Give Now

Harmonia Early Music

The Frottola and Renaissance Love

Love and the Renaissance frottola, Musicologist Robert Green on the French Baroque hurdy-gurdy, and a Mendelssohn arrangement of Handel’s Acis and Galatea.

Play Episode (Real Audio)
male face in shadow

Photo: Courtesy of the Artist

Marco Beasley, vocalist with Ensemble Accordone.

What is a Frottola?

A special kind of popular song came into existence in Italy during the Renaissance. Known as the frottola, the song was usually made up of a simple melody and based on any number of poetic forms, often driven by a love theme—not the sentimental kind, mind you, but the intentionally frivolous and humorous side of love.

Frottolas were almost always set in Italian, but might also begin in other languages, such as Latin or Spanish, yet quickly revert back to Italian.

There are two composers who are recognized to be the frottola’s great champion. They were Bartolomeo Tromboncino and Marco Cara. There are many other composers, but they remain either in obscurity or outright anonymous.

It’s Tromboncino, however, who is the most prolific and exacting of frottola composers. For example, take the first verse of the frottola Ostinato vo’ seguire and its proud and rebellious text.

I shall stubbornly continue
My generous exploit
Make me, Love, your choice offense
And even if I should die
I shall stubbornly continue
My generous exploit.

If we anyone to thank for the many frottolas published during the Renaissance, it’s the famed Italian music printer Ottaviano Petrucci, the first significant publisher of polyphonic music. Beginning in 1504, Petrucci began printing in Venice what was intended as a series to capitalize on the popularity of the frottola.

For the next five years over twenty-five titles were issued, including many reprints. The run was considered a success, to say the least.

Bartolomeo Tromboncino: Ostinato vo’ seguire
Marco Beasley and Accordone/Guido Morini — Frottole (Cypres, 2005)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Baroque France and the Hurdy-Gurdy

There are a handful of instruments that French ladies in polite society played which were considered acceptable. One of them was the hurdy-gurdy, an ancient rustic instrument which overcame stigma and circumstance to be prominent in the baroque.

An authority and performer on the French baroque hurdy-gurdy, musicologist Robert Green was recently in the Harmonia studios to give us a brief history of how the instrument got there.

Jacques Aubert: L'Egrillard
Robert Green, hurdy-gurdy, and Ensemble — French Music for Hurdy-Gurdy (Focus, 1990)
album cover

Featured Release

Our featured release is a world-premiere Carus label recording of Handel’s opera Acis and Galatea as arranged by Felix Mendelssohn. Nicolas McGegan directs the Göttingen Festival Orchestra in a classic baroque work transformed into a startling Romantic one.

Rediscovered in the first decade of the 21st Century, the opera was originally arranged by Mendelssohn while still somewhat young and based on a translation made by his sister Fanny. Mendelssohn is not the first famous composer to make an arrangement of Acis and Galatea.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart beat him to it many years before while fulfilling a commission.

G.F. Handel/Mendelssohn, arr.: Ouverture, Chorus “Oh wie reizend ist dies tal,” Aria (Polyphem) “Du röter als die kirsche,” and Chorus “Galatea, traure nicht”
FestspielOrchester Göttingen/Nicholas McGegan — Acis and Galatea (Carus, 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Bartolomeo Tromboncino: Ostinato vo’ seguire
Marco Beasley and Accordone/Guido Morini — Frottole (Cypres, 2005)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Bartolomeo Tromboncino: “Cum rides mihi,” “Hor ch'il cielo e la terra,” “Si e debile il filo”
Ensemble Les Nations/Maria Luisa Baldassari — Dulces Exuviae (Tactus, 2006)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Antonio Caprioli: “Sotto un verde e alto cipresso”
Marco Beasley and Accordone/Guido Morini — Frottole (Cypres, 2005)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Anonymous: “Staralla ben cusì”
Marco Beasley and Accordone/Guido Morini — Frottole (Cypres, 2005)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Jacques Aubert: L'Egrillard
Robert Green, hurdy-gurdy, and Ensemble — French Music for Hurdy-Gurdy (Focus, 1990)
album cover
Michel Corrette: Concerto Comique XI: I. Allegro, II. Adagio, and III. Allegro
Robert Green, hurdy-gurdy, and Ensemble — French Music for Hurdy-Gurdy (Focus, 1990)
album cover
G.F. Handel/Mendelssohn, arr.: Ouverture, Chorus “Oh wie reizend ist dies tal,” Aria (Polyphem) “Du röter als die kirsche,” and Chorus “Galatea, traure nicht”
FestspielOrchester Göttingen/Nicholas McGegan — Acis and Galatea (Carus, 2008)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

View all posts by this author »

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Harmonia Early Music:

More Subscription Options

Follow Us

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Harmonia Early Music

About The Hosts

Search Harmonia Early Music

where to hear harmonia