship were to be pleased that I seek it and were to favor me with your letters to these Highnesses, I (not being certain whether you received that [earlier] letter) have wished to repeat everything to you with this one, assuring you that I shall do nothing but that which will be indicated to me by you. And although I was advised by many servants of your most illustrious Lordship not to neglect this opportunity, nevertheless I have wished to do nothing at all—and I shall do nothing—until I am told by your most illustrious Lordship what I should do, for which I beg you with the greatest affection to act as soon as possible, both because the transaction does not allow of any delay and because I am in a great travail of spirit, and my head has been broken by an infinity of people with diverse counsels.

Finally, if your most illustrious Lordship is willing, and [if] with your favor I may be honored by this charge, it will not hinder me in serving you since, besides the vacations which the position allows, one can take a few months of the year whenever it might be to one's taste to be absent and spend them where one pleases. I have had the audacity to tire your most illustrious Lordship and to entrust myself to you in this negotiation, being assured of the desire that you have to benefit me, and as your servant, which I am and shall be, wishing to live and to die under your protection, by which I have no fear of being abandoned. And with all humility, I make reverence to you, praying to our Lord God that he concede to you the fullness of every happiness. From Florence, the twenty-first day of October, 1608.

From your most illustrious and most reverend Lordship's most humble servant, Marco da Gagliano1

3. Gagliano's Early Musical Activities

3.1 To understand this letter fully and to establish a context for it as well as for the documents that follow from it, it is useful to recall a few facts with regard to the principals involved. First of all, as to Marco da Gagliano: in late 1608, though only twenty-six years old, he was already established as one of the significant musicians in Florence, a prolific and celebrated composer, and a performer as well. His early training and musical experience, beginning at age six, had been in the Compagnia dell'Arcangelo Raffaello, perhaps the best of the lay religious confraternities in Florence at the time. It was there that Gagliano became acquainted with a number of the most important men and boys in Florence, many of whom would later figure prominently in the advancement of his career. Notable among these was the young Cosimo de' Medici, who would become, early in 1609, the grand duke of Tuscany. It is clear that Gagliano's musical abilities were admired in the sodality, and in 1607 he was elected its maestro di cappella (though for political reasons his installation was delayed for a time). Prince Ferdinando Gonzaga was also a member of the Company, but his membership was probably merely honorary since he was in boyhood largely resident in Mantua.2

3.2 In 1602, Gagliano began to publish with a book of madrigali a cinque voci, and this was followed by four more books of madrigals within the next five years. He also brought out a book of Offices for the Dead, and his opera La Dafne.3 The latter, widely admired, was given its premiere in Mantua during Carnival in 1608, a performance very likely arranged by Prince Ferdinando Gonzaga in the year before. (By the 1608 Carnival, as it turned out, the prince had been created a cardinal, and Dafne was part of a festival in honor of Ferdinando's elevation.) But this accounts for only the published works; Gagliano was also active in composing important music—important though never published, and now lost—that was used, notably, by the Medici court.

3.3 Since 1602, he had, in addition, been the assistant of maestro di cappella Luca Bati—his former teacher—in San Lorenzo, the Medici household church, where he instructed the clerics in singing and had responsibility for Holy Week music. He took some role in music for the duomo during these years as well. Indeed, his authority stood sufficiently high with musical professionals and dilettanti alike that in 1607 he was able to found an academy devoted to music, the Accademia degli Elevati, which, despite its short duration, was a significant institution in the history of Florentine music. And the high-ranking nobleman who stood as patron for the Elevati was Ferdinando Gonzaga.4 Thus, by October 1608, Marco da Gagliano was the most notable musician in Florence: a young priest who was a remarkably productive composer, a master of both monodic and polyphonic composition, a teacher, a leader among his colleagues, a man widely admired by the patriciate in Florence and abroad, and successful in both sacred and secular domains—the most important of these, of course, the court of the Medici.

4. Cardinal Ferdinando and His Relations with Gagliano

4.1 In turning to Cardinal Ferdinando Gonzaga, one should first note that in 1608 he was still a young man, barely twenty-one years of age, and this may have been a factor in his intemperate behavior in response to what shortly occurred in Florence.5 Part of his education was undertaken in Pisa, where the Medici court was accustomed to reside each year during the Lenten season, and, as a blood relation of the Medici (Ferdinando's mother was Eleanora de' Medici, the niece of the Florentine grand duke) , he was welcome there as well as at Pitti Palace when the court was in Florence. Ferdinando Gonzaga was passionately devoted to music and well acquainted with Florentine musical circles. He apparently had studied music with Gagliano, and he regularly gave his compositions to him for comments and improvements. Gagliano even encouraged Ferdinando's compositional efforts to the point of accepting three of the prince/cardinal's arias for inclusion in La Dafne, though it could be speculated that had he not done so, there would have been less enthusiasm on the part of the Gonzagas for producing the opera.

