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Cosimo Bartoli on music

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2008

James Haar
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


To students of sixteenth-century music the Florentine man of letters Cosimo Bartoli (1503–72) is known chiefly for two statements made in the third dialogue of his Ragionamenti Accademici. One is a comparison of sculptors and musicians, with Donatello and Ockeghem seen as precursors of Michelangelo and Josquin. The other is an encomium of Verdelot, called the greatest composer after Josquin, to which is added the name of Arcadelt who ‘faithfully trod in the footsteps of Verdelot’. A number of musicologists have noticed that Bartoli had quite a lot more than this to say about music, and have cited other remarks from his work; but no one has to my knowledge dealt with the whole of the musical section of the Ragionamenti, and only Bartoli's recent and very excellent biographer Judith Bryce has spoken of the subject in the context of its author's career and personality.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1988

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1 Ragionamenti Accademici di Cosimo Bartoli Gentil'huomo et Accademico Fiorentino, sopra alcuni luoghi difficili di Dante. Con alcuni inventioni & significati, & la Tavola di piu cose notabili (Venice, 1567), iii fols. 35v36Google Scholar. The passage has been cited often in the modern literature; see, for example, Einstein, A., The Italian Madrigal, 3 vols. (Princeton, 1949), i, pp. 21–2Google Scholar.

2 Rag. Accad., iii, fol. 36. For comment (with regard to Verdelot) on this passage, see Slim, H. C., A Gift of Madrigals and Motets, 2 vols. (Chicago, 1972), i, pp. 61–2Google Scholar.

3 See, for example. Disertori, B., Andrea e Giovanni Gabrieli e la musica strumentale in San Marco (Milan, 1931), pp. livlvGoogle Scholar; Fabbri, M., ‘La vita e l'ignota opera-prima di Francesco Corteccia, musicista italiano del Rinascimento (Firenze-1502–Firenze-1571)’, Chigiani, 22 (ser. 2) (1965), pp. 185217, esp. 199ffGoogle Scholar.; Minor, A. C. and Mitchell, B., A Renaissance Entertainment: Festivities for the Marriage of Cosimo I, Duke of Florence, in 1539 (Columbia, Missouri, 1968), pp. 50–3Google Scholar; Pirrotta, N., ‘Istituzioni musicali nella Firenze dei Medici’, Firenze e la Toscana dei Medici nell' Europa del ’500, 3 vols. (Florence, 1983), i, pp. 3754, esp. 4951Google Scholar.

4 Bryce, J., Cosimo Bartoli (1503–1572): The Career of a Florentine Polymath (Geneva, 1983)Google Scholar.

5 See Rag. Accad., iii, fol. 34v, where Bartoli is said to be ‘uscito fuori con certi Musici’, prompting his interlocutor-friend Pierfrancesco Giambullari to remark, ‘Io vi sò dire che da un tempo in quà egli si è dato tanto a questa sua Musica, che è pur un poco troppo’; fol. 36v, where Bartoli is said to have held concerts in his house, employing ‘musici di sua eccellentia' (Cosimo i, presumably; or, if an earlier date is meant, possibly Ippolito de’ Medici).

6 On the aftermath of the Sack of Rome, see Hook, J., The Sack of Rome, 1527 (London, 1972), ch. 12Google Scholar; Chastel, A., The Sack of Rome (Princeton, 1977), chGoogle Scholar.; Chamberlin, E. R., The Sack of Rome (London, 1979), pp. 205–8Google Scholar.

7 Bryce, , Cosimo Bartoli, p. 35et passimGoogle Scholar. On Corteccia's appointment, see D'Accone, F., Music of the Florentine Renaissance, viiiGoogle Scholar. Francesco Corteccia, Collected Secular Works: The First Book of Madrigals for Four Voices, Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae 32/viii (1981), p. xiGoogle Scholar.

9 The Annali of the Accademia Fiorentina record that a comedy by Bartoli was approved in September 1542. In a letter of 7 February 1565 addressed to Vasari, Bartoli refers to three comedie of his, none as yet performed. See Bryce, , Cosimo Bartoli, p. 312Google Scholar.

