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Biography Of Salamone Rossi Essay, Research Paper

Before I encountered the biography of Salamone Rossi, one of Jewish musicians,

I never knew that there were any Jewish musicians in Late Renaissance, so it was

pleasing to read the book and learn new facts. As I was reading, I also discovered that

there were some Jewish musicians whom I have heard of, but never realized that they

were Jewish such as Ernest Bloch, Leonard Bernstein, and Mahler. I was surprised to

find that even one of my favorite composers, Mendelssohn, was Jewish-born, but

converted his origins because of discrimination against the Jews in Europe.

There were Jewish musicians before Salamone Rossi, but Rossi was the first of

them to leave a memorable imprint on European music history as a composer. Although

not much is known about Rossi as a man, Rossi differs from his Jewish ancestor and

contemporaries in having a somewhat fragmentary biography in leaving behind thirteen

printed collections.

As a Jewish composer who identified with the community but composed for a

largely Christian audience, Rossi moved between two audiences who had their own

demands and customs. For the Christians, he performed or composed music through

vocal and instrumental chamber music as requested or after having offered his service.

For the Jews, it is less clear what he did. However, he did prepare The Songs of

Solomon, meant to demonstrate his commitment to the Hebrew tradition.

As mentioned above, there are still many questions about Rossi as a man. Rossi lived

and was active in Mantua. Rossi might have been born in or around 1570. Similar

uncertainty surrounds the time of death. Rossi is no longer heard of after 1628, a period

of turmoil in Mantuan history and in Mantuan Jewish community: in 1630 the ghetto was

sacked, its residents were expelled (p. 12). It is known that the discrimination against

the Jews did not affect Rossi. In fact, because of Rossi s dedicated service to his rulers

for many years, he was exempted from wearing a badge that made the Jews immediately

noticeable, as socially and religiously inferior.

Intended for Christian audiences, Rossi s Italian vocal works were published in

eight collections, forming, in their bar count, nearly 50 percent of his repertory (p. 66).

His vocal works can be categorized by three different ways: number of collections,

number of works, and number of bars.

He also published four instrumental collections (130 instrumental works) for

Christian. Rossi s preferred mode is Dorian on G (45 works), Mixolydian (33), Lydian

with B flat (20) Dorian (13), Aeolian (17), and Phrygian (3) (p. His work can be divided

into three categories in length: sinfonie (the shortest works), canzoni (medium-sized

works), and sonata (longer ones).

All of Rossi s collections are interesting, but The Songs of Solomon are unique

for being the first known collection of polyphonic works set to Hebrew texts (p. 201

The text of it is mostly from the psalms.

The biography was enjoyable. The text of the biography was clear to understand.

The very detailed information about Rossi s works helped me to understand better when I

had no background knowledge of Jewish musicians and how they worked in Late

Renaissance. However, there were still many questions to be answered regarding Rossi.

It is not always clear how Rossi fitted into the musical establishment (pg. It is not

stated in the biography how Rossi was paid for his works and how much he was paid. It

is also unclear what Rossi was being paid for: his services as a composer and

instrumentalist, but was he also a singer (pg. 18)? My only other complaint was that I

could not quite understand the author s explanation of The Songs of Solomon. The

author was asking questions when he should have been answering them. It is not clear

why he objected to [in The Songs of Solomon ]. Was it that the singers performed

measured music (pg. 206)? Did Rossi intend his Songs for the synagogue (pg. 212)?

Why and when were [ The Songs of Solomon ] performed (pg. 213)? These questions

that were not answered confused my understanding of The Songs of Solomon. It would

have been better if the author had not approached the subject at all if he did not have

enough knowledge to provide to the readers.

Although there were some uncertainties and questions of the author that made me

confused, I enjoyed the enumerated and useful information about Rossi s works and the

Jewish musicians in Late Renaissance.


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