4.2 Ferdinando depended as well on Gagliano to seek out and forward to him music by other Florentine composers, and from the founding of the Elevati in June 1607, Ferdinando apparently expected that the academy would supply him, its patron, with an increased flow of music. Of very great importance also in the relationship between Gonzaga and Gagliano was the fact that Gagliano acted as agent in Florence for Ferdinando, discovering, buying, and overseeing the shipping to him of bulbs and plants from a variety of gardens and nurseries.6 As with his need for music, his demand for bulbs was seemingly insatiable. It should be noted that the cultivation and collecting of flowering plants was a fad, bordering in some cases on mania, that swept through Italian society in the early seventeenth century—though in Italy it never reached such speculative frenzy as that which caused an economic crash in Holland in the 1600s. (Gagliano was not the only musician in Florence knowledgeable in botanical matters; Giulio Caccini was famed as a gardener, and his plants were widely sought in this period.)7 After the crisis of 1608, when a considerable breach had occurred in the friendship between Ferdinando Gonzaga and Gagliano, the cardinal eventually renewed his contact with the composer, but only after a two-year silence, primarily to ask once more for Gagliano's help in procuring plants and bulbs.

4.3 With this filling in of some of the background information, one can with more assurance return to Gagliano's letter of October 21. It is striking that he makes clear in it that he is unable to apply for the position of maestro di cappella of the Florence cathedral without Ferdinando's approval. Though Gagliano was not in the employ of the cardinal, the nobleman's support had an aspect of the patron to it, and it may have seemed a possibility that Gagliano would soon be added to the Gonzagas' large musical establishment. As a newly created cardinal, Ferdinando, in accordance with custom and his own very strong inclinations, would certainly form a musical chapel for the residence he would establish in Rome, and it would have been consistent with his treatment of Gagliano if he had named him his maestro di cappella.

5. Rinuccini's Letter of Support and Ferdinando's Concession

5.1 Gagliano must have recognized that he needed more force than he possessed for his campaign with Ferdinando. Despite the respect and friendship the cardinal felt for him, his communications could, after all, be ignored (as perhaps had happened with the earlier letter Gagliano said he had sent on the same matter). But another letter on the subject, this one also dated October 21, was written from Florence by Ottavio Rinuccini, and this letter could not be ignored. Rinuccini was, after all, important in both Florence and Mantua: a nobleman, a favorite at court, a renowned poet, and a seminal figure in the new genre, opera, the latest two examples of which, Gagliano's La Dafne and Monteverdi's Arianna, both written to librettos by Rinuccini, had been significant in adding to Mantua's prestige earlier in the year. Rinuccini's letter, nearly in its entirety, reads as follows:

My Most Illustrious and Reverend Lord, My Host Honored Patron:

I have been sought out by relatives and friends of messer Marco [da Gaglianol to use my offices with your most illustrious Lordship so that you might act on his behalf with the most serene grand duke to have him obtain the office of maestro di cappella of the cathedral, vacated through the death of messer Luca Bati. I refrained from doing it, knowing that he was destined for the service of your most illustrious Lordship, but I still did not wish to fail to advise you of how he could easily obtain this position if, with your good graces and by the means of your recommendation, he were to ask for it, so that if you should wish to favor him and benefit him in this manner, know that assuredly it will be possible for you to place him in this position.

The office, as he tells me, is both useful and honorable, nor would it take from him the possibility of being able to serve your most illustrious Lordship with [his] time, both because of the vacations and because of his being able to substitute a subaltern. He is confused, for he would gladly accept this honor to satisfy his family, who desire him to be nearby, but he holds much dearer your favor, without which nothing matters to him. May your most illustrious Lordship chase this doubt from him, because he desires (and thus he affirms to me) nothing beyond satisfying you. . . . From Florence, the twenty-first day of October 1608.

From your most illustrious Lordship's most humble and most devoted servant, Ottavio Rinuccini.8

5.2 Rinuccini's letter underlines the points made by Gagliano, but more importantly, it removes any doubt of the cardinal's plans for the composer's future with Rinuccini's acknowledgment that he knew Gagliano was destined for Ferdinando's service. If Ferdinando had made no explicit remark to Gagliano on the matter, he had at least made his intention known to Rinuccini, and perhaps to others. It is apparent from both these letters that Gagliano was being urged very strongly by family and friends alike to seek the Florentine post. Gagliano's family was made up of his widowed mother, four sisters, and two brothers, one older and one younger; the younger, Giovanni Battista da Gagliano, to whom Marco was teacher and mentor, would in time have a successful career himself in Florentine music. It is not unexpected that his family would so desire Marco to remain near them, and they must have recognized very well that a position as high as that of maestro di cappella in Medicean Florence could not be matched by anything the Gonzagas had to offer.