10 Prefaced to Bartoli's edition of Ficino (Marsilio Ficino, sopra lo amore over’ Convito di Platone [Florence, 1544]) is a treatise, ‘Osservazioni per la Pronúnzia Fiorentína di Neri Dorteláta da Firénze’; the latter is also said to be publisher of the edition. Whether or not Bartoli himself wrote this tract under a pseudonym, as some have thought (but see the doubts expressed by Bryce, , Cosimo Bartoli, pp. 215–1Google Scholar.), his edition of Ficino's Italian text demonstrates use of idiosyncratic Florentine spellings and employs written accents for every word of more than one syllable.

11 Of particular relevance here are Lenzoni, Carlo’s In Difesa della lingua Fiorentina (Florence, 1556Google Scholar.), a work edited by Bartoli and one in which he is an interlocutor, and Gelli's, G. B.Ragionamento sopra le difficoltà di mettere in regole la nostra lingua (1551)Google Scholar., in which Bartoli is again an interlocutor; see Gelli, , Opere, ed. Sanesini, I. (Turin, 1952), esp. pp. 487ffGoogle Scholar. Giambullari, ’s Della lingua che si parla e scrive in Firenze (Florence, 1551)Google Scholar. calls Gelli's work Ragionamenti in fra Cosimo Bartoli e G. G. Belli

12 On Bartoli as translator and editor of Alberti's work, see Bryce, Cosimo Bartoli, ch. x. It was Bartoli's translation that was republished and used as the text for the influential English translation published by Leoni in 1726.

14 For works of Bartoli published by Franceschi, see the first section, pp. 313–16, of the Bibliography in Bryce, Cosimo Bartoli.

15 Rag. Accad., i, fols. 1−6v. The interlocutors in the first dialogue, subtitled ‘il Martello’, are Vincenzo Martelli, Angelo della Stufa and Bartoli himself.

16 Rag. Accad., i, fol. 19.

18 On this building, see Poli, O., Piccini, A. and Brunetti, M., Il recupero di un monumento a Firenze (Florence, 1973), esp. pp. 2230Google Scholar.., ‘Cosimo Bartoli Progettista del Palazzo Ricasoli’. A photograph of the restored building may be seen in this volume.

19 In the proemio to his De Architectura, p. 5 in the 1565 edition of Bartoli's translation, Alberti says of the architect that he is not a labourer but rather ‘colui, ilquale saprà con certa, & maravigliosa ragione & regola. sì con la mente e con lo animo divisare’.

21 The second dialogue, called ‘il Cavaliere’, has as interlocutors Cavaliere Lodovico de’ Masi, Lionardo Doffi and Ferrante Pandolfini, Bishop of Troia. The conversation under consideration here is on fols. 22–6 (see Appendix). A second painting is discussed at the end of Ragionamento, iii, fols. 48–53v.

22 This is noted by Bryce, , Cosimo Bartoli, p. 274Google Scholar.; she also points out other uses of the title-page design by Franceschi and by Torrentino in Florence. Bryce thinks that a painting may actually have existed; and there are some details in the description (mention of colours, and of a cintura worn by the river-god Arno, not visible in the woodcut) that support this view; but I am inclined to doubt it, preferring to think of the ‘painting’ as a drawing on which the woodcut title-page was modelled. Figure 2 shows Torrentino's title-page in the first edition of Bartoli's translation; the Venetian edition of 1565 has an altered version, with the figures on each side reversed and with other differences of detail.

23 For these passages, see above, n. 5.

24 Lenzoni, , In Difesa della lingua Fiorentina, ii, pp. 38–9Google Scholar: ‘Così stando si cominciò a cantare, & a sonare il Liutto dal nostro divino Antonio da Lucca, & il Trombone; con una dolce & vera Armonia … allettatti dalla Armonia, leggiermente si addormentarono; se dormir si chiama però quel soave sonneferare, che ode e'ntende ciò che si fa.’

25 Bryce, , Cosimo Bartoli, p. 278Google Scholar.

26 Bryce, , Cosimo Bartoli, p. 277Google Scholar, refers to mention of Piero da Ricasoli (whose name has been misread by several scholars as Piero Darica, owing to the appearance of the name in Franceschi's typeface) in Passerini, L., Genealogia e storia della famiglia Ricasoli (Florence, 1861), p. 80Google Scholar; I have unfortunately been unable to find a copy of this work to consult.

