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The Frottola and Renaissance Love

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.

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.

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.

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