Anti-Protestant Music for Sixteenth-Century Ferrara


  • George Nugent


This study explores the motivations that lie behind three polyphonic works by musicians active at Ferrara and Mantua in the first half of the sixteenth century: a motet by Maistre Jhan, and a motet and mass by Jacquet. The background that links all three is the intense campaign that was waged between reform and orthodoxy. Music and visual art were sometimes put to use as propaganda. The Este and Gonzaga families who ruled the two states were related by blood and political alliances. They had strong reasons to defend the orthodox religion; they were also deeply persuaded of music's communicative power. Not surprisingly, their court musicians were often called on for music with a political message. The three works chosen here, each in its own way, reflect the religious convictions and personal ambitions of leading members of the two families caught up in crises: duke Ercole II D'Este, uneasy vassal of the pope; his wife Renée de France, habitual protector of religious rebels; and Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga, a career diplomat hopeful of wearing the triple crown.