Faà di Bruno, Giovanni Matteo [Horatio, Orazio] 83

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Family of Italian and English musicians. Members of this Bolognese family (fig.1) were well known in Italy during the 16th century, and in England during the 16th and 17th centuries. The earliest record of the family shows Domenico, son of Pietro or Petruccio, styled Ferrabosco, to have been in 1460 in the service of the magnificent house of Bentivoglio which then ruled Bologna. Domenico’s son Cecchino was baptized on 7 September 1460. These early Ferraboscos (not known to be musicians) were highly regarded in the Bentivoglio court, and Cecchino’s two sons Annibale and Alessandro, baptized on 27 September 1487 and 1 October 1491 respectively, were sponsored by and named after the ruler’s own sons. In 1473 the Commune of Bologna gave Domenico a house, possibly via Zamboni 38, near the university and Bentivoglio Palace. Annibale’s four sons, Domenico Maria, Lodovico (a canon and precentor of the collegiate church of S Petronio in Bologna), Girolamo and Filippo were probably born there.

(1) Domenico Maria Ferrabosco [Ferabosco]

(2) Alfonso Ferrabosco (i)

(3) Costantino Ferrabosco

(4) Matthia Ferrabosco

(5) Alfonso Ferrabosco (ii)

(6) John Ferrabosco



(1) Domenico Maria Ferrabosco [Ferabosco]

(b Bologna, 14 Feb 1513; d Bologna, Feb 1574). Italian composer and singer. On 19 November 1540 the Senate of Bologna recognized his musical skill by granting him a salary for life for being responsible for the public performances of the palace musicians. He was also a singer at S Petronio. About this time he married Giulia, daughter of Guido Novelli dall’Arpa of Ferrara; the wife of Count Alfonso Contrari of that city provided the dowry. The eldest of their eight sons was named Alfonso, probably after the count.

In 1546 Domenico became magister puerorum in the Cappella Giulia in Rome, but soon returned to Bologna where, on account of his merits and straitened family circumstances, the Senate appointed him on 29 August 1547 Regulator et scriba campionis creditorum Montis portarum, a non-musical post. In 1548 he was made maestro di cappella at S Petronio, whereupon the Senate exempted him and his children from all taxes in Bologna. Nevertheless he went again to Rome. He was appointed a singer in the papal chapel on 27 November 1550, and took up the post in April 1551. He and Palestrina were colleagues there, but on 30 July 1555 they were both retired on pension by the new pope (Paul IV) because they were married. After this it is known that he became maestro di cappella at S Lorenzo in Damaso, Rome, perhaps only for a short time. It is also known that he was in Paris in the late 1550s and early 1560s (Kerman). On 23 December 1570 Domenico Maria caused the Senate of Bologna to grant and transfer immediately after his death the office of Regulator et scriba to (2) Alfonso Ferrabosco (i). His will, dated 22 June 1573, suggests that he was in comfortable circumstances and mentions four sons.

Domenico Maria’s principal compositions are in his first and only book of madrigals, published by Gardane in Venice in 1542 and dedicated to Guidobaldo II, Duke of Urbino. They show him to be a composer of potential in the early period of the Italian madrigal characterized by Verdelot, Festa and Arcadelt; there is some contrasting of homophonic and polyphonic passages, as well as interpretation of the literary detail of the texts, including a response to the rhythm. The majority of these texts are anonymous but their style favours that of the increasingly popular love lyrics of Petrarch, who, with Ariosto and Bembo, has been identified in the remainder.

Several other madrigals and four motets appeared (some published) in the mid-16th century, and a few were subsequently arranged for the lute, cittern and keyboard and also appeared in German organ tablature. In particular, one madrigal, Io mi son giovinetta, achieved great popularity: Palestrina used it as a model for two parody masses. No fewer than 46 printed anthologies and at least 16 manuscript sources between 1542 and 1546 reproduce the madrigal, and two manuscripts provide contrafacta, one in German and the other in English. The periodic publication of this ballata from Boccaccio’s Decameron over such a long period and its ascription to (2) Alfonso Ferrabosco (i) in Gemma musicalis (Nuremberg, 158821) were partly responsible for the confusion by earlier writers between the various members of the family.

Girolamo, a younger brother of Domenico Maria, is scarcely referred to in documents in Bologna, and is known only by one enigmatic composition, a ‘Toccata di Roma’, for organ. Livi thought he might have gone to England and perhaps accompanied (2) Alfonso Ferrabosco (i) on his first visit.


Edition: Domenico Maria Ferrabosco (1513–1574): Opera omnia, ed. R. Charteris, CMM, cii (1992) [complete edn]

Il primo libro de madrigali, 4vv (Venice, 1542), ed. in SCMad, xi (1995)

A che la dippartita; Alma mia bella; Amaro mio pensier; Amor ti priegho; Ardenti miei sospiri; Aspra dura crudel; Beati almi pensieri; Ben si puo; Che giova saettar; Chi potrebbe estimar; Com’ havr’aspersi; Da bei rami; Dolce mia Galathea; Donna la tanto desiata; Donna si rara; Dormendo un giorno; Fiorir si vede; Fresche fiorite; Fuggi i seren e’l verde; Hor poi mia; In quel beato giorno; In un vagho giardin

Lasso non cerco; Li sdegni le repulse; Luci che di splendore; Ne l’hora che dal ciel; Nessun visse; Niega tua luce; Non men gioir; O beata colei; O caldi miei pensier; Occhi eh che; O lum’ ardenti; Quando mia fera stella; Quanto sia’l ciel; Se a voi do l’alma mia; So ben che non volete; Se’l mio Sol; Se’l sol vicin offende; Se mai cosa; Se mi conced’Amore; Vaghi robini; Vanneggio o è pur vero; Verdi panni; Viddi le bionde chiome

Other madrigals: Anime cast’e pure, 5vv, 154216; Baciami vita mia, 4vv, 155428 (arr. lute, 156323); Deh ferm’amor costui, 4vv, 155428 (arr. lute, 156629); Io mi son giovinetta, 4vv, 154217, ed. in CMM, lxxiii (1978); Io non so dir parole, 4vv, 154217, ed. in CMM, lxxiii (1978) (arr. lute, 156323); Più d’alto pin (2p. Ma se del mio tormento), 5vv, 154417; Signora se pensate, 5vv, 154216; S’i’ pur ti guardo, 4vv, 15708 (arr. lute, 157212); Sta su, non mi far male, 5vv, 154216; Vergin che debbo far, 4vv, 16005

Motets: Ascendens Christus (2p. Viri Galilei), 5vv, I-Rvat C.S. 54; Usquequo, Domine (2p. Illumina oculos meos), 5vv, 15446

Incomplete works: Quem queritis?; Scitis quia post biduum; 1v only of each survives, I-Bc





(C. Sartori)

O. Chilesotti: ‘Una canzone celebre nel Cinquecento: “Io mi son giovinetta” del Ferabosco’, RMI, i (1894), 446–53

G.E.P. Arkwright: ‘Notes on the Ferrabosco Family’, MA, iii (1911–12), 220–28; iv (1912–13), 42–54, 119–20, 260 only

G. Livi: ‘The Ferrabosco Family’, MA, iv (1912–13), 121–42

A. Bonaventura: ‘Il Boccaccio e la musica’, RMI, xxi (1914), 405–42

J. Kerman: ‘An Italian Musician in England, 1562–78’, IMSCR XV: Madrid 1992 [RdMc, xvi (1993)], 561–73; repr. in Write All These Down: Essays on Music (Berkeley, 1994), 139–51


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