DON LODOVICO AGOSTINI

1534-1590

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Biography

At the court of Ferrara

Apart from a single book of canzoni napolitani in 1574, there is little record of Agostiniís activities in the middle of the decade, but his circumstances changed substantially at some point, for by the beginning of the 1578 he had become a Protonothary Apostolic (a high-ranking, but honorary, title bestowed personally by the Pope) From this point his title is always included on the front page of his publications and as a codicil to his signature.  By this time, too, he was a capellano of the ducal household at Ferrara and sometime composition tutor to the duke of Mantua, Guglielmo Gonzaga.  Guglielmo became the dedicatee of Agostiniís second book of enigmas, LíEcho, et Enigmi musicali a sei voci, libro secondo, published in 1581. 
Once established at the Ferrarese court, Agostini's music and the books in which it was issued began more and more to reflect his environment.  The Libro terzo ... a sei voci of 1582 and the Nuovo echo ... a cinque voci of 1583 were both published by the ducal printer, Baldini, with lavishly bordered frontespieces and laudatory sonnets to the composer on the endpapers (the Nuovo echo is even printed on special blue paper).  The poems he sets are peppered with references to courtiers and court life, and the music seems specifically to evoke performance practice at the court.

Frontespiece of  Il Nuovo Echo (1583)

Agostini's many madrigals for the ladies of the concerto di dame include some which refer to them individually and by name, and some more general celebrations of their formidable technique and their irresistible allure.  The music is highly ornate and frequently requires three equal soprano voices.  Unusually for madrigal books of this period, the Nuovo echo also contains instrumental pieces, clearly designed as interludes or prefatory material to be heard in conjunction with the vocal performances.
Despite the many publications and the survival of some correspondence, Agostini's precise position at the court is not entirely clear.  He doesn't appear to have actually performed with the musica segreta, even though much of his music is written for them, nor does he contribute to either of the anthologies for Laura Peverara compiled and published during the years of 1582 and 1583 (although this may be due to his occupation with writing his own volumes during those years).  However, his contribution to the manuscript anthology now known as Biblioteca Estense MS F1358 is placed at the opening of the collection, suggesting that he may have had a hand in its compilation.
Agostini's last surviving publication is the Lagrime del peccatore of 1586, a complete volume of spiritual madrigals dedicated to Guglielmo Gonzaga which, typically, contains parodies and reworkings of Gonzaga's own compositions.  He died in 1590 and was buried in the church of Santo Spirito, with a monument paid for by Enea Montecucculi, the dedicatee of one of Agostini's early works.
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Bibliography references (primary and musical sources):   Agostini, 1581; Agostini, 1582; Agostini, 1583; Agostini, 1586; Biblioteca Estense MS F1358

Bibliography references (secondary sources):  Dennis, 2002; DurMart, 2000; Newcomb, 1981

 

 

   

Written by Laurie Stras.

Last updated 07 October, 2002.

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