Da Milano, Francesco (1497–1543)

Francesco Canova da Milano

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Fran­ces­co Cano­va da Milano.

Fran­ces­co Cano­va da Milano (18 de agos­to de 1497 – 2 de enero de 1543) fue un lau­dis­ta Ita­liano y com­po­si­tor de músi­ca del rena­ci­mien­to. Naci­do en Mon­za, cer­ca de Milán (de ahí el «da Milano»), fue reco­no­ci­do en toda Euro­pa como el mejor com­po­si­tor de laúd de su tiem­po, lo que le valió en vida el apo­do de Il Divino, apo­do éste que com­par­tie­ra con Miguel Ángel. Dejó una ingen­te can­ti­dad de obras para laúd, dis­tri­bui­das en manus­cri­tos y libros impre­sos. De él se ha dicho que «la faci­li­dad bási­ca con la que arti­cu­la­ba el esti­lo del rena­ci­mien­to tar­dío para un úni­co ins­tru­men­to con­ti­núa hacien­do de su músi­ca algo de valor úni­co».[1]


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Francesco Canova da Milano

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A pos­si­ble por­trait of Fran­ces­co Cano­va da Milano (Pina­co­te­ca Ambro­sia­na, Milan)
«Fran­ces­co da Milano» redi­rects here. For the pain­ter of this name, see Fran­ces­co da Milano (pain­ter).

Fran­ces­co Cano­va da Milano (Fran­ces­co da Milano, also known as Il divino, Fran­ces­co da Pari­gi, etc.) (18 August 1497 – 2 January 1543) was an Ita­lian lute­nist and com­po­ser. He was born in Mon­za, near Milan, and wor­ked for the papal court for almost all of his career. Fran­ces­co was heral­ded throug­hout Euro­pe as the fore­most lute com­po­ser of his time. More of his music is pre­ser­ved than of any other lute­nist of the period, and his work con­ti­nued to influen­ce com­po­sers for more than a cen­tury after his death.


Fran­ces­co da Milano was almost cer­tainly born in Mon­za, a small city some 15 km north-nort­heast of Milan. His fat­her Bene­det­to was a musi­cian, as was his elder brot­her Ber­nar­dino. Accor­ding to Luca Gau­ri­co’s Trac­ta­tus astro­lo­gi­cus (1552), Fran­ces­co stu­died under Gio­van­ni Ange­lo Tes­ta­gros­sa,[1] but today this is con­si­de­red somew­hat unli­kely.[2] By 1514 Fran­ces­co was a mem­ber of the papal hou­sehold in Rome. From that time for most of his career he was clo­sely asso­cia­ted with the papal court. He and his fat­her beca­me pri­va­te musi­cians to Pope Leo X in Octo­ber 1516; Francesco’s fat­her kept this posi­tion until Decem­ber 1518, but Fran­ces­co sta­yed until Leo’s death in 1521. Little is known about his sub­se­quent career in Rome, but he was still living in the city in early 1526: on 16 January 1526 he and one other lute­nist per­for­med for Pope Cle­ment VII and Isa­be­lla d’Este.

Details of Francesco’s later life are sketchy. He may have ser­ved at the Pari­sian court for a short time, sin­ce some sour­ces refer to him as Fran­ces­co da Pari­gi. In 1528 he obtai­ned a canonry in S Naza­ro Mag­gio­re in Milan, which he would cede to his brot­her in 1536. He may have tra­ve­lled to Murano in 1530. Bet­ween 1531 and 1535 he ser­ved Car­di­nal Ippo­li­to de’ Medi­ci, who died in 1535. In the same year Fran­ces­co wor­ked as lute tea­cher to Otta­vio Far­ne­se, grand­son of Pope Paul III. In a docu­ment dated 1 January 1538 Fran­ces­co is lis­ted as a mem­ber of the hou­sehold of Car­di­nal Ales­san­dro Far­ne­se, a famous patron of the arts. In July Fran­ces­co married one Cla­ra Tiz­zo­ni, a Mila­ne­se noble­wo­man, and moved to Milan, whe­re the couple lived at least until Sep­tem­ber. By early 1539 Fran­ces­co and his fat­her were once again emplo­yed by the papal court.

