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Lecture by Prof. Ana Stefanović

Jewish Community Belgrade

26. January 2018.

Rossi Fest 2018 Artist Committee, distinguished musicologist and full-time professor at the Faculty of Music, Belgrade, dr Ana Stefanović, gave an interesting lecture The Work of Salomone Rossi on the Eve of Musical Modernity at the Jewish Community Hall in Belgrade.

The Work of Salomone Rossi on the Eve of Musical Modernity

The work of Salomone Rossi (Mantua, ca. 1570-1630), a Jewish-Italian violinist and composer, musician, then a concertmaster at the court of Duke Francesco Gonzaga in Mantua, fits into a broad cultural and artistic context at the turn of the 16th and 17th century. By bringing the transition from the Renaissance to Baroque music, in which collapsed the stylistic unity of the counterpoint of the church music of the late Renaissance and where was born the new style of theatrical secular music oriented towards the musical expression of the verbal text, an aesthetic hiatus, and a lively controversy were open between the partisans of the stile antico and the stile moderno. Modern music was even clearly proclaimed in the treatise of Giulio Caccini, a Florentine composer, in his work Le nouove musiche (1601-1602).

It is in this context of a proclaimed modernity, a new aesthetic and poetic orientation of the music, that Salomone Rossi worked. In circumstances of disintegrated stylistic unity, the composers of the time “had to become bilingual”, to remember the words of Manfred Bukofzer, by mastering the two styles, named by Monteverdi himself prima prattica and seconda prattica, whose first they acquired by their education and the second, practicing by themselves. However, Salomone Rossi was “bilingual” on many levels, much more than any of the composers of the time: first, he belonged to the Jewish community of Mantua and equally to the circle of nobles around the Duke of Gonzaga; he mastered two languages, Hebrew and Italian and two scripts; he composed the vocal and instrumental profane music and the church music, then, in both styles, the prima prattica of the Renaissance and the seconda prattica of the nascent Baroque; finally, in his most important work, Ha-Shirim asher li-Sholomoh (The Songs of Solomon, Venice, 1622), a collection of psalms, chants and hymns, he composed the canonical texts for the synagogal liturgy, in Hebrew language and script, in the style of Catholic religious music, motets and masses, written on the Latin texts, and often on the musical models drawn from the Roman Plainchant.

We can ask here the question of how Rossi’s work and activity fell within the framework of “modernity”, demanded and realized by his contemporaries, and at the same time emit the hypothesis that Rossi’s whole musical activity was even more “modern” in a universal sense of the word.

To read Ms. Stefanović`s biography, please visit the Artistic Committee section.

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