5.3 Taken together, the two letters of October 21, Gagliano's and Rinuccini's, must have signaled to the cardinal that the time had come either to make a definite commitment to Gagliano or to release him and give him a recommendation to the Medici so that he would be free to pursue the Florentine appointment. If it were to be the latter course, at least Ferdinando was assured by both letters that the Medici position, were Gagliano to obtain it, would allow the composer still to serve him. In fact, he could serve the cardinal even more than he had thus far, since, as the letters indicate, the Medici post would permit Gagliano to have several months a year free, as well as other absences, during which he could attend to Ferdinando's musical needs in either Rome or Mantua.

5.4 Ferdinando's decision was made quickly, as is shown by the letter dated only three days later, October 24, that he sent to the grand duke in recommendation of Gagliano for the duomo post. Ferdinando wrote:

My Most Serene, Most Venerated Lord:

Your Highness loves the virtues so much that he always favors those who serve them. Whereupon Marco da Gagliano, being so eminent in music, I am assured you will remember particularly for that vacancy of Luca Bati's post. I recommend him, therefore, with all affection to your Highness on this occasion, so that you will deign to concede to him the aforesaid position, being certain that in this man it will be well placed, besides which, I shall be very obligated to you, receiving this demonstration, which you will be pleased to make upon my intercession in the case of Gagliano, as a singular favor of the benignity of your Highness; kissing the hands of whom with the greatest affection, I pray to the Lord God for every happiness. From Goito, the twenty-fourth of October, 1608.

From your Highness's most affectionate nephew and servant, Cardinal Gonzaga9

5.5 This letter was likely of critical importance because, though Gagliano must have been the clear favorite for the appointment, the Medici probably needed assurance before they would accept Gagliano as a candidate that in doing so they would not be causing an affront to the Gonzagas or interfering with any plans of theirs.

6. Correspondence Surrounding Gagliano's Florentine Appointment

6.1 At about the same time Ferdinando wrote to the grand duke, he also wrote to Gagliano. The letter has not survived, but it is known to have existed from a reference made to it in Gagliano's letter to the cardinal dated December 16 reviewing all that had transpired. Ferdinando's recommendation of Gagliano, so strong and definite, would seem to have contrasted sharply with an ambiguous letter Gagliano himself received. Not ready or able yet to offer a position, Ferdinando may have hoped that Gagliano would choose to wait for an appointment with him rather than to try for the Medici post. For whatever reasons, Gagliano, as he wrote on December 16, showed his letter from Ferdinando to the court. An excerpt from that letter reads as follows:

. . . if I had acted according to what my inclination was, there is no doubt that I would not have changed my situation with your most illustrious Lordship, for whatever opportunity, however great. But my unhappy fortune has bound me in such a way that I cannot do what I would like to do. And therefore, thinking about it, it seemed certain to me that your most illustrious Lordship did not expect nor desire anything but my well-being. Nevertheless, in order not to err, I showed [your letter] to many knowledgeable gentlemen, and in particular I had a principal secretary of these Highnesses beg them to give an interpretation of it, and that which I took it to mean being confirmed by everyone, I resolved to ask for [the position].10

6.2 Ferdinando's letter of recommendation reached Florence during the elaborate wedding festivities for the marriage of Crown Prince Cosimo II and the Hapsburg Archduchess Maria Magdalena, which occupied the court from October 18 through November 7, and so the cardinal got no reaction from the court for several weeks. Finally, on November 11, Belisario Vinta, first secretary to the grand duke, wrote to Ferdinando that a decision on the matter would be taken soon.11 And upon receipt of Vinta's letter, the cardinal wrote back at once, in a letter dated November 14:

Most Illustrious Lord:

I thank your Lordship for the notice given me of my letter written to his Highness in recommendation of Gagliano. Any decision that the grand duke will make upon this will be satisfactory to me, since I know that his perfect judgment will select the best person . . .12

Ferdinando's assertion that "any decision" would be satisfactory to him—that is, not just one that awarded the post to Gagliano—would seem to be a remark backing off somewhat from the strong recommendation he had given to Gagliano three weeks before. If this was Ferdinando's intention, it had no effect, for on November 19, Vinta wrote again to him, saying:

Your most illustrious Lordship will see from the enclosed that my most serene Lord, in conformance with his usual desire to serve you always, has gladly followed your desire in conceding the post of Luca Bati to Marco da Gagliano . . .13

The enclosure to which Vinta refers (which is not extant in the Mantuan archives) was probably a copy of the grand ducal decree appointing Marco da Gagliano to the cathedral post. This enclosed proof of the outcome, and especially Vinta's remarks, must have stung Ferdinando sharply. To be told that it was due to his recommendation that Gagliano had been appointed in Florence, despite his true desire, likely rubbed salt into the wound Ferdinando suffered from the affair.

