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date: 18 November 2019

Portaleone, Abraham ben David locked

  • Don Harrán

Extract

(b 1542; d Mantua, 1612). Italian Jewish physician and writer on Hebrew antiquities. He discussed music, at great length, in his final work Shilṭei ha-gibborim (‘Shields of Heroes’; Mantua, 1612), in which he glorified the ancient Temple, its architecture, its liturgy and its music. Ten of the 90 chapters are devoted to music. Portaleone conceived the music of the Levites after Italian Renaissance practices and humanist music theory: thus the discussion turns on polyphony, lute tablatures, contemporary instruments (in analogy to ancient ones, which are described in considerable detail), modes, the doctrine of ethos, simple and compound intervals and the differentiation between consonance and dissonance. He maintained that music in the Temple was a learned art, acquired after a rigorous course of training; it was notated, thus meant to be preserved; its performance was based on written sources. Portaleone acknowledged Judah Moscato as his teacher, although he noted that they conceived music differently: whereas Moscato spoke, generally, of number, harmony and ‘science’, treating music for its cosmological and spiritual connotations, his pupil was concerned with ...

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