27 Lorenzo was the son of Alessandro Antinori, whose business interests took him abroad, especially to Lyons; Lorenzo there married, c. 1549, a member of the Florentine Guadagni family. See Gemma, Miani's article on the elder Antinori in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, iii (Rome, 1961), p. 456Google Scholar; Picot, E., Les Italiens en France au xvie siècle (Bordeaux, 1901), p. 99Google Scholar.

28 Rag. Accad., iii, fol. 36v. Pierfrancesco Giambullari's death in August 1555 might be another date to keep in mind in this regard. But see below and nn. 84 and 86 for the suggestions that at least part of this discussion may have been written a good deal earlier.

30 The story of Giulio da Modena catching the attention of Pope Clement VII and of Alfonso d'Avalos, Marchese del Vasto, then banishing for a time their cares of state (Rag. Accad., iii, fol. 38v), has been dated at 1530 by Slim, ‘Segni’, p. 105.

31 There are no documented references to Verdelot as being in Florence after the fall of the republic; see Slim, , A Gift of Madrigals, pp. 5565Google Scholar.. Only the inclusion of Verdelot as an interlocutor in Doni's, I Marmi (1552)Google Scholar. suggests that if Doni, born in 1513, actually knew the composer in Florence, he may have been referring, despite his allusions to discussions in the Rucellai gardens which would suggest an earlier date, to a period in the 1530s, when both Verdelot and Arcadelt could have been in Florence, as Bartoli's text (fol. 36) seems to suggest.

32 Cf. the opinion of Bryce, on the whole a sympathetic biographer (Cosimo Bartoli, p. 206): ‘Bartoli had none of Alberti's outstanding originality, the quality of his intellect is far inferior, and the contradictions and paradoxes of his views on life are more likely to be the result of intellectual muddle than of any profound insight into the nature of existence.’

34 See Marsh, D., The Quattrocento Dialogue: Classical Tradition and Humanist Innovation (Cambridge, Mass., 1980)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, particularly the chapter on Alberti and the vernacular dialogue.

37 Bartoli's second lecture was published by Doni, in Lettioni d'accademici fiorentini sopra Dante. Libro primo (Florence, 1547)Google Scholar.

38 In Dentice's work there are a few citations of musicians (fols. 28f, 32v, 36v) mentioned by Bartoli as well; and there is some similarity of attitude towards singers. The book is composed chiefly of elementary and very dully presented material on music theory, not a good subject for amateur music lovers and one that Bartoli wisely refrained from dealing with.

39 In transcribing passages from Bartoli's work I have corrected obvious typographical errors of spelling and punctuation but have otherwise left the text as it stands, not altering vagaries of orthography or use of accents.

40 For Plato's views on this subject (Laws 700–1), see Jaeger, W., Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, trans. Highet, G., 3 vols. (Oxford, 19391944), iii, pp. 237–8Google Scholar. Cf. Zarlino, , Le istitutioni harmoniche, i, iv, pp. 910Google Scholar..: ‘Et a far ciò si mossero con ragione, che chiaramente si può vedere, che colori i quali nella gioventù, lassati li studij delle cose di maggiore importanza, si sono dati solamente a conversare co gl'Istrioni, & co parasiti, stando sempre nelle schuole di giuochi, di balli, & di salti, sonando la Lira & il Leuto, & cantando canzoni meno che honeste, sono molli, effeminati, & senza alcuno buon costume. Impero che la Musica in tal modo usata, rende gli animi de giovani mal composti, come bene lo dimostrò Ovidio dicendo; Enervant animos citharae, cantusque lyraeque. / Et vox, & numeris brachia mota suis.’

41 Castiglione's version of the laus musicae theme (Cortegiano 1.47) is prefaced by a remark, to be refuted just as Bartoli does it, that music is an art suitable only to women and effeminate men. See Haar, ‘The Courtier as Musician’, p. 166. It might be noted that Castiglione says of music, in the passage referred to above, that it makes ‘l'animo più capace di felicità’; the study of happiness is the theme of the body of Bartoli's third ragionamento, to which his discourse on music is an introduction.

