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The composer best represented is Francesco da Milano (1497-1543), with some hundred Fantasias and six Ricercares. The latter can be sampled in a high-spirited example that exploits the instrument with delicious energy and verve [listen -- track 6, 0:00-0:59]. Francesco's contapuntal skill, imaginative and sometimes wayward, is evident at the start of a fine Fantasia that in fact occurs twice in the Siena Book [listen -- track 22, 0:00-1:13].

Francesco had an enviable reputation in his lifetime, so that he was familiar with the papal household and gave lessons to the grandson of Paul III, notable in English history for having excommunicated Henry VIII. He was also in attendance when the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Francis I of France met at Nice in 1538 to resolve differences. In the past Charles had more than once threatened Francis with single combat. On this occasion a concordat was patched up and the French king was sufficiently impressed by Francesco to offer him some sort of employment, so that he was known also as Francesco da Parigi (of Paris).

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Copyright © 2 January 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK


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