Not­hing is known about Francesco’s last years and his death, except that he pro­bably did not die in Milan. The exact date of death, 2 January 1543, was recor­ded only by Luca Gau­ri­co. Francesco’s brot­her outli­ved him by at least 19 years, and died some­ti­me after 1562. Francesco’s fat­her pro­bably outli­ved his son as well; he died at some point befo­re 1555.


Already by 1530 Francesco’s music was widely known and stu­died. A few of his works were publis­hed in Fran­ce by Pie­rre Attain­gnant in 1529, five volu­mes of lute music com­pri­sing mostly Francesco’s works were publis­hed in Milan in 1536. The­re are many 16th- and 17th-cen­tury manus­cript sour­ces for his works, as well. Today, more than a hun­dred ricer­cars and fan­ta­sias (two terms used inter­chan­geably in Francesco’s oeuvre), some 30 inta­bu­la­tions and a few other pie­ces by Fran­ces­co are known. His music repre­sents the transition from the loo­se impro­vi­sa­tio­nal sty­le of his pre­de­ces­sors to the more refi­ned polyp­ho­nic tex­tu­res of later lute music. One of the defi­ning cha­rac­te­ris­tic fea­tu­res of Francesco’s sty­le is the mani­pu­la­tion and deve­lop­ment of short melo­dic motifs wit­hin a «narra­ti­ve» for­mal outli­ne.[3] Fran­ces­co was dra­wing on tech­ni­ques found in con­tem­po­rary vocal music, e.g. works by Jos­quin des Prez and com­po­sers of his gene­ra­tion. Asi­de from his influen­ce on the deve­lop­ment of lute music, he is also impor­tant for being among the first com­po­sers to crea­te monot­he­ma­tic ricer­cars. Francesco’s repu­tation today rests on his ricer­cars and fan­ta­sias, but con­tem­po­ra­ries appa­rently held his inta­bu­la­tions of vocal works by other com­po­sers to be the best part of his œuvre.

The collec­ted extant lute music of Fran­ces­co, edi­ted by Art­hur Ness, was publis­hed by Har­vard Uni­ver­sity Press in 1970 (ISBN 0–674-53955–9).


A com­po­si­tion called «Can­zo­na by Fran­ces­co da Milano» (bet­ter known as the song «The City of Gold») is com­monly misat­tri­bu­ted to da Milano. It is actually a musi­cal hoax by lute­nist and famous mys­ti­fi­ca­tor Vla­di­mir Vavi­lov, who com­po­sed this song and cre­di­ted it to Fran­ces­co da Milano. After being relea­sed by rock band Aqua­rium in 1987, the song beca­me a big hit in the Soviet Union and beyond and rai­sed ques­tions about the actual cre­dit. It was not until the 2000s that mys­ti­fi­ca­tion was revea­led and the cre­dit for the hit went post­hu­mously to Vavi­lov.


  1. ^ Pavan, Gro­ve.
  2. ^ Wil­son 1997.
  3. ^ Pavan, Gro­ve.


  • Paul O’Dette, «Fran­ces­co di Milano ‘Il divino’ », Har­mo­nia Mundi(2013)
  • Hop­kin­son Smith, «Fran­ces­co da Milano: Fan­ta­sias, Inta­bu­la­tions, Ricer­ca­ri, Dan­ces, Recons­truc­tions», Naï­ve (2008)
  • Chris­top­her Wil­son and Shir­ley Rum­sey, «Fran­ces­co Cano­va da Milano – Fan­ta­sias, Ricer­cars and Duets», Naxos (1994)
  • Tsi­po­rah Mei­ran, Fran­ces­co da Milano : Research for lute, Band of Hip­pies (2010)
  • San­dro Vol­ta, «Fran­ces­co da Milano: Music for lute» Bri­lliant Clas­sics (2015)


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