Lorenzo Allegri

b c 1573 - d Florence 15 July 1648

Italian composer and lutenist, possibly of German birth. Cesare Tinghi, the Medici court diarist ,called him (in Solerti) "Lorenzo" or "Lorenzino todesco del liuto", which has encouraged the notion that he may have been of German origin; but no other contemporary document contains any appellation or remark suggesting this. He entered the ranks of salaried musicians at the Medici court on 15 April (not 11, as has frequently been stated) 1604 as a lutenist at a monthly salary of 12 scudi; in 1636-7 he was referred to as maestro di liuto .
In due course he was also placed in charge of the pages who played, sang and danced in court entertainments. He continued to serve the court until his death. He seems chiefly to have written instrumental music. Only two vocal pieces by him are known, Tu piangi, a madrigal for solo voice and continuo published in Antonio Brunelli´s Scherzi, arie, canzonette e madrigali (Venice 1614) and a short stage work for one to six voices to a text by Ferdinando Saracinelli beginning "Spirito del ciel, scendi volando a noi".
The latter was published in his only collection of music, Primo libro delle musiche (Venice 1618). This volume, which is printed in score, otherwise consists of a sinfonia and eight suites of dances for five or six unspecified instruments and continuo (extracts in Lorenzo Allegri: Ballet Suites for String Orchestra and Basso Continuo, ed. H. Beck, London, 1967, and in Mw, xxvi, 1964, Eng. trans., 1966).
All of the dances can be identified as belonging to entertainments produced at the Medici court between 1608 and 1615, including La notte d´Amore (1608), La serena (1611, reworked as Le ninfe di Senna, 1613), Alta Maria (1614), I Campi Elisi (1614) and L´Iride (1615); each suite consists of dances from a single work. The sinfonia which opens the book, is divided into a slow first section in duple metre and with dotted rythms and a faster second section in triple metre and midly imitative, a scheme that can rightly be regarded as adumbrating the French overture.
The suites contain three to seven dances. Each begins with a ballo in duple metre and moderate tempo and continues with such dances as the galliard, corrente, canario, branle and gavotte. Various combinations of them, sometimes interspersed with ritornellos, produced alternations of moderate and fast tempos, balance pairs of moderate duple-metre dances with fast triple-metre pairs or, following Brunelli´s principle, provide increasing movement through the course of a suite. The last suite, with its seven movements (five dances and two ritornellos), symmetrical balancing of metres, and acceleration of tempo in successive movements, marks the artistic peak of the book and of the small body of Allegri´s surviving works.

Edmond Strainchamps

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