Salomone Rossi and his innovations


1589: Canzonette a 3 [imslp - only BASSO part. Complete but undigitized set is found in Vienna]

1600: Madrigals a 5 book I (reprints: 1603, 1607, 1612, 1618) [imslp]

1602: Madrigals a 5 book II (reprints: 1605, 1610) [imslp]

1603: Madrigals a 5 book III (reprint: 1620) [imslp]

1607: Sinfonie, gagliarde, etc. book I [imslp]

1608: Sinfonie, gagliarde, etc. book II [imslp]

1610: Madrigals a 5 book IV (reprint: 1613) [imslp]

1613: Sonate, sinfonie, gagliarde, etc. book III (reprints: 16??, 1623, 1612, 1638) [imslp]

1614: Madrigals a 4

1622: Madrigals a 5 book V

1622: Sonate, sinfonie, gagliarde, etc. book IV (reprint: 1642) [imslp]

1622/3: Hashirim asher lishlomo (‘The Songs of Solomon’) [imslp]

1628: Madrigaletti (2-3 voices with BC)

Modern editions: Don Harrán, Salamone Rossi: complete works (American Institute of Musicology, 1995-2003)


Don Harrán, Salamone Rossi: Jewish musician in Late Renaissance Mantua (Oxford, 1999)


  1. [01:55] Giulio Caccini, Le nuove musiche (1602, Florence)

  2. [02:36] For general information see (1) the Wikipedia article on Theorbo; (2) Douglas A. Smith, "On the Origin of the Chitarrone", Journal of the American Musicological Society, vol.32, no. 3 (University of California Press on behalf of the American Musicological Society, 1973); and (3) Kevin Mason, The Chitarrone and its Repertoire in Early Seventeenth-Century Italy (Aberystwyth: Boethius Press, 1989). For information about the chitarrone specifically in its early stages see Elam Rotem, Early Basso Continuo Practice: Implicit Evidence in the Music of Emilio de' Cavalieri (PhD) (University of Würzburg, 2017) [link], 80-81.

  3. [04:02] Interestingly, in Rossi’s next book of madrigals, published in 1602, the intabulations were replaced by basso continuo - the way that slowly became the standard notation for accompaniment. Like in the first book, it was printed in the Canto part, and not as a separate part, as was the norm. This suggests not only that these madrigals might be performed also as “new music” - as monodies, but also that the reduction of all the voices of a piece is interchangeable with basso continuo playing.

  4. [05:02] Letter from Priuli Pietro to Vincenzo Gonzaga I the Duke of Mantua from 14.4.1602: “Io non sapevo come far riverenza a vostra altezza serenissima [Vincenzo Gonzaga I] se il ritrovarmi in Padova non mi porgeva occasione di supplicarla d'una gratia. Et è di favorirmi del Rasi [Franceso Rasi] per qualche giorno: non trovando io antidoto più salutare per la melanconia che si patisce da medicinanti come son'io, della musica. Et s'egli per qualche sua indisposizione restasse impedito, si degni commutarlo ne' due ebrei Isac [Isaachino Massarano] et Salomone [Salomone Rossi].” [Fondazione Palazzo Te; Archibio corrispondenza Gonzaga 1563-1630, b. 1534]. Eventually, Vincenzo Gonzaga sent Salomone and Isaaco in the place of Francesco Rasi (see the answer of Vincenzo also in the link above). Don Harrán mentioned this exchange in his book (p. 32), but probably due to a typo describes it as if it took place in 1606 and not in 1602.

  5. [05:55] We mentioned the 17th-century trio texture in our episode about the Romanesca [link], 12:15, as well in the episode dedicated to Giovanni Rovetta’s motet “O Maria” [link], 5:25.

  6. [07:33] Based on evidence that Rossi collaborated as a composer in court events in 1608 (see Harrán, pp. 174-9), one might hypothesize whether he also contributed as a composer to Monteverdi’s Orfeo one year earlier and simply wasn’t credited (Orfeo was premiered on February 1607).

  7. [08:10] Adriano Banchieri, Cartella musicale (Venice, 1614 edition) [imslp], p.42 (page missing in imslp): “Vengono ancora odiernamente praticati dui salti di quarta tritona e questi in dui posizioni discendenti, il primo dalla corda B fa alla corda F accidentato dal diesis, e il secondo dalla corda E fa di accidentale alla corda B mi, segnato detto B mi ancor per abuso con il diesis. E questi tali salti talmente sono praticati nelle moderne composizioni che per difficili che sono si rendono facilissimi per il continuo uso e pratica.” Transcription here [in order to find the place, search for “tritona”].

  8. [08:47] Don Harrán, Salamone Rossi: Jewish musician in Late Renaissance Mantova (Oxford, 1999), pp. 16 & 26.

  9. [13:18] See our episode “Durum and Molle / Hard and soft in the music of the Renaissance” [link], 09:25.

  10. [14:00] Explanation of the meaning of the natural sign (): In the Renaissance Gamut there are two kinds of Bs, a soft one - B molle, and a hard one. The first was marked with a small b - a flat sign (), and the second with a natural sign (), which in fact is the same b but with hard corners. Thus, in effect, this natural sign raises the note by a semitone, just like a sharp. One can see this sign on many Guidonian hands on the joints that represent the note B.
    Apart from the progression shown in the video, where Rossi writes
    an authentic cadence to E and makes the special use of the natural sign (), he also used it in his Sinfonia quinta from book IV (1622). The piece is written in a durezze e ligature style, which is inherently harsh and expressive, similarly to the mood of “Al Naharot Bavel”.

  11. [14:30] Giulio Morosini, Via della fede (Rome, 1683) [google books], p. 793-4. [English translation:] “...I remember well what happened in Venice during my times, around 1628 if I’m not mistaken, when the Jews fled Mantua because of the war, and came to Venice. And since many studies flourished in the city of Mantua, the Jews too turned to music and musical instruments. Upon their arrival in Venice, a Music Academy was established in the Ghetto, in which singing took place regularly, two evenings during the week. Only a few important people gathered there, together with the rich people of the Ghetto who sustained the academy, among them I found myself too; and my teacher Rabbi Leon da Modena was the Maestro di Capella...So the musicians formed two choirs [...] in the Sephardic Synagogue during two evenings, namely Sceminì Nghatzèret and שמחת תורה [Simchat Tora]. There was singing of music in part of the Ngharbìth [ערבית], as well as various psalms and the Minchà [מנחה], namely the evening prayer of the last day of the holiday was with solemn music, which lasted a few hours into the night; many noble Ladies and Gentlemen competed with great applause, so that many captains and officers gathered at the doors, until they left quietly. The organ was also among the instruments brought into the synagogue, but the Rabbis did not allow it to be played, since it was the instrument regularly heard in our churches. But what of it? All this was like an intense and quick fire. The academy lasted but a short time and the music returned to its former condition.”

  12. [15:21] Ed. Samuel Naumburg, Cantiques de Salomon Rossi (Paris, 1877) [imslp]


Created by Elam Rotem, February 2021.

Singing: Doron Schleifer, Jacob Lawrence, Elam Rotem

Chitarrone: Ori Harmelin

Special thanks to Stefano Patuzzi, Iason Marmaras, and Anne Smith.