6.3 Gagliano's undated petition for the appointment addressed to the grand duke is now found in the cathedral archive (the Archivio dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore); it is brief and follows the standard form for supplications. It reads:

Most Serene Grand Duke:

Marco da Gagliano, most humble servant and vassal of your most serene Highness, begs you in all humility that you be kind enough to bestow upon him the maestrato di cappella vacated through the death of messer Luca Bati; and for this and for every other favor, he will hold himself perpetually obligated, praying to God for all possible glory for you.14

On the same sheet, in the blank space below what Marco da Gagliano wrote, the decision is succinctly stated in another hand: "It is conceded. B. Vinta, 22 November 1608." The petition, probably accompanied by the grand duke's decree, is in the cathedral because Belisario Vinta would have taken it there so that it could be seen by the governors. They, the Operai of the Arte della Lana guild, which had responsibility for all that occurred in the church, met on December 1, and, as their records show, officially confirmed the grand duke's decision by ordering their treasurer to fund Gagliano's appointment.15

6.4 Gagliano must have been told shortly after November 22 about the granting of his supplication, for on November 25 he wrote Cardinal Ferdinando a brief letter expressing his gratitude:

Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Lord:

Through the intercession of your most illustrious Lordship, I have obtained the position of messer Luca Bati, for which, not being able to express the debt that I owe you, I shall be silent. And remembering myself to you as a most obligated servant, with all humility I kiss your gown with [all] my heart, praying to our Lord God that he may concede to you the fullness of every happiness and give me strength to be able to serve you. From Florence, the twenty-fifth day of November 1608.

From your most illustrious and most reverend Lordship's most humble servant, Marco da Gagliano16

6.5 On December 2, Ferdinando wrote once again to the grand duke:

My Most Serene and Most Venerated Lord:

From the magnanimity of your Highness I ever receive favors, for so I hold the kindness bestowed upon Marco da Gagliano at my intercession, for which I am left with the indebtedness that I ought [to have] towards your Highness. I thank you with all affection, and at the same time I assure you that I—in order to repay in part my indebtedness—shall be concerned with no other thing than to serve you at all times and at every opportunity. I kiss your Highness's hands with all affection, praying to the Lord God for continuing happiness for you. From Mantua, the second of December 1608.

From your Highness's most affectionate nephew and servant, Cardinal Gonzaga17

7. The Inevitability of the Appointment

7.1 This would seem to end the affair that began with Marco da Gagliano's letter to Ferdinando Gonzaga on October 21, 1608. It seems a logical outcome and, in retrospect, it is hard to see how the principals could have conducted themselves otherwise. There is no doubt that the cardinal wanted to appoint Gagliano to his service, but for whatever reason or reasons could not do so when he would have needed to. He must have felt he had no option but to speak positively about Gagliano, a favorite of the Medici and of all Florence; he had himself, after all, demonstrated shortly before his strong approval of Gagliano by arranging that La Dafne would be produced in Mantua and that Gagliano would remain there for some months after, supplementing the Mantuan musicians during the important festivities the Gonzagas presented in the spring of 1608 to celebrate the marriage of Ferdinand's brother, Crown Prince Francesco Gonzaga.

7.2 From the Medici's point of view, Gagliano was certainly the first choice for the position: not only had he proven himself superior in all his diverse musical achievements, but he was a personable man, well-liked, a celebrated composer, and a Florentine. This last was of no small importance. For all the sophistication of Medici culture, the choice for major appointments there was almost always a Florentine. Speaking just of musicians, the maestri di cappella for more than a hundred years were native Florentines or Tuscans long resident in the city. The choice for the post in 1608 was not to be made from all the musicians in the world, then, but was Marco da Gagliano or another Florentine. And there was no other Florentine who could match Gagliano's skills and success.

7.3 It seems a virtual certainty that the grand ducal court would have suspected, if not known, Ferdinando's true desires (which he had let slip to Rinuccini, and perhaps to others), but the court chose to ignore them and to satisfy their own. They could easily do so by trading on the ambiguities of statement and the mannered character of courtly expression in the various communications from Ferdinando that they saw. Gagliano was put in the peculiar position of being at once the central figure in the affair—though one with little standing—but not a central actor. That is, the game that was being played did not allow him to take part; Ottavio Rinuccini, a courtier who could enter the princely arena, had to be Gagliano's proxy. From the advantaged position of the historian, all things considered, it is hard to imagine another ending to the matter.

