Skip to main content

Music in Golden-Age Florence, 1250–1750

From the Priorate of the Guilds to the End of the Medici Grand Duchy

A comprehensive account of music in Florence from the late Middle Ages until the end of the Medici dynasty in the mid-eighteenth century. 

Florence is justly celebrated as one of the world’s most important cities. It enjoys mythic status and occupies an enviable place in the historical imagination. But its musico-historical importance is not as well understood as it should be. If Florence was the city of Dante, Michelangelo, and Galileo, it was also the birthplace of the madrigal, opera, and the piano. Music in Golden-Age Florence, 1250–1750 recounts Florence’s principal contributions to music and the history of how music was heard and cultivated in the city, from civic and religious institutions to private patronage and the academies. This book is an invaluable complement to studies of the art, literature, and political thought of the late-medieval and early-modern eras and the quasi-legendary figures in the Florentine cultural pantheon.

456 pages | 8 color plates, 25 halftones, 49 line drawings, 6 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2023

Art: European Art

History: European History, History of Ideas

Music: General Music


“Cummings’s history of music in Florence over a five-hundred-year period is a work of brilliant synthesis, bringing together in one place a vast array of sources that few readers could otherwise hope to access, much less encompass. Music in Golden-Age Florence, 1250–1750 succeeds in its author’s goal of raising Florentine accomplishments in music to a status comparable to that enjoyed by the city’s extraordinary achievements in arts, letters, and science, and in so doing it becomes a compelling argument for why music should be integrated into interdisciplinary considerations of Florentine culture. Specialists and nonspecialists alike will find this a highly readable narrative of this great city’s vibrant musical life during the medieval and early-modern periods.”

Blake Wilson, Dickinson College

“Whether one is studying human endeavors in the areas of humanism, architecture, painting, or literature or evaluating musical inventions such as the Renaissance madrigal, opera, or pianoforte, the city of Florence emerges as a location in which pioneering work was valued. In the book’s opening pages, Cummings situates readers in the city’s buildings, streets, and public squares, then encourages readers to imagine the music heard in those spaces during past centuries. Cummings not only explores both well- and lesser-known musical genres and works but also introduces the individuals who commissioned, performed, and listened to music. This book is a valuable resource for historians of all stripes, whether musicologists, art historians, or scholars of Italian literature. It can also serve as a useful guide for anyone who wants to dig deeper into the history of this much visited and beloved city.”

Kelley Harness, University of Minnesota

Table of Contents


Book the First
Music in Late-Medieval Florence: The Duecento and Trecento
Music and the Ecclesiastical and Political Organization of the Late-Medieval City
The Duecento
1 * Church and State in Florence circa 1300
   Santa Reparata/Santa Maria del Fiore
   Palazzo della Signoria
   Music at Santa Reparata/Santa Maria del Fiore
   The Duecento Lauda
   Instrumentalists of the Signoria
The Trecento
2 * Secular Polyphony: The Beginnings of the Florentine Tradition
   The Social Context of Performance
   Johannes de Florentia (fl. ca. 1351)
3 * Secular Polyphony: Francesco Landino and the Central Florentine Tradition
   Ser Gherardellus de Florentia (†1362 or 1363)
   Donatus de Florentia and Laurentius Masii de Florentia (†1372)
   Francesco Landino (†1397)
4 * Secular Polyphony: The Gallicization of Florentine Musical Culture
   Some Florentine Kleinmeistern: Magister frater Egidius, Magister Guglielmus frater, and Corradus
   Andreas de Florentia (Andrea di Giovanni) (†1415)
   Some Florentine Kleinmeistern Redux: Bonaiutus Corsini and Andrea Stefani
   Paulus de Florentia (†1436)
5 * Music in Communal Worship and Civic Life
   Liturgical Polyphony
   The Trecento Lauda
   The Herald of the Signoria
Book the Second
Music in Renaissance Florence I: The Quattrocento
Aristocracy Emulated: The De Facto Medici Regime
6 * The Medici Regime and the Public Ecclesiastical Institutions
   Nicolaus Zacharie and the Professionalization of Composing and Performing
   The Consecration of the Cathedral of Florence
   The Musical Establishments Stabilized
   Heinrich Isaac
7 * Tradition and Innovation in Sacred Music
   Tradition: Music for the Liturgy
   Tradition and Innovation: The Quattrocento Lauda
   Innovation: The Sacra Rappresentatione
8 * Heralds, Knights, and Carnival Revelers
   Tellers of Tales
   Medieval Chivalric Tradition Reimagined
   Florentine Carnival and the Canto Carnascialesco
9 * Music and Domestic Life: The House of Medici
   Occasions for Music-Making
   The Patrons, Their Musicians, and Their Music
   The Musical Sources
   Varieties of Music-Making
10 * Girolamo Savonarola and the Medici in Exile
    Theocratic Censure
    The Medici in Exile, 1494–1512