42 Henry VIII, iii, 1. Cf. Zarlino, ,Istitutioni harmoniche, iGoogle Scholar, ii: ‘Lino & Orfeo…col loro soave canto… moveano le pietre da i proprij luoghi, & a i fiumi ritenevano il corso.’ Ovid's Metamorphoses, x, was a widely used source for the Orpheus myth.

43 See Quintus, Curtius, Historiae Alexandri Magni Macedonis, ed. Rolfe, J. C., 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass., 1946), i, p. 10Google Scholar, where this story is cited in a summary of the lost first books of Curtius. A reference to Aelian is on the same page; but this is to another musical anecdote about Alexander. Aelian is said to be the source for the tale of Philip and Alexander by Renault, M., The Nature of Alexander (New York, 1975), p. 39Google Scholar; but I do not find the anecdote in the Varia Istoria.

44 Life of Pericles, i, 5. This seems concordant with the anecdotes about Antisthenes reported by Diogenes Laertius. Vitae philosophorum, vi. For instance, there is a remark addressed by Diogenes the philosopher (Diog. Laert., vi, 104) to a performer showing his skills in a musical spectacle, that human intelligence governs cities and households, not contests of lyre and aulos; and this is reported as in the spirit of Antisthenes. The Ismenias of this tale may be the same musician mentioned by Boethius, , De institutione musica, i, iGoogle Scholar.

45 Marsilio, Ficino, Sopra lo Amore over’ Convito di Platone (Florence, 1544)Google Scholar; see especially Orazione iii, ch. iii; Orazione vi, ch. xiii.

47 In Difesa della lingua Fiorentina, p. 10. In the dedication of this work Giambullari makes use of the Michelangelo–Dante comparison.

49 Cosimo Bartoli, p. 279n.

50 Rag. Accad., i, fol. 20.

51 Ragionamento sopra la difficoltà, pp. 488–9 in the Sanesi edition of Gelli's Opere.

52 Della Pittura e della Statua di Leonbatista Alberti, trans. Bartoli, Cosimo [1568] (Milan, 1804), pp. 103–5Google Scholar. The whole of the relevant passage is as follows: ‘Ma io ho giudicato che non vi abbi a dispiacere, che tali ammaestramenti vengono indiritti a voi, come a ottimo giudice del bello ingegno del detto Leonbatista, il quale in quei tempi, ne’ quali si aveva nulla o poca notizia della scultura, per essersi in Italia annichilate, anzi affatto spente, mediante le inondazioni de’ Barbari, quasi tutte le buone arti e discipline, si ingegnò con il purgatissimo suo giudizio, di aprire una strada facile e sicura a’ giovani che inesperti si dilettavano di questa nobilissima arte, e di svegliarli a bene operare in essa con regole ferme e stabili. Forse buona cagione, che in processo di tempo si avesse in detta arte a fare progressi tali, quali si veggono essersi fatti. Poichè in questo nostro secolo non si ha ad avere invidia alle bellissime statue de’ lodatissimi scultori antichi Romani, come già dimostrò il nostro Donato, e non molti anni sono ha dimostrato il sempre divino Michel Angelo Buonaroti, e dopo lui Baccio Bandinelli, Benvenuto Cellini, ed ultimamente voi.’

54 For a balanced view of the relationship of Zarlino to Glareanus, see Palisca, , Humanism in Italian Renaissance Musical Thought, pp. 298ffGoogle Scholar. Bartoli may, of course, also have read Zarlino's Istitutioni harmoniche, which appeared in Venice in 1558. But for Zarlino Willaert, not Josquin, was the touchstone of musical achievement.

The Giorgio Bartoli mentioned by Palisca (pp. 155, 160, 271, 319, 419) as translator of Boethius and copyist of humanist letters on music is not, as has sometimes been stated, the brother of our Cosimo, but rather a Cosimo di Zanobi Bartoli, a distant cousin; for this error, which originated with the eighteenth-century Florentine scholar Salvino Salvini, see Bryce, , Cosimo Bartoli, p. 216Google Scholar.

55 Heinrich, Glarean, Dodecachordon (Basel, 1547; facs. ed. Miller, C., Musicological Studies and Documents 6 (1965), iii, xxiv, xxviGoogle Scholar.. It might be worth noting here that the first two names in Rabelais's list of composers (see above, n. 46) are ‘Josquin des Prez, Olkegan’.

