Frescobaldi, Girolamo


Italian composer, the greatest organist of his time, who was born at Ferrara, and pursued his early studies under the cathedral organist, Luzzasco Luzzaschi. He also studied with François Milleville, and as a youth was the possessor of a beautiful voice and sang as well as played. Frescobaldi was organist at St. Peter's in 1614, and his first performance there is said by Baini to have attracted an audience of thirty thousand persons. He resided at Antwerp in 1608, but that same year returned to Italy, where he was invited by Ferdinand II. to come to Florence as Court organist. He left the Italian city in 1633 and was reappointed to his old post at St. Peter's, which he held until 1643. Frescobaldi displayed a rich imagination as a composer of canzoni and is generally regarded as the father of that style of music which the   English call voluntaries and which is known to the Italians as toccatas.   His works for the most part consists of madrigals, and his first composition was a book of fivevoice madrigals, published in 1608 at Antwerp. A canzona for the organ is to be found in Hawkins' History. Twelve toccatas were published in Pauer's Alte Meister.   Frescobaldi, according to most authorities, was the first of the Italians to compose for the organ in fugue. After leaving Antwerp, the composer visited Milan, and seven years later succeeded Ercole Pasquini as organist at St. Peter's, Rome.

Champlin & Apthorp's Dictionary of Music says of him: "Frescobaldi may be called the father of the great school of organ-playing and organ music. Not only was he the first very imposing figure we meet in the history of organ-writing but no genius so great as his is to be found in this department of composition until we come to Johann Sebastian Bach." He was probably the first to use the tonal instead of the real response in the fugue, and was no less celebrated for his compositions for the organ than for his great powers of execution on that instrument. In fugue, that species of composition invented by the Germans, he was without a rival. Froberger was the most famous of all Frescobaldi's pupils, and his efforts to carry on the traditions of Frescobaldi and his system culminated in the grandeur of Bach many years later.