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Emilio de' Cavalieri "gentiluomo romano": His Life and Letters, His Role as Superintendent of All the Arts at the Medici Court, and His Musical Compositions. .

Warren Kirkendale. Emilio de' Cavalieri "gentiluomo romano": His Life and Letters, His Role as Superintendent of All the Arts at the Medici Court, and His Musical Compositions.

(Historiae Musicae Cultores, 86.) Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2001. 551 PP. + 12 color and 52 b/w pls. index, append. bibl. [euro]76.95. ISBN: 88-222-4969-0.

In 1993 Warren Kirkendale published The Court Musicians in Florence during the Principate of the Medici (Olschki), a comprehensive compendium of all the known archival documentation on the musicians, as well as the artists and men of letters, regularly employed by the Medici Grand Dukes from Cosimo I to Gian Gastone. The scholar who sought information on one of the late sixteenth century's most eminent figures to enjoy such patronage -- Emilio de' Cavalieri -- found, however, merely his first and last payroll dates, with the note that a separate publication on him was in preparation by the author. The present book thus completes that earlier study. Kirkendale assumes the reader's familiarity with the earlier volume (he notes in the preface that the two should be used together), and the format here is similar to the (far briefer) entries in Court Musicians. Thus, for example, Emilio de' Cavalieri begins without an introduction by presenting the known information about the Cavalieri family, and then moves on to discuss the records for the life of Emilio himself, with sections devoted to particular aspects of his career and his artistic production. The book aims for the presentation of evidence rather than a narrative synthesis, though it is hardly devoid of analysis. Its extensive appendices include the libretto of Cavalieri's famous Rappresentazione di anima e di corpo, a catalog of Cavalieri's letters, a lengthy section of excerpts from letters and documents containing references to Cavalieri, documentation on organ building in which Cavalieri was involved (including a substantial discussion of the era's interest in the enharmonic genus), a genealogy of the family, and addenda to Court Musicians in Florence, as well as a full collection of illustrations.

Cavalieri has long been noted for his involvement with the musical dramas that came to be known as opera. His precise role in that development was already under debate in the seventeenth century; Kirkendale, in laying the evidence before the reader, builds a clear case for the centrality of Cavalieri's contributions. Yet Kirkendale's goals, presented in his conclusion, are far broader, for he argues that Cavalieri's career needs to be seen not only in this particular context but in several others as well. Cavalieri was a member of one of Rome's most prominent families. His own connections with the Medici developed during Ferdinando's time in Rome as cardinal, and the need for Florentine influence in Rome and Roman politics contributed to his continuing importance to Ferdinando. Familial connections with the art world dated back at least to his father Tommaso's relationship with Michelangelo. The sources of his musical training are unknown, though in Rome he was involved in planning and organizing musical perf ormances in the confraternity of the Oratorio del SS. Crocifisso at S. Marcello. Shortly after Ferdinando succeeded to the duchy of Tuscany, Cavalieri was named (1588) to a unique position, in charge of both musicians and artists at court. His post demonstrates an interest in Florence in thinking about musical performance and the visual arts together in a sustained manner. Cavalieri served not only as artistic director, planner, and manager, but also as a composer. His musical dramas were performed both there and in Rome, where he returned at the end of his life.

Kirkendale discusses Cavalieri's surviving compositions--the Lamentations of Jeremiah, other responsories, and the Anima e corpo--in some detail, and examines closely the evidence for Cavalieri's lost pastorales, which he identifies as the earliest works that might bear the term opera. He is convincing in his argument that in order for Cavalieri's importance, creativity, and impact to be understood, he needs to be seen in all of these contexts at once: as humanist and man of letters, artistic patron and collector, creative director, manager, political actor, devoted Christian. This book provides scholars with the means to do so, and Kirkendale takes them a considerable way in such an enterprise. It should serve as an indispensable research tool for scholars examining any aspect of the era's court culture.
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Author:Moyer, Ann E.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2003
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