Girolamo Frescobaldi, Attractive Italian Composer

21

October
2010

The title of this post is definitely intended as a double entendre.

On the one hand, Italian Baroque composer Girolamo Frescobaldi wrote some beautiful, if challenging, music. Something I can certainly attest to since spending the better part of the last decade exploring his works—solo keyboard (harpsichord/organ), instrument(s) and basso continuo, and Italian songs. These are the principal kinds of Frescobaldi’s music heard today, yet his output also comprises of vocal works in Latin, including masses based on popular tunes (he worked in many churches, after all).

His fame, however, rests as “one of the greatest keyboard composers of the first half of the 17th century” (according to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians).

On the other hand, Frescobaldi was apparently a handsome man, a fact clearly proved by the above image (an engraving by Claude Mellan, 1619). Thankfully, we have at least two surviving images from which we can confirm that he had, in fact, good looks—a strong jaw, brooding eyes, tousled hair, etc.—that might be described as dreamy.

This is in stark contrast to another famous 17th-century keyboardist and composer.

French harpsichordist Jean-Henri d’Anglebert had a shocking appearance, if the engraving below is at all accurate. His torso is covered up by a drapery of clothing and a large Chaka Khan-style wig that make him look larger than he probably was. And the pièce de résistance…the poor man is crossed-eyed—a beauty-killer with few peers.

In spite of his gorgeous compositions, d’Anglebert was no Frescobaldi in the looks department.

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