Francesco Cera






A Music Academy for the Dukes of Este


Concert held on 25 May 2022 in the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza by the students of the Early Music Department of the Conservatorio “A.Pedrollo” in Vicenza

directed by Francesco Cera


Among the Italian courts that gave considerable contribute to music in the Renaissance, the court of the Dukes of Este in Ferrara deserves special consideration. As early as the second half of the fifteenth century, Ercole I d’Este began to have famous Flemish composers at his service, including the great Josquin des Prez. Bartolomeo Tromboncino, Andrian Willaert, Cipriano de Rore, together with dozens of singers and instrumentalists created a forge of fervent and high-level musical creation. During the duchy of Alfonso II, in the second half of the sixteenth century, music still found new stylistic paths, pushing to grow new musical generes in the European panorama. The attention of some composers turned to chromatic music, applied not only to the madrigal but also to instrumental music, as well as to the creation of new instruments, such as the chromatic-enharmonic archicembalo, the claviorgano, the chitarrone and the archlute.

It was then, with the third marriage of Alfonso II – which took place in 1579 with Margherita Gonzaga – that vocal music had an extraordinary impulse towards new paths. Among Margherita’s ladies was the young Laura Peperara, brilliant in the art of singing accompanying herself on the harp. Peperara was asked to join with the virtuosos Anna Guarini (singer and lutenist) and Livia D’Arco (singer and violist), under the guidance of the court composer Luzzasco Luzzaschi, who began to write new madrigals conceived for their voices, and accompanied by the instruments played by themselves. Tus it was created the memorable “Concerto delle Dame” that Duke Alfonso loved to listen to in private, and proudly made the illustrious guests of the court to hear. Their extraordinary singing – according to witnesses who left their memory – combined an excellent virtuosity with an uncommon expression of the poetic sense of the text, through a refined use of timbre color and vocal dynamics. For a few years, the multifaceted musician and writer from Modena, Tarquinia Molza, joined these ladies.

The program of today’s concert offers a selection of music that the Dukes of Este could have listened to in the years between 1580 and 1595. Madrigals on texts by Tasso, Guarini and Petrarca, performed with the intervention of instruments, alternating with songs and diminished madrigals entrusted to various instrumental ensembles. The authors on the program were all – in different periods – active or in contact with the music of the Este house. Prince Carlo Gesualdo di Venosa – who took a second wife Leonora d’Este in Ferrara -, the Flemish Jaches de Wert, the harpsichordists and organists Luzzasco Luzzaschi and Claudio Merulo, the viola da gamba virtuoso Orazio Bassani, and finally the debut of Luca Marenzio, who dedicated his first book of six-part madrigals to Alfonso II. The three female voices of the “Concerto delle Dame” was often joyned by a bass, and it is this type of formation that we intend to propose again for the performance of madrigals, with the aid of different instruments to double or replace the voices provided in the score.

In the same years, the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza opened its doors to similar “noble meetings” of the highest level in the field of theater and music. The splendid scenery designed by Scamozzi therefore forms an artistic frame which is perfectly coeval with the music performed by the students of the Ancient Music Department of the Vicenza Conservatory.

Francesco Cera



Claudio Merulo                                  Canzon vigesimaterza a 5 strumenti1



Carlo Gesualdo                                  Madrigale “Luci serene e chiare” a 5 voci2



Francesco Da Milano                       Fantasia XL

1494 – 1543


Luzzasco Luzzaschi                        Madrigale “T’amo mia vita” a 3 soprani3

1545-1607                                          Canzone decima a 4 strumenti1

Toccata del quarto tono4

Madrigale “Ch’io non t’ami, cor mio” a 1 soprano3


Claudio Merulo                                Canzone decimaottava a 4 et 5 si placet1



Luzzasco Luzzaschi                         Madrigale “O dolcezze amarissime” a 3 soprani3



Carlo Gesualdo                                  Madrigale “Or che in gioia credea” a 5 voci2



Jaches de Wert                                  Madrigale “Valle, che de’ lamenti miei” a 5 voci5



Orazio Bassani                                   Madrigale di Cipriano de Rore “Signor mio caro”6



Jaches de Wert                                  Madrigale “Vezzosi augelli” a 5 voci7



Luca Marenzio                                   Madrigale “Come inanti de l’alba” a 6 voci8





Sources of the pieces in program:


1 Canzoni da sonare con ogni sorte di stromenti a quattro, cinque, et otto. Venezia 1608

2 Madrigali a cinque voci. Libro Quarto. Ferrara 1596

3 Madrigali per cantare et sonare a uno, doi e tre soprani. Roma 1601

4 Il Transilvano. Dialogo sopra il vero modo di sonar organi. Venezia 1593

5 Il nono libro de madrigali a 5 et 6. Venezia 1588

6 Lezioni di contrappunto fatte da Francesco Maria Bassani. Manuscript

7 Ottavo libro dei madrigali. Venezia 1586

8 Il primo libro de madrigali a sei voci. Venezia 1581



Serena Peroni soprano

Marta Fraccaroli soprano

Sara Tommasini alto

Alberto Peretti bass

Elena Chilese recorder

Fabiano Martignago recorder*

Matteo Rozzi violin

Martina Pettenon violin and viola

Daniela Colangelo viola da gamba

Adele Serena viola da gamba

Rolando Moro cello

Marco Zuin lute and theorbo

Giulio Francesco Togni harpsichord


* Professor of recorder

Read news