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

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Ficino, Marsilio

(b Figline, 1433; d Florence, 1499). Florentine humanist and philosopher. He was supported by the steady patronage and friendship of Cosimo and Lorenzo de’ Medici, and was the guiding spirit of the Accademia Platonica di Firenze. His interest in music was that of a dedicated neo-Platonist, and according to contemporary accounts he demonstrated this by singing Orphic hymns to an improvised accompaniment on the ‘lyre’ (probably a lira da braccio). A number of his writings touch on neo-Platonic theories of magic and on neo-Pythagorean musical topics: in De triplici vita (Opera, 1576, p.529) he expounded theories of the effect of music on the human ‘spiritus’; in an Espistola de musica (Opera, p.650) he wrote of the connections between music and medicine; in another letter ‘de rationibus musicae’ (Kristeller, 1937, p.51) and in his commentary on Plato’s Timaeus (Opera, p.1438) he gave an account of the Pythagorean mathematics of music theory. Occasional remarks, such as the equating of the triad with the three Graces, suggest that Ficino thought of music in the terms of his own times, but his main concern was the ethos of ancient musical doctrine. He was nonetheless a great influence on 16th-century writers who stressed the ‘natural force and imitative potency of [musical] sound’ (Tomlinson, 141).


M. Ficino: Opera Omnia (Basle, 1576); ed. M. Sancipriano (Turin, 1959)

P.O. Kristeller, ed.: Supplementum Ficinianum (Florence, 1937/R)

P.O. Kristeller: The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino (New York, 1943/R)

P.O. Kristeller: ‘Music and Learning in the Early Italian Renaissance’, JRBM, i (1946–7), 255–69

O. Kinkeldey: ‘Franchino Gafori and Marsilio Ficino’, Harvard Library Bulletin, i (1947), 379–82

D.P. Walker: ‘Ficino’s spiritus and Music’, AnnM, i (1953), 131–50

D.P. Walker: ‘Le chant orphique de Marsile Ficin’, Musique et poésie au XVIe siècle: Paris 1953, 17–33

D.P. Walker: Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella (London, 1958/R)

M. Allen: The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino (Berkeley, 1984)

G. Tomlinson: Music in Renaissance Magic (Chicago, 1993)


Fickénscher, Arthur

(b Aurora, IL, 9 March 1871; d San Francisco, 15 April 1954). American composer, pianist and inventor. A precocious musician, he graduated with ‘unprecedented’ honours from the Königliche Musikschule, Munich (1889), having studied with Rheinberger and Thuille. He settled in San Francisco in 1896, touring widely with Anton Schott, Amalie Materna, David Bispham and Ernestine Schumann-Heink. In 1901 he married the singer Edith Cruzan. He moved back to Germany in 1911, where he established a vocal studio in Berlin and obtained a patent (1912) for a new keyboard design with 60 notes to the octave. After returning to the USA in 1914, he became head of the music department at the University of Virginia (from 1920). His retirement in 1941 coincided with an American patent for the polytone, an instrument using an extended keyboard and allowing for a purer intonation of 3rds and 5ths.

Fickénscher’s compositional style, highly regarded by Grainger, reflects a transition between late Romanticism and modernism. Traditional harmony is decorated with microtonal inflection and motion in parallel 7ths, while vocal melody is coloured by a mystic sensibility. Most of his early works, including two unfinished operas, were destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.


Vocal: Aucassin and Nicolete (trans. A. Lang), S, Bar, SATB, orch, c1907–09; The Chamber Blue (W. Morris), S, C, T, SSAA, orch, c1907–35; Visions (C. Keeler), S, orch, c1908–12; Willowwood (D.G. Rossetti), C/Mez, va, bn, pf, 1910; Communion Service, SATB, org ad lib (1945); Land East of the Sun (Morris), S, A, T, Bar, SATB, orch; Requiem a la Gregorian; 15 anthems, partsongs and arr.; 28 songs and arr.

