Salamone Rossi (c.1570-c.1628) occupies a unique place in Renaissance music culture: he was the earliest outstanding Jewish composer to work in the European art music tradition. In the field of instrumental music, he established the trio sonata as a standard combination of voices for 17th-century chamber music and developed the sonata into a vehicle of virtuoso display. In his vocal works, he wrote music to texts of some of the most fashionable poets of his day, including Battista Guarini, Gabriello Chiabrera, and Ottavio Rinuccini. The mannerist poet Giovan Battista Marino particularly captured his attention: with 33 settings of Marino's verses, among them the remarkable Canzone de' baci in eight strophes, Rossi stands in the vanguard of contemporary literary developments. Rossi composed a book of duets and trios (Madrigaletti) that paved the way for similar chamber works by Agostino Steffani and others from the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Last but not least, Rossi carved out his own niche in the history of sacred music by composing the first and only collection of polyphonic settings of Hebrew texts (his 'Songs of Solomon') before the mid-nineteenth century.
As a Jewish composer working for the Gonzaga dukes in Mantua, yet remaining faithful to his own religious community, Rossi has a biography fraught with difficult and often exciting questions of a socio-cultural order. How Rossi solved, or appears to have solved, the problem of conflicting interests is a subject worthy of inquiry, not only because we want to know more about Rossi, but also because Rossi can stand as a paradigm for other Jewish figures who, contemporary with him, moved between different cultures.
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(242mm x 163mm x 22mm)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Author Biography - Don Harran
Don Harran is Artur Rubinstein Professor of Musicology at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. In October 1999, he was awarded the Landau Prize for 1999.