“Fu allevato in Vinegia, e dilettossi continovamente delle cose d’amore, e piacqueli il suono del liuto mirabilmente e tanto, che egli sonava et cantava nel suo tempo tanto divinamente, che egli era spesso per quello adoperato a diverse musiche, et onoranze, et ragunate di persone nobili.”

“He was raised in Venice, continuously took delight in affairs of the heart, was very fond of the sound of the lute, which he played to accompany his singing so divinely that he was often invited to perform for musical gatherings and meetings of noble persons.”

Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite.1550.

Apart from Vasari, not much has been written about Giorgione and music. Most commentators have been dismissive, displaying little understanding of Venetian popular music of around 1500. Other clear evidence of his activity and interest in music is found in his paintings, especially the Louvre Concert and the Pitti Concert.

In Giorgione’s Venice the revolutionary developments made by Ottaviano Petrucci in the field of music printing provides the substance for the musical soundscape of the time. Petrucci began with the Harmonice Musices Odhecaton, a collection of ninety–six compositions, published on May 15th 1501, and by 1511 more than twenty books of popular vocal music had been printed containing well over a thousand songs. Along with the printed music survive many manuscripts – choir books and part books – and this vast collection of songs has yet to be fully explored let alone performed. By far the most dominant form of all this music is the popular lute song, known generically as the frottola.

During Giorgione’s lifetime this simple refrain form evolved into the sublime composition that is the madrigal, with its single stanza of subtle poetry and through–composed music. This evolving repertoire, preserved in the surviving manuscripts and Petrucci’s beautiful printed books, is where the ‘lost’ music of Giorgione can be found.

The musical example is from Petrucci’s 1511 book of lute songs, edited by Francesco Bossinensis. In the song Il bon nochier sempre parla de venti, which uses the ottava – rima structure of the strambotto, only two of the eight lines of the text have been set to music which is repeated eight times. The instrumentation consists of tamburo, triangle, two lutes, transverse flute and voice.


The good coxswain always talks of winds,
of arms the soldier, the peasant of ploughs.

The astrologer of stars and of mentality,
the architect of structure and of theatres.

Of spirit the magi, the musician of accents,
of gold the miser, of heresy the idolaters.

Of good the good, of faith the faithful souls,
and me of love, because love is killing me.



© 2010 Zorzon 500
Dreams The rape or europa The soilder and the gypsy A visit to the underworld 'in the hands of a certain Pietro' Una Nocte T H E    W O L F    A N D   T H E   E A G L E