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Early years to 1578

Lodovico Agostini was born in Ferrara in 1534, the illegitimate son of the Ferrarese cleric-musician Agostino Agostini.  Where he was educated and when he entered minor orders is as yet unknown; however, he seems to have spent at least part of his early career in Rome.  His first musical work to be published, the four-voice ‘Occhi soavi e belli’, appears in Antonio Barré’s 1562 Roman collection Il terzo libro delle muse a quattro voci, suggesting that he had at some point either studied or held a minor post in the city.
In the following year, 1563, Agostini may have returned to Ferrara to seek employment there, for he was granted a dispensation by Pope Paul IV allowing him to hold benefices and canonic status at the Ferrara cathedral, a necessity as illegitimate children of clerics were not allowed to hold any office in the churches to which their fathers had been attached.  The validity of the dispensation, however, was shortlived;  in December of the same year, the Council of Trent revoked all such orders with a final ruling re-enforcing the original ban. 
  After this disappointment, Agostini may have remained in northern Italy, possibly travelling to Venice, but ultimately ending up in Milan.  His first single-author print, the Musica di L.A. ferrarese, sopra le rime bizzarre di Andrea Calmo [Libro primo a quattro voci] of 1567 was published by  a Milanese printing house; the dedication to the actor and writer Andrea Calmo, ‘fradel caro, dolce amigo, e amorevole’, is written in Venetian dialect, but signed in Milan. Three years later, Agostini dedicated his Musica di don L.A. ferrarese il Primo Libro de madrigali a cinque voci to the Ferrarese ambassador there.   

That Agostini did, in fact, spend time in Rome is confirmed by the dedication of his first book of Enigmi musicali, published in 1571 and directed to the brothers Giovanni Piero and Tiberio Cerasi.  It speaks of the ‘strong bond of friendship between us that was born in Rome through the sympathy for this most beautiful science’.   It seems unlikely, however, that Agostini had returned to Rome in 1571, for the following year he published two volumes dedicated to Ferrarese patrons:  a book of sacred motets which was inscribed to the canons of the Ferrarese cathedral; and the Libro secondo de madrigali a quattro voci which, like the Enigmi musicali, was also directed to a pair of relations, this time the Counts Girolamo Roverelli and Enea Montecucculi, cousins and members of the Ferrarese court.

Agostini's early publications show him to be interested in music's recreational as much as its expressive possibilities.  All of these early books contain music that has entertainment value equally for performers and listeners.  The 1567 Musica contains settings of dialect verse, many of which are parodies; the motets and the book of enigmi contain puzzle pieces and dialogues, some in the form of 'echo' pieces.


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Bibliography references (primary and musical sources):   Agostini, 1567; Agostini, 1570; Agostini, 1571; Agostini, 1572a; Agostini, 1572b

Bibliography references (secondary sources):  DurMart, 2000; Newcomb, 1981

Written by Laurie Stras.

Last updated 08 October, 2002.

The views expressed in this document are those of the author and not those of the University of Southampton.