8. Gagliano's Further Attempts to Explain His Position

8.1 The series of documents does not end, though, with the announcement of Gagliano's appointment and the disingenuous letter of Ferdinando expressing his pleasure at the outcome to the grand duke. Four more letters on this matter are extant in the Mantuan Archivio di Stato; the first of them is a long letter written by Gagliano to Cardinal Ferdinando on December 16. Partially quoted above, it reads in its entirety:

My Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Lord:

As soon as the chapel [post] became vacant; I was sought out by a great number of friends who not only exhorted me to ask for it, but offered themselves to intercede for me. I shall leave [it] to your most illustrious Lordship to imagine what my relatives, and in particular my mother and brothers, did in hearing that I neither wanted nor was able to ask for it; for truly, at that point, I would have desired rather to be dead than alive, considering the strong feelings they had about it. But in any case, in order to be free from such confusion, I resolved to give an account of it to your most illustrious Lordship, as I did, neither wanting nor being obliged to do anything but that which might be indicated to me by you. And therefore, I begged you to be so good as to direct me in what I ought to do. And I based myself completely on the advice of many, and in particular [on that] of some servants of your most illustrious Lordship, who told me that, knowing how much you desired my well-being, and the aforesaid post being of great reputation and use with respect to the responsibilities of my house, they were sure not only that your most illustrious Lordship would be pleased that I asked for it, but that you would have favored me.

By your reply, I was reminded that you had accepted me into your service only to benefit me, and that at the present time you could show me no greater sign of love than in leaving it to my judgment to attach myself to that which would be most comfortable for me. Upon which, if I had acted according to what my inclination was, there is no doubt that I would not have changed my situation with your most illustrious Lordship, for whatever opportunity, however great. But my unhappy fortune has bound me in such a way that I cannot do what I would like to do. And therefore, thinking about it, it seemed certain to me that your most illustrious Lordship did not expect or desire anything but my well-being. Nevertheless, in order not to err, I showed [your letter] to many knowledgeable gentlemen, and in particular I had a principal secretary of these Highnesses beg them to give an interpretation of it, and that which I took it to mean being confirmed by everyone, I resolved to ask for [the position]. And furthermore, I knew that it could not hinder my service [to you], its obligations being small and not confining.

I had the petition, together with the letter, presented to this most serene Highness by Signor Ottavio Rinuccini, and this was eight days after I had received [the letter]. The transaction remained dormant for many days, and since I knew that the most illustrious Cardinal dal Monte [sic] and the most illustrious Prince Peretti, and many important gentlemen besides, had personally asked for messer Santi [Orlandi] as soon as messer Luca had died, I had some suspicions, although the transaction had been indicated to me as simple. Therefore, having conferred about everything with Signor Ottavio Rinuccini, and having discussed many things, the idea came to us that the most serene Signor Duke, your father, in coming to Florence, would have been able to help with his favor. Which [idea], having been approved, Signor Ottavio offered to speak to him and to beg his Highness to be kind enough to help in the transaction by praising my works and deeds in Mantua and Florence, which, in fact, he was able to hear in the comedy; all of which [Signor Ottavio] did. But because his Highness had gone hunting, he did not perform said office. And it seemed a good idea to Signor 0ttavio to speak about it with the most illustrious Signor Carlo Rossi, and having found him disposed to favor me, [Signor Ottavio] told me that, making obeisance to him, I should entrust the transaction to his care, which I did. And I begged him, telling him that nothing else was necessary beyond showing to these Highnesses that I was a good candidate for such service. He replied that since he had to be that day with her most serene Ladyship [the archduchess ], he would do everything, which he did not do—although I have heard that the day that I received the favor [of the appointment] he performed such said office.

This is how the transaction proceeded, and were it to be reported in a contrary manner to your most illustrious Lordship, I will justify everything with my own blood, not being able to think falsely regarding anyone, and in particular as regards my Lord, your most illustrious Lordship. All of which I have written because while I thought that your most illustrious Lordship might take pleasure in having me benefited so greatly—for I can truly say that all that I am, I am because of you—I [now] feel myself opposed [by you], which is the most terrible thing that could happen to me. And I think that what is not [true] has been said, or at least that your mind has been stirred against me; for I know that there is no lack of those who, feeling anger at the favors that I have at all times received from you, would feel satisfaction in seeing my service disrupted; however, I hope in blessed God and in your most prudent judgment and in the purity of the fact that my service will be unbesmirched, which, should it be so, I shall be able to call myself happy.

I beg you to forgive me for the tiresomeness of this [letter] and to blame the necessity of the circumstances for it, at which I humbly kiss your gown with [all] my heart, praying that our Lord God concede to you every greatest happiness. From Florence, the sixteenth day of December 1608.