56 Agricola, Brumel and Mouton (whose name was often misread for the more Italian-sounding Monton[e]) are mentioned by Rabelais; ‘Marchetto Mantoano’ is among the cantori al liuto in Aaron's list (Lucidario, fol. 31v); for his ‘third age’ of composers Pietro Gaetano chose ‘Ochegan, Josquin de pres, Brumel, Fevin, Mouton, Petrus de larue, Andrea de sylva et multi alij nobiles et illustres Musici’ (Slim, , A Gift of Madrigals, p. 43nGoogle Scholar.)

57 In using this apologetic stance Bartoli may have been thinking of the Platonic view that a well-judging citizen was entitled to pronouncements about the arts even in the absence of expert technical knowledge (Laws 658–9).

59 Bartoli's language is vague; but he probably meant that Jacquet's music has something of the contrapuntal solidity and subtlety of Willaert, which in a general way is true enough.

60 If one compares Bartoli's language with the list of the ‘excellencies’ of counterpoint given by Pietro, Aaron, Compendiolo di molti dubbi segreti et sentenze intorno al canto fermo, et figurato… (Milan, n.d. [after 1545]Google Scholar), Dii: ‘Allegro, soave, fugato, harmonioso. commodo, sincopato’, it is apparent that Aaron is speaking of music in absolute terms, Bartoli about text-music relationships.

64 See Bryce, , Cosimo Bartoli, pp. 100, 121Google Scholar, on Medici–Estense hostility and Bartoli's share in it.

65 Rag. Accad., iii, fol. 36v. These remarks are given to Pierfrancesco Giambullari, who as a canon of San Giovanni must have been in frequent and close contact with Corteccia. The latter, who became a member of the Accademia Fiorentina, may indeed have had intellectual interests; if he did lecture or write on musical theory nothing appears to survive.

67 Rag. Accad., i, fols. 19v–20. Corteccia may have continued to compose on occasion, but there is nothing to suggest that Rampollini had remained active as a composer. Many younger musicians, such as Giovanni Animuccia and his brother (?) Paolo left Florence for Rome (Arcadelt had already done so before 1539).

68 Some similar remarks may be found in Dentice, Duo dialoghi, fol. 28v: ‘un'altro che cantava il soprano che non mi piacque molto … perche pochi Musici si trovano che cantano sopra gli stormenti… Perche tutti errano in qualche cosa, o nella intonatione, o nella pronuntiatione, o nel sonare, o nel fare i passaggi, o vero nel rimettere & rinforza la voce quando bisogna.’ Gaffurius, Franchinus, Practica musicae (1496)Google Scholar, has a chapter (iii, xv) devoted to admonition of singers on their technique and comportment, and ending with Guido d'Arezz's eleventh-century judgement: ‘Temporibus nostris super omnes homines fatui sunt cantores.’

72 Frey, ‘Regesten’, 8, pp. 179–80.

73 Frey, ‘Regesten’, 8, pp. 190–1. The lacuna in the text is unexplained by the printer. ‘Lore …’ could be the beginning of ‘Lorenzo’, but this is no particular help in identifying the singer, unless the instrumentalist Lorenzo da Lucca (see below) was also a noted singer.

75 On Bartolomeo degli Organi, see D'Accone, F. A., ed., Music of the Florentine Renaissance, ii: Collected Works of Alessandro Coppini, Bartolomeo degli Organi, Giovanni Serragli and Three Anonymous Works, Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae 32/ii (1967), pp. ixxGoogle Scholar..

76 See Fabbri, ‘La vita… di Corteccia’, pp. 202, 205–6. Battista was well enough thought of to have a sonnet by Varchi commemorating his death in 1555.

77 See Slim, , A Gift of Madrigals, pp. 26–7Google Scholar. For evidence of Masacone's copying activities, see Fenlon, I. and Haar, J., The Early Sixteenth-Century Italian Madrigal: Its Sources and their Interpretation (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 123–6Google Scholar. A piece by Masacone is also in the 1539 wedding music volume. See Minor, and Mitchell, , A Renaissance Entertainment, pp. 88ffGoogle Scholar.