Orch: Willowwave and Wellaway, 1925; Aucalete, c1927–45; Day of Judgment ‘Dies irae’, 1927; Out of the Gay Nineties, 1934; Variation Fantasy, chbr orch/str orch, 1937; Old Irish Tune, chbr orch, 1946; Interlude, c1949–54 [from Land East of the Sun]

Chbr and solo inst: From the Seventh Realm, pf qnt (1939); Lament, org, 1951; Improvisational Fantasy, org, 1954; Evolutionary Qt; Nocturne [arr.]; works for polytone

MSS in US-CHum

Principal publishers: Birchard, Schirmer, Schott, Sikesdi


A. Fickénscher: ‘The “Polytone” and the Potentialities of a Purer Intonation’, MQ, xxvii (1941), 356–70

W.R. Davis: Arthur Fickénscher’s Synesthetic Work (MA thesis, U. of Virginia, 1990)

W.W. Jones (with Robert S. Pace): Life and Works of Arthur Fickénscher: American Composer (1871–1954) (MS thesis, U. of Virginia, 1992)


Ficker, Rudolf von

(b Munich, 11 June 1886; d Igls, nr Innsbruck, 2 Aug 1954). Austrian musicologist of German birth. He studied musicology in Vienna with Adler, and composition in Munich with Thuille and Courvoisier, between 1905 and 1912, and took the doctorate at Vienna University in 1913 with a dissertation on the 16th-century Italian madrigal. In 1920 he completed the Habilitation and became a lecturer at Innsbruck University, and in 1923 was made reader. In 1927 he was appointed reader at Vienna, and co-director of the musicology department. In 1931 he succeeded Sandberger as professor and director of the musicology department at Munich, where he served as dean.

Ficker was an early champion of medieval music through his performances, editions and writings. He argued vigorously for its equality of artistic worth beside medieval painting and architecture, and indeed borrowed the terms ‘Romanesque’ and ‘Gothic’ from art history. He had a speculative turn of mind, and was greatly interested in psychological and anthropological matters, particularly as they applied to the origins of Western polyphony. His book, Die Grundlagen der abendländischen Mehrstimmigkeit, remained unfinished.


Die Chromatik im italienischen Madrigal des 16. Jahrhunderts (diss., U. of Vienna, 1913)

‘Beiträge zur Chromatik des 14. bis 16. Jahrhunderts’, SMw, ii (1914), 5–33

Die Kolorierungstechnik der Trienter Messen (Habilitationsschrift, U. of Vienna, 1920); pubd in SMw, vii (1920), 5–47

‘Die frühen Messen kompositionen der Trienter Codices’, SMw, xi (1924), 3–58

‘Formprobleme der mittelalterlichen Musik’, ZMw, vii (1924–5), 195–213

‘Die Musik des Mittelalters und ihre Beziehungen zum Geistesleben’, DVLG, iii (1925), 501–35

‘Polyphonic Music of the Gothic Period’, MQ, xv (1929), 483–505

‘Primäre Klangfonnen’, JbMP 1929, 21–34

‘Der Organumtraktat der Vatikanischen Bibliothek (Ottob.3025)’, KJb, xxvii (1932), 65–74

‘Agwillare, a Piece of Late Gothic Minstrelsy’, MQ, xxii (1936), 131–9

‘Probleme der modalen Notation’, AcM, xviii–xix (1946–7), 2–16

‘The Transition on the Continent’, NOHM, iii (1960/R), 134–64


with A. Orel: Sechs Trienter Codices IV, DTÖ, liii, Jg.xxvii/1 (1920/R)

Sieben Trienter Codices: Messen und Messensätze, DTÖ, lxxvi, Jg.xl (1924/R)

Sieben Trienter Codices: geistliche und weltliche Motetten, DTÖ, lxxvi, Jg.xl (1933/R)

Perotinus: Organum quadruplum sederunt principes (Vienna, 1930)


NDB (T.G. Georgiades)

Obituaries: K. Jeppesen, AcM, xxvi (1954), 65–66; T.G. Georgiades, Mf, viii (1955), 200–5; P. Lehmann, Jb der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 1955, 168–72

W. Gratzer: ‘Bearbeitungen der Bearbeitungen der Bearbei …: zu Rudolf Fickers editorischen Bemühungen um einen “Epochentermin der Musikgeschichte’, De editione musices: Festscshrift Gerhard Croll, ed. W. Gratzer and A. Lindmayr (Laaber, 1992), 27–50

W. Pass: ‘“Das Kunstwerk nicht nur der Form nach untersuchen, sondern darüber hinaus es auch Musik werden zu lassen”: Rudolf von Ficker als Vorbild und Lehrer Josef Mertins’, ‘Musik muss man machen’: eine Festgabe für Josef Mertin, ed. M. Nagy (Vienna, 1994), 113–26


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