The most humble servant of your most illustrious and most reverend Lordship, Marco da Gagliano18

8.2 This recapitulatory letter, no doubt in response to a demand by Ferdinando for an explanation of how it had all happened, contains as well some new information on how the affair proceeded in personal encounters and something more about its timing. Medici court diaries give the date of the arrival of Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga and Carlo Rossi, head of the Mantuan army, in Florence as November 18. The diaries also relate that Michelangelo Buonarroti's Il Giudizio di Paride, the comedia grande, originally performed on October 25 for the wedding festivities of Prince Cosimo, was repeated for Duke Vincenzo's entertainment the next day, November 19.19 It must have been on either that day or the following that Gagliano and Rinuccini spoke with the two Mantuans, asking for their help in the matter of the appointment.

8.3 Gagliano's letter also makes clear that he did have a rival in the composer Santi Orlandi, and that Orlandi's candidacy had been advanced with the help of Cardinal del Monte and Prince Peretti. These two illustrious Romans had considerable influence in Florence, and it is not surprising that their recommendation (along with that of unspecified others) should have made Gagliano anxious about his chances. Santi Orlandi was not in Gagliano's league, however, and could not have been very serious competition. Upon losing Gagliano, Cardinal Ferdinando, who seems to have been determined to have a Florentine musician in his employ, appointed Orlandi as his maestro di cappella late in 1608, and Orlandi accompanied him to Rome. When Ferdinando's older brother, Duke Francesco, died unexpectedly in 1612, Ferdinando relinquished his cardinalate to become himself duke of Mantua, taking with him Orlandi, who thus became for a time maestro di cappella in Mantua, the post from which the two Gonzaga brothers had dismissed Monteverdi shortly before.

8.4 Apparently not appeased by Gagliano's letter of mid-December, Ferdinando, perhaps because his rank did not permit him to say the hard, even vicious things he felt, had his secretary, Spinello Benci, write them to Gagliano. Evidently it was made clear to Gagliano by Benci (whose letter is not extant) that the course the cardinal had wanted him to follow (a course never before made known to him) was to become a Gonzaga employee. Clearly, Gagliano was shaken by this disclosure, as well as by what must have been Benci's angry tone, and the upset Gagliano felt is apparent in the awkwardness of his letter. It reads as follows:

My Most Illustrious Lord:

I have received a letter of yours from which I learned with the greatest distress about the desire of the most illustrious Signor Cardinal, and your Lordship may be certain that not a single thing was ever said to me by Signor Ottavio Rinuccini concerning the desire of his most illustrious Lordship [the cardinal], for if I had been able to penetrate what his intention was, as you tell it to me, I would not have had a moment's reflection, knowing (and through experience) how much honor and benefit I could receive from this service. But because I find myself weighed down by a large family, and I know how much benefit it can receive right now from my presence, [and] not having expected that I might be hindered in serving his most illustrious Lordship, I made the resolution to remain in this [Medici] service until I could free myself of such heavy burdens, assured by always having known how much his most illustrious Lordship has desired my well-being. As to his most illustrious Lordship's having made conjectures about how I might be thinking of deceiving him, I really do not know what to say, since I have never had, nor been able to have, such a thought. And since I know the condition of my conscience, I shall not go on with justifying myself.

I beg your Lordship to speak on my behalf to his most illustrious Lordship where you see the need, for all of which [acts] I shall be infinitely indebted to you, offering myself to you, always ready to serve you, than which I desire nothing else, and I kiss your hand, praying to the Lord God that he concede every happiness to you. From Florence, the thirtieth day of December 1608.

From your most illustrious Lordship's most affectionate servant, Marco da Gagliano20

8.5 On the same day, Gagliano also wrote to Ferdinando, confronting directly thereby the accusations made by the cardinal through Benci, and repeating the defense he had made to the secretary. Gagliano's letter sounds sincere and honest, but there is in it a tone that suggests he realizes any defense is futile. The cardinal, after all, not only did not get what he wanted, but had been humiliated, bested, he may have felt, by his inferiors. Gagliano's second letter of December 30 reads as follows:

My Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Lord:

I have received a letter from Signor Spinello Benci at which I felt great distress, since there are things in it that I have never thought nor been able to think, and your most illustrious Lordship may be certain that nothing at all has been said to me by Signor Ottavio [Rinuccini] concerning your wish, and so that it might be verified, I went to see him, and not only did he confirm to me that this is the truth, but he has promised to write about it to your most illustrious Lordship. And so far as my knowing [your desire], there is no doubt that I was sure that my service was pleasing to your most illustrious Lordship, but the necessity and usefulness that my family can receive at the present time by my presence, and the expectation of being able to serve you nevertheless in every way, caused me to make this decision—but [only] after I had been assured by your letter that you were in accordance with everything that seemed right to me. And you may be sure that if I had believed that your desire was to the contrary, I would rather have eaten my tongue than ever have spoken a word about it.

