Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Grove Music Online. Grove is a registered trademark. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 06 December 2019

Lanfranco, Giovanni Mariafree

  • Bonnie J. Blackburn

(b Terenzo, nr Parma, c1490; d Parma, late Nov 1545). Italian theorist. In the dedication of the first book of his Scintille di musica he names Lodovico Milanese as his organ teacher (perhaps in Lucca after 1512); the expression ‘mio Burtio Parmegiano’ may indicate that he studied music with Nicolò Burzio or simply denote friendship. He was maestro di cappella at Brescia Cathedral from 1528 to 1535, when he assumed the same post in Verona on 1 April. According to Pietro Aaron, he was forced to flee Verona in 1538 for having violated a boy. He took refuge in a small Augustinian monastery near Bergamo, but on 1 January 1540 he was hired as maestro di cappella at the Chiesa della Madonna della Steccata, where he remained until his death, between July and December 1545.

Lanfranco’s Scintille di musica is the earliest comprehensive treatise on music theory in Italian. Written deliberately in the ‘universale Italiana favella’ (i.e. lingua cortigiana), it was aimed at beginners, with the emphasis on practice. It is divided into four books. The first deals with the elements of music: the three genera, hexachords, and properties, the Guidonian hand, clefs, mutation, intervals, chant notation, note values, and text underlay. The second, dedicated to his nephew Genesio Lanfranco, explains mensural notation and proportions (of intervals and notes), with numerous examples. His explanation of the beat in various mensurations is especially valuable, as is his discussion of fitting words to music, the earliest major statement on the subject. The third part, dedicated to a singer at Brescia Cathedral, is a brief discourse on the modes in plainchant, following the doctrine of Marchetto of Padua. The last part, dedicated to two singers, deals with counterpoint as Lanfranco taught it to his choristers. This is improvised counterpoint, learnt through the contrapuntal hand. Seemingly as an afterthought, Lanfranco then added a substantial and important section on the tuning of instruments: keyboard (with instructions for tempering 5ths, 4ths, and 3rds), bowed string instruments (with and without frets), harps, citterns, and lutes.

A second treatise, Terentiana, referred to frequently in the Scintille, has not survived, if ever completed; unlike the Scintille it was to be written in pure Tuscan, for more advanced students. In it there was to have been further discussion of the modes.

Lanfranco’s only known composition is an enigmatic canon on a humanistic text, sent to Adrian Willaert in 1531 as a peace offering after having offended the master (SpataroC, no.106). The Rimario is a catalogue of Petrarch’s rhymes.


  • Rimario di tutti le voci usate dal Petrarca nel fine de’ versi, raccolte tutte ordinatamente de M. Lanfranco Parmegiano (Brescia, 1531; also attached to a 1554 edition of Petrarch, ed. G. Ruscelli)
  • Scintille di musica (Brescia, 1533/R; Eng. trans. in Lee)
  • 2 letters, I-Rvat, f.192r (to Adrian Willaert, 20 Oct 1531), f.254r (to Pietro Aaron, 10 Aug 1534) (ed. in SpataroC, nos.106 and 104)


Threicium memorat, 5vv, enigmatic canon 4 in 1 plus a fifth voice (facs. and edn in SpataroC, pp.959–69)


  • MGG1 (C. Palisca); SpataroC
  • N. Pelicelli: La cappella corale della Steccata nel secolo XVI (Parma, 1916)
  • N. Pelicelli: ‘Musicisti in Parma nei secoli XV–XVI’, NA, vol.8 (1931), 132–42, esp. 138–9
  • B. Lee: Giovanni Maria Lanfranco’s ‘Scintille di Musica’ and its Relation to 16th-Century Music Theory (diss., Cornell U., 1961) [incl. trans. of Scintille di musica]
  • G. Massera: ‘Musica inspettiva e accordatura strumentale nelle Scintille di Lanfranco da Terenzo’, Quadrivium, vol.6 (1964), 85–105
  • D. Harrán: ‘New Light on the Question of Text Underlay Prior to Zarlino’, AcM, vol.45 (1973), 24–56
  • M. Lindley: ‘Early 16th-Century Keyboard Temperaments’, MD, vol.28 (1974), 129–51, esp. 144–51
  • D. Harrán: Word-Tone Relations in Musical Thought from Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century (Neuhausen, 1986), 130–56, 197–209
  • P. Bonardi and G.B. Paganini: Giovanni Maria Lanfranco da Terenzo (1490 ca.–1545): un musico dalla Strada Romea (Sala Baganza, 1998)
  • S. Campagnolo: ‘Lanfranco, Giovanni Maria’, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 63 (2004),
  • E.M. Barassi: ‘Giovanni Maria Lanfranco theorico degli strumenti musicali e il suo tempo’, Philomusica on-line, vol.15/1 (2016), 353–422
Acta musicologica
Note d'archivio per la storia musicale
Musica disciplina
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
B.J. Blackburn, E.E. Lowinsky and C.A. Miller: A Correspondence of Renaissance Musicians (Oxford, 1991)