The beautiful village of Santa Maria a Monte, in the Lower Valdarno in the province of Pisa, paid homage to Vincenzo Galilei, Galileo’s father, on Saturday 17 October.
Vincenzo was a talented musician and a musicologist with unparalleled skills.
The occasion was the fifth centenary of Vincenzo’s birth, which took place in Santa Maria a Monte in 1520. Here in fact was where Giovanni, Galileo’s great-grandfather, in 1472 had decided to transfer the family from Florence, belonging to the ancient Florentine nobility, perhaps following an economic meltdown.
In the centre of the Lower Valdarno, the Galilei family found its right dimension by inserting itself into the local social context.
Michelangelo, the son of Galileo’s progenitor and grandfather, played important roles in the civil life of Santa Maria a Monte. Between 1532 and 1537 he held the position of Captain of the People several times, a post that lasted three months and consisted of supporting the Gonfaloniere in the administration of the town.
Little is known about Vincenzo Galilei’s early years. He probably sang in the church choir as a boy and must have learned great lute-playing skills from competent teachers. In fact, already in his early years as an adult he had earned a reputation as a skilled lutenist.
Around the middle of the sixteenth century Vincenzo moved to Pisa where he worked as a music teacher and, perhaps to supplement his earnings, also as a textile merchant.
In 1562 he married the young Giulia Ammannati, with whom he had seven children, including Galileo in 1564.
In 1574 the Galilei family returned to Florence and Vincenzo Galilei thus had the opportunity to insert himself in that formidable cultural context.
He especially strove to restore a balance between music and poetry precisely through single-line vocal music. While he was writing polyphonic works, he tended to favour music for a sole singer accompanied by the lute, of which, as we have already said, he was a great interpreter.
With the help of Giovanni de ‘Bardi, he began his musical studies in Venice with Gioseffo Zarlino.
In 1568 Galilei published his first important treatise on theoretical music, the Fronimo. About two years later he produced some song arrangements with lute accompaniment, which he modelled for his own performance purposes. He was also an excellent bass singer.
He probably died at the end of June 1591 and his burial took place that year on July 2 in Florence.
Eugenio Giani, Governor of Tuscany, intervened to recognize the musical stature of the “father … of the father of science”. Together with the mayor Ilaria Parrella of Santa Maria a Monte, he placeed a plaque on what was the birthplace of Vincenzo Galilei.
Then they inaugurated at the Casa Carducci Museum a temporary exhibition entitled “Moving oneself into others. Vincenzo Galilei and the music of affections”. In this space some elements have been welcomed that refer to the main works of the musician.
Among other things, you can admire documents from the Historical Archive and which for the first time become part of an exhibition.