Frottola

Frottola

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The frottola was the predominant type of Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 popular, secular song of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. It was the most important and widespread predecessor to the madrigal
Madrigal (music)
A madrigal is a secular vocal music composition, usually a partsong, of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied; the number of voices varies from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six....

. The peak of activity in composition of frottole was the period from 1470 to 1530, after which time the form was replaced by the madrigal.

While "frottola" is a generic term, several subcategories can be recognized, as would be expected of a musical form which was used for approximately a hundred years, maintaining immense popularity for more than half of that time. Most typically, a frottola is a composition for three or four voices (more towards the end of the period), with the uppermost voice containing the melody: instrumental accompaniments may have been used. The poem usually has a rhyme scheme of abba for a ripresa (reprise), and a stanza
Stanza
In poetry, a stanza is a unit within a larger poem. In modern poetry, the term is often equivalent with strophe; in popular vocal music, a stanza is typically referred to as a "verse"...

 of cdcdda or cdcddeea, though there is much variation between subtypes of frottola. Most likely the poetic forms are descended from the fourteenth-century ballata
Ballata
The ballata is an Italian poetic and musical form, which was in use from the late 13th to the 15th century. It has the musical structure AbbaA, with the first and last stanzas having the same texts. It is thus most similar to the French musical 'forme fixe' virelai...

, though the music shows a startling simplification from late fourteenth-century practice.

Musically, the frottola avoids contrapuntal
Counterpoint
In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm and are harmonically interdependent . It has been most commonly identified in classical music, developing strongly during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period,...

 complexity, preferring homophonic textures, clear and repetitive rhythms, and a narrow melodic range. It was an important predecessor not only to the madrigal, but to much later practices in the Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 era such as monody
Monody
In poetry, the term monody has become specialized to refer to a poem in which one person laments another's death....

, since it anticipates chordal accompaniment, has the melody in the highest voice, and shows an early feeling for what later developed into functional harmony.

Very little is known about performance practice. Contemporary editions are sometimes for multiple voices, with or without lute tablature; occasionally keyboard scores survive. Frottole may have been performed as solo voice with lute
Lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

 accompaniment—certainly Marchetto Cara
Marchetto Cara
Marchetto Cara was an Italian composer, lutenist and singer of the Renaissance. He was mainly active in Mantua, was well-connected with the Gonzaga and Medici families, and along with Bartolomeo Tromboncino, was well known as a composer of frottolas.-Life:Next to nothing is known of his early life...

 may have performed them this way at the Gonzaga
House of Gonzaga
The Gonzaga family ruled Mantua in Northern Italy from 1328 to 1708.-History:In 1433, Gianfrancesco I assumed the title of Marquis of Mantua, and in 1530 Federico II received the title of Duke of Mantua. In 1531, the family acquired the Duchy of Monferrato through marriage...

 court, as is implied by his renown as lutenist, singer, and composer of frottole—and they also may have been performed by other combinations of singers and instruments as well.

The most famous composers of frottola were Bartolomeo Tromboncino
Bartolomeo Tromboncino
Bartolomeo Tromboncino was an Italian composer of the middle Renaissance. He is mainly famous as a composer of frottola; he is principally infamous for murdering his wife...

 and Marchetto Cara, although some of the popular secular compositions of Josquin
Josquin Des Prez
Josquin des Prez [Josquin Lebloitte dit Desprez] , often referred to simply as Josquin, was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance...

 (for example Scaramella and El Grillo) are stylistically frottole, though not in name.

The frottola was a significant influence not only on the madrigal, but on the French chanson, which also tended to be a light, danceable, and popular form. Many French composers of the period went to Italy, either to work in aristocratic courts or at the papal chapel in Rome. While in Italy, they encountered the frottola, and incorporated some of what they heard in their native secular compositions.

Composers


Composers of frottole include:
  • Bartolomeo Tromboncino
    Bartolomeo Tromboncino
    Bartolomeo Tromboncino was an Italian composer of the middle Renaissance. He is mainly famous as a composer of frottola; he is principally infamous for murdering his wife...

  • Marchetto Cara
    Marchetto Cara
    Marchetto Cara was an Italian composer, lutenist and singer of the Renaissance. He was mainly active in Mantua, was well-connected with the Gonzaga and Medici families, and along with Bartolomeo Tromboncino, was well known as a composer of frottolas.-Life:Next to nothing is known of his early life...

  • Filippo de Lurano
    Filippo de Lurano
    Filippo de Lurano was an Italian composer of the Renaissance. He was one of the most prolific composers of frottola after Marchetto Cara and Bartolomeo Tromboncino.-Biography:...

  • Michele Pesenti
    Michele Pesenti
    Michele Pesenti was an Italian composer and lutenist who served the House of Este at Ferrara. Michele Pesenti. was one of the most lively...

  • Michele Vicentino
  • Giovanni Brocco
  • Antonio Caprioli
  • Francesco d'Ana
  • Lodovico Fogliano
  • Giacomo Fogliano
    Giacomo Fogliano
    Giacomo Fogliano was an Italian composer, organist, harpsichordist, and music teacher of the Renaissance, active mainly in Modena in northern Italy. He was a composer of frottole, the popular vocal form ancestral to the madrigal, and later in his career he also wrote madrigals themselves...

  • Erasmus Lapicida


Except for Tromboncino and Cara, who were extremely famous, very little is known about most of these composers; in many cases only their names survive, and those because Petrucci
Ottaviano Petrucci
Ottaviano Petrucci was an Italian printer. His Harmonice Musices Odhecaton, a collection of chansons printed in 1501, is commonly misidentified as the first book of sheet music printed from movable type. Actually that distinction belongs to the Roman printer Ulrich Han's Missale Romanum of 1476...

, the prominent Venetian
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

publisher, included their names in collections containing their music.

Further reading