Book the Third
Music in Renaissance Florence II: The Cinquecento
Aristocracy Achieved: The De Jure Medici Regime, Family as Country, and “Florentinism”
11 * The Medici Restoration: The Florentine-Papal Tandem
   The Restoration
   Composers in Medici Service
   Music in Private Medici Settings: Instrumental Music
12 * A New Institution, a New Technology, a New Genre: The Madrigal
   Wellsprings of the Madrigal: The Chanson
   Wellsprings of the Madrigal: The Canto Carnascialesco and Trionfo, the Lauda, and Solo Song
   The Earliest Madrigals
   Florentine Academies and Madrigals for the Theater at Midcentury
   Intimate Settings: Isabella de’ Medici, Solo Song, and the Polyphonic Madrigal
   Intimate Settings: The Florentine Madrigal after Midcentury
13 * The Church
   The Reconstitution of the Polyphonic Chapels
   The Reformation and Counter-Reformation
   The Cinquecento Lauda and Sacra Rappresentatione
   Intermedi Sacri e Morali and Music in Religious Communities for Women
14 * Medici Pageantry, 1539–1589: “L’état, c’est moi”

   Book the Fourth
   Music in Florence in the Baroque Era
   Cross-Genre Influences: Monody, the Stile Recitativo, and the Stile Concertato in Florentine Music of the Seicento and Early Settecento
15 * Opera in Florence, Act 1: The Florentine Aristocratic Phase
   Academic Theories Applied
   The Beginnings of Opera
   Widening Applications of the Innovations
   The Meaning of Baroque
16 * Intermedio I: Music in Religious and Dynastic Ritual
   Religious Ritual: A Cappella and Concerted Vocal Music
   Religious Ritual: Music for Organ
   Dynastic Ritual (“L’état, c’est moi”): The Equestrian Ballet
17 * Opera in Florence, Act 2: The Pan-Italian Phase
   A New Institution: The Opera House
   Beginnings of the Pan-Italian Phase: La finta pazza
   A Native Attempt at a Venetian-Style Opera: Celio
   Venetian Imports: Ipermestra
   A Distinctively Florentine Tradition of Comic Opera: Il potestà di Colognole
   Venetian Imports: Ipermestra, Redux
   The Baroque Aesthetic on Full Display: Ercole in Tebe, L’Orontea, La Dori
18 * Intermedio II: Devotional and Convivial Uses of Music
   Devotional: The Lauda Reimagined: Canzonette Spirituali
   Devotional: The Oratorio
   Convivial: Ballet Entertainments
   Convivial: The Seicento Madrigal
   Convivial: The Seicento Cantata
   Convivial: Instrumental Genres
   Convivial: The Invention of the Piano
19 * Opera in Florence, Act 3: The Pan-European Phase
   Opera in Arcadia? The Halting Adoption of Reform Principles—Griselda
   Grand Prince Ferdinando and a Restitution of Aristocratic Opera
   The Reopening of Teatro della Pergola
   Vincer se stesso è la maggior vittoria, or Rodrigo
   Opera in Arcadia: The Fuller Adoption of Reform Principles—Catone in Utica
   The Settecento Cantata

Color illustrations follow page 000.

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press