El melopeo y maestro: Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Music


Pedro (Pietro) Cerone (1566–1625) was born in Bergamo, Italy. After training as a musician, singer, and priest in Italy, he travelled to Spain as a pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela in about 1593. A year later, mired in poverty and living in Madrid, he came under the protection of Santiago Gratii (Caballero de Gracia), in whose music academy he was able to work. Thanks probably to Caballero de Gracia, he was able to serve in the Royal Chapel of Phillip II and later that of Philip III. Around 1603–5 he returned to Naples and in 1610 he entered the chapel of the new viceroy of Naples, the count of Lemus, Pedro Fernández Castro. It was in Naples where he published, in 1609, a treatise on plainsong, and in 1613, in Spanish, El melopeo y maestro, a book that he had written almost entirely in Madrid. The title may derive from the Latin melopeia, meaning the art of producing melodies, and maestro in the sense of an eminent teacher of music. El Melopeo is an encyclopedic work, consisting of 1,160 folio pages in 849 chapters. As the title indicates, the work “describes extensively what one must know to become a perfect musician.” Cerone begins by giving advice on the moral and social behavior of the musician. He then deals with plainsong, measured song, musical dialogue, and composition. He compares the musical training and knowledge in Spain and Italy, pointing out Spanish deficiencies, and presents the most detailed catalog of the instruments used in Spain. The book was widely circulated and was an essential reference tool for Spanish musical theorists of the 17th and 18th centuries. Reviled in the 19th century for its conservatism, it is recognized today as a valuable source of information on the Spanish music of its time.

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Juan Bautista Gargano and Lucrecio Nucci, Naples, Italy


Title in Original Language

El melopeo y maestro: tractado de musica theorica y pratica

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Physical Description

1160 pages : illustrations

Last updated: February 12, 2013