And since I know that I have unwittingly acted against your intention, I beg you to be so kind as to forgive me. And I hope that since I have received so many favors from you, I shall receive this one as well, knowing that it does not have to do with the little worth of others, but with the generosity of your soul, from which nothing but kindness and favors issue. And kissing your gown with [all] my heart, I pray to the Lord God that He concede the fullness of every happiness to you. From Florence, the thirtieth day of December 1608.

From your most illustrious and most reverend Lordship's most humble servant, Marco da Gagliano21

9. Rinuccini's Letter Vindicating Gagliano

9.1 One last letter remains in the series, that of Ottavio Rinuccini sent to Spinello Benci in defense of Gagliano. It exonerates him from the charges of dishonest and deceitful dealing, since he had truly never been told of the cardinal's plans for him. Unlike Gagliano's letter, that of Rinuccini is beautifully written, controlled, graceful, and restrained:

My Most Illustrious Most Venerated Lord:

Messer Marco da Gagliano tells me that your Lordship writes to him that he had understood from me the desire of the most illustrious Signor Cardinal about the business regarding the maestrato di cappella. I beg your Lordship to act in such a way that [Marco] may be justified [in saying] that I, when speaking with messer Marco, have never made promises in the name of his most illustrious Lordship, a thing which I never would have done without express permission.

I can truly say to you that although very pressed by relations and friends, he never wished to ask for [the post], nor to proceed in any way until he had received the permission and letter of recommendation from his most illustrious Lordship. I have wished to write this to your Lordship so that it might vindicate messer Marco in the eyes of the most illustrious Signor Cardinal and procure for him his good graces, which he has always had in the past, assuring you that you will favor [thereby] a good servant of the Lord Cardinal, and you will perform an office worthy of your cortesia; and I, in particular, shall be obliged to you for it. And remembering myself to you as your servant with all my heart, I kiss your hands. From Florence, the thirtieth day of December 1608.

The most affectionate servant of your very illustrious Lordship, Ottavio Rinuccini22

10. Subsequent Events

10.1 In 1609, Gagliano was named maestro di cappella to the grand duke of Tuscany, an appointment conferred by the new ruler, Cosimo II, his brother and admirer from the Company of the Archangel Raphael, making Gagliano fourth in a line of musicians who enjoyed dual appointments at the cathedral and the court. And on January 17, 1610, as soon as a canonicate opened at the church of San Lorenzo, the traditional stipendiary base for the maestri di cappella in Florence, Grand Duke Cosimo awarded him the Medici canonicate named for Cosmas and Damian, the two doctor-martyrs who were patron saints of the Medici family. There followed in a few days a ceremony in the palace of the archbishop that awarded Gagliano the ecclesiastical right of ownership for his canonicate and prebend. The notarized contract (extant in the archiepiscopal archive in Florence), which contains a description of the procedure and directs the church of San Lorenzo to let Gagliano come into possession of his office, is dated January 23, 1610.23 Three days later, no objections having been heard, the chapter of canons in San Lorenzo voted unanimously (with all black beans) to accept Gagliano,24 and proceeded to an elaborate and ancient ceremony (which is described in the notarized contract filed with civil authorities on the same day, January 26)25 that ended with his being conducted to his seat in the choir. Gagliano was now officially and securely placed as the most important musical presence in Florence, a position he retained until his death in 1643, honored and beloved, a noble figure in the history of Florentine music.


* Edmond Strainchamps <Strainchamps@valley.net> is on the faculty of the State University of New York at Buffalo and has been a Fellow of Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence. His scholarly work is primarily in Italian music of the late 16th and early 17th centuries and focuses on the princely courts of Florence, Mantua and Ferrara. His articles appear in The Musical Quarterly, Early Music History and The Opera Quarterly as well as a number of Festschrifts and Congress Proceedings. Aside from numerous articles for The New Grove and its forthcoming revision, he is completing work on an edition of the complete madrigals of Marco da Gagliano, to be published by A–R Editions. Return to beginning

**In an earlier version this paper was presented at the Eighth Biennial Conference on Baroque Music at the University of Exeter (England) in July 1998. Return to beginning

1. The letter is found in Mantua, Archivio di Stato (hereafter MAS), Archivio Gonzaga (hereafter A.G.), Autografi 6, 25r/v. It appears, along with twenty-eight others, in Emil Vogel, "Marco da Gagliano: zur Geschichte des Florentiner Musiklebens von 1570–1650," Vierteljahrsschrift für Musikwissenschaft 5 (1889): 550–64. Vogel prints this letter of October 21, 1608 at pp. 556–57. It may be seen here in a corrected transcription as Document No. 1 in the Appendix. Return to text

