Rome: a City of Rich Contrast

  • Christopher Reynolds
Part of the Man & Music book series


There are two popular images of musical life in Renaissance Rome. The Rome of Leo X looms as a vibrant, international arena in which Italian and northern musicians composed and performed in a variety of sacred and secular styles; this contrasts easily — too easily, perhaps — with the image of Rome during the Counter-Reformation as an austere, conservative city, best represented by the uncomplicated devotional music of the lauda and by the controlled polyphony of Palestrina. While the earlier period contributed to the birth of the Italian madrigal, the legacy of the latter was the Baroque oratorio and the stylized ecclesiastical counterpoint of the prima prattica. However, these opposing images are too sharply drawn, the contrast between them oversimplified. As a city Renaissance Rome was too large, its sources of musical patronage too diverse for any one style to dominate. Josquin, the Greek organist Isaaco Argyropulo and the Florentine humanist Aurelio Brandolini were contemporaries in late fifteenth-century Rome, as were Marenzio, Palestrina, Girolamo Mei and S Filippo Neri a century later. Each possessed distinct musical convictions. All of them contributed substantially to the musical life of the city.


Sixteenth Century Musical Style Musical Symbolism Papal Court Musical Life 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1989

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  • Christopher Reynolds

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