Luca Marenzio - Life - Florence, Rome, and Poland

Florence, Rome, and Poland

After the death of Luigi d'Este on December 30, 1586, Marenzio was without a patron, but probably continued to freelance in Rome; and sometime in 1587 he went to Verona where he met Count Mario Bevilacqua and attended the prestigious Accademia Filarmonica, one of the associations of musicians and humanists, dedicated to cultivating the most progressive trends, typical of the late Renaissance. By the end of 1587 Marenzio had entered into the service of Ferdinando I de' Medici in Florence, where he stayed for two years. It is highly probable that he was already in the service of Ferdinando while the latter was still a cardinal living in Rome, and that he followed him to Florence when he succeeded to the granducal throne in 1587.

The situation in Florence was not to Marenzio's liking. According to Alfred Einstein, "...he cannot conceivably have come to terms with the Camerata and with its pedantic and pretentious dilettantism." Vincenzo Galilei and others in the Camerata were experimenting with monody, and creating madrigals using a solo voice with lute; many of the composers were not professional musicians, and little if any influence from the Camerata can be found in Marenzio's late work. On November 30, 1589 Marenzio returned to Rome, where he served several patrons, while retaining considerable independence; he lived in the Orsini palace until 1593, in the service of Virginio Orsini, the nephew of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

In 1595 John Dowland came to Italy to meet Marenzio; the two had exchanged letters when Dowland was still in England. Dowland got as far as Florence, and indicated that he wanted to study with Marenzio, but it is not known if he did: the two may never have met.

Marenzio's final trip was a long one. He went to Poland in between late 1595 and early 1596, staying at least through October 1596, accepting a position as maestro di cappella at the court of Sigismund III Vasa in Warsaw; his predecessor, Annibale Stabile, had just died after only being there two months. While in Warsaw – the location of the court, recently moved from Kraków – Marenzio wrote and directed sacred music, including motets for double choir, a Te Deum for 13 voices, and a mass, the music for which has been lost. According to pre-20th-century writers, the trip to Poland, which was ordered by the Pope, ruined Marenzio's health. Marenzio returned from Poland by way of Venice, where he dedicated his eighth book of five-voice madrigals to the Gonzaga family. Marenzio did not live long after reaching Rome; he died on August 22, 1599, in the care of his brother at the garden of the Villa Medici on Monte Pincio. He was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina.

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