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Trombone History: A Mischievous Trombonist in Renaissance Italy

Updated on November 16, 2015
Siena, Italy, ca. 1572, from Civitates Orbis Terrarum
Siena, Italy, ca. 1572, from Civitates Orbis Terrarum

Introduction

Sixteenth-century, Siena, Italy, boasted a first-rate musical establishment in both its Palace wind band and its cathedral musical establishment, attracting musicians from all over Europe. Both ensembles employed a colorful trombonist named Tiberio di Girolamo Rivolti. Although Tiberio got off to a rocky start as a young trombonist, incurring the frequent displeasure of city officials, he eventually went on to become a prominent musician–in the words of historian Frank D’Accone, “one of the most talented musicians to come out of sixteenth-century Siena” (D’Accone 795). Below are some of the highlights of this mischievous trombonist as he works through his colorful early years to become a prominent musical figure.

Detail from Pinturicchio's Coronation of Pius III, 1503. The painting, depicting a wind band similar to what trombonist Tiberio Rivolti performed with in Siena, is a fresco located at the exterior of the Piccolomini Library at the Siena cathedral.
Detail from Pinturicchio's Coronation of Pius III, 1503. The painting, depicting a wind band similar to what trombonist Tiberio Rivolti performed with in Siena, is a fresco located at the exterior of the Piccolomini Library at the Siena cathedral.

The Mischief of Youth

In 1564, Tiberio Rivolti, serving as a temporary trombonist in Siena’s Palace wind band, has his meal privileges revoked, apparently for some misdeed. The following day, the order is reversed, and Tiberio is described as “a musician of tender age and of much musical promise” (D’Accone 581, 795).

In 1567, Tiberio Rivolti apparently angers officials, who suspend him from service as a trombonist in the Palace wind band (D’Accone 581).

In 1568, young Tiberio, now a permanent member of the palace wind band, is jailed for having written “certain scandalous words” on the wall of the employees’ dining room and lied to fellow trombonist Giovanbