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Fillippo Azzaiolo

1530 - 1570
born in Bologna, Italy, composed during the Renaissance period
Unfortunately, almost nothing is known about the life of Bolognese lutenist Fillippo Azzaiolo other than the fact that he was from Bologna. Most biographers suggest that he must have sung in one of Bologna's many churches, the principal way for a sixteenth century musician to earn a living in Europe. No documentation of his life or church service, however, has yet been uncovered by historians poring over the archives. The best guesses of his career note the period between 1557 and 1569 as his most active years. It may be the case, as well, that Azzaiolo had an understated personality, which would complicate matters. He published three collections of music in his lifetime, but the first two were completely anonymous at first! Only in the preface to the third did Azzaiolo claim his due respect for the music in the first two volumes. Perhaps the only other biographical tidbit surviving is an account of one of his pieces being played in the main square of Bologna by a band of cornettos, sackbuts, and cornamuses -- certainly a tribute to his local popularity.

His popularity is also evidenced by the extremely wide circulation some of his pieces achieved. Internationally famous musicians from Philippe Verdelot to Frescobaldi arranged his music and performed it. One piece in particular -- his villotta Chi passa per 'sta strada -- had a place in the international "hit parade" of the sixteenth century. No less a musician than Orlande de Lassus performed it for a Bavarian state wedding: Lassus sang Azzaiolo's song and added his own lute accompaniment. William Byrd in England also produced a keyboard arrangement of the simple, dancelike piece. Byrd's version was already famous in his own time, and it appears in Elizabethan literary references. ~ Timothy Dickey, Rovi
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