78 See Parigi, L., Laurentiana: Lorenzo dei Medici cultore della musica (Florence, 1954), p. 14Google Scholar.

79 For Castiglione the art of ‘cantare alla viola per recitare’, solo song of the sort at which improvvisatori excelled, was perhaps the best of all musical skills (Cort. 2.13).

80 Silvestro, Ganassi, Lettione seconds pur della prattica di sonare il violone d'arco da tasti (Venice, 1543), ch. xGoogle Scholar., where Joanbattista Cicilian and Alfonso della Viola are said to be the best viol players of the day. Siciliano is also mentioned by Dentice, Duo dialoghi, fol. 28, in a group ‘ognun di loro nel suo stormento (à mio giudicio) ottiene il primo luogo’.

82 On sixteenth-century viol-and-keyboard music, see Diego, Ortiz, Tratado de glosas (Rome, 1553)Google Scholar; Brown, H. M., Embellishing Sixteenth-century Music (Oxford, 1976), esp. chGoogle Scholar.

84 See Nordstrom, L., Albert de Rippe, Joueur de luth du Roy’, Early Music, 7 (1979), pp. 378–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar., an article devoted chiefly to discussion of a modern edition of the composer's works: Vaccaro, J.-M., ed., Oeuvres d'Albert de Rippe, Le Chæur des Muses: Corpus des Luthistes Français (Paris, 1972)Google Scholar.

88 Note that Bartoli praises Antonio for his inventiveness of improvisation or composition (his capricci and fantasie) as well as for his digital technique (gruppi, andare in diminuizione).

89 Moscatello was in the service of Ferrante Gonzaga in Milan; see Lunelli, ‘Contributi’, p. 73. He is noted among prominent musicians of Milan in Gaspare, Brugatii, Historia universale dal principio del mondo fino all’ anno mdlxix (Venice, 1571). p. 1024Google Scholar.

93 Slim, , A Gift of Madrigals, p. 99nGoogle Scholar. Bertolotti, A., Musici alla corte dei Gonzaga in Mantova dal secolo xv al xviii (1890; repr. Bologna, 1969), p. 20Google Scholar, says of Tromboncino that he was in Ferrara in 1513 ‘e forse dopo passò alla Medicea’; but he cites no documentation.

94 Aaron, Lucidario, fol. 31v, includes ‘Messer Bartholomeo Tromboncino’ among his cantori a liuto; this is, of course, appropriate for a frottolist, and Tromboncino's contemporary at Mantua, Marchetto Cara, is also on the list. Whether Aaron's treatise, published in 1545, should be used as evidence that Tromboncino was still alive then is uncertain at best: Cara had been dead for some time by this date. A ‘Bartolomeo Trombone’ is referred to as very much alive and in Florence by Doni, , Dialogo (1544); see n. 74 abovGoogle Scholar.

95 See the account of Tromboncino's turbulent personal life in Mantua given by Prizer, ‘Tromboncino’, p. 161.

98 A ‘Cavalier dell’ Organo di Annoni’ is listed among prominent musicians by Brugatii, , Historia universale, p. 1024Google Scholar, but he is not identified by name.

99 Slim, ‘Musicians on Parnassus’, p. 146.

100 See Bertolotti, , Musici alla corte dei Gonzaga, p. 26Google Scholar. The letter is from Isabella d'Este to Marchetto Cara, bidding him come to her country retreat along with ‘Pozzino [a singer of the court], Zoppino et M. Augustino de la Viola con suoi figlioli’, and to have these musicians bring their instruments with them.

102 Doni, A., Seconda Libreria (Venice, 1551), p. 12Google Scholar.

104 See Slim's, article on Segni in The New Grove Dictionary, xvii, p. 105Google Scholar, and also his edition of Segni's, keyboard music in Musica Nova, Monuments of Renaissance Music 1 (Chicago, 1964)Google Scholar.

105 Hudson, B., ‘Brunei, Jacques’, The New Grove Dictionary, iii, p. 384.Google Scholar In a paper read at the Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society in Cleveland in 1986, Anthony Newcomb presented evidence of Giaches Brumel as an important and influential composer of instrumental ricercari.

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