2. Edmond Strainchamps, "Marco da Gagliano and the Compagnia dell' Arcangelo Raffaello: An Unknown Episode in the Composer's Life," Essays in Honor of Myron P. Gilmore, ed. Sergio Bertelli and Gloria Ramakus (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1978), 473–87. Return to text

3. Details on Gagliano's publications may be found in Strainchamps, "Gagliano, Marco da," The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London: MacMillan, 1980), 7:81–87. Return to text

4. Strainchamps, "New Light on the Accademia degli Elevati of Florence," The Musical Quarterly 62 (1976): 507–35. Return to text

5. A discerning analysis of Ferdinando Gonzaga's personality is presented in Susan Parisi, "Ducal Patronage of Music in Mantua, 1587–1627: An Archival Study," Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois, 1989, chapter 5. Return to text

6. The constancy of this activity in their association is made particularly clear in twenty-seven new letters of Gagliano reported in Strainchamps, "The Unknown Letters of Marco da Gagliano," Music in the Theater, Church, and Villa: Essays in Honor of Robert Lamar Weaver and Norma Wright Weaver, ed. Susan Parisi in collaboration with Ernest Harriss and Calvin M. Bower (Warren, Michigan: Harmonie Park Press, 2000), 89–111. Transcriptions of all the newly found letters may be seen there. Return to text

7. Strainchamps, "Unknown Letters," 96-98. Return to text

8. MAS, A.G., Autografi 8, ff. 187r/v, 187bis. The Italian text appears in the Appendix as Document No. 2. Return to text

9. Florence, Archivio di Stato (hereafter FAS), Mediceo del Principato (hereafter, Mediceo) 3784, f. 620. The Italian text appears in the Appendix as Document No. 3. Return to text

10. MAS, A.G., Autografi 6, ff. 28r/v, 29. The Italian text appears in the Appendix as Document No. 4. A version of the letter appears in Vogel, "Marco da Gagliano," 556–57. Return to paragraph 6.1 Return to paragraph 8.1

11. Belisario Vinta's letter is extant in MAS, A.G. 1126. It appears in the Appendix as Document No. 5. Return to text

12. FAS, Mediceo 3784, f. 611. The Italian text appears in the Appendix as Document No. 6. Return to text

13. MAS, A.G. 1126. The Italian text appears in the Appendix as Document No. 7. Return to text

14. Florence, Archivio dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, "Suppliche, Rescritti e Ordini del Governo," Series III.1.7 (anno 1606–1614), c. 48. The Italian text appears in the Appendix as Document No. 8. Return to text

15. Florence, Archivio dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, "Registri di Deliberazioni degli Operai," Series II.2.16 (anno 1587–1611), c. 140v. The Italian text appears in the Appendix as Document No. 9. Return to text

16. MAS, A.G., Autografi 6, f. 27. The Italian text appears in the Appendix as Document No. 10. A partial transcription is in Vogel, "Marco da Gagliano," 556. Return to text

17. FAS, Mediceo 3784, f. 730. The Italian text appears in the Appendix as Document No. 11. Return to text

18. See note 10 above. Return to text

19. Angelo Solerti, Musica, ballo a drammatica alla Corte Medicea dal 1600 al 1637: Notizie tratte da un diario . . . (Florence: Bemporad e figlio, 1905), 54, contains the relative passage from Cesare Tinghi's court diary. Return to text

20. MAS, A.G., Autografi 6, f. 30. The Italian text appears in the Appendix as Document No. 12. It also appears in Vogel, "Marco da Gagliano," 557–58. Return to text

21. MAS, A.G., Autografi 6, f. 31. The Italian text appears in the Appendix as Document No. 13. It appears as well in Vogel, "Marco da Gagliano," 557. Return to text

22. MAS, A.G., Autografi 8, f. 191r/v. The Italian text appears in the Appendix as Document No. 14. Return to text

23. Florence, Archivio Arcivescovile, Collationes Gerardini, Filtia prima (1606–1610), ff. 294r/v, 301r/v: Institutio Canonicatus Ecclesiae Sancti Laurentii, 23 Ianarii 1609 [=1610 in modern style]. The contract appears in the Appendix as Document No. 15. Return to text

24. Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Basilica di San Lorenzo, Archivio Capitolare 2636 (Libro di Partiti F), f. 158. It appears in the Appendix as Document No. 16. Return to text

25. FAS, Notarile Moderno 5191 (Milanesi Frosino, 1609–1610), ff. 99v100 (Contratto no. 111): "Possessio canonicatus, 26 Ianuarii [1610]." It appears in the Appendix as Document No. 17. I am grateful to Dr. Gino Corti for his help in transcribing the notarized contracts, documents 15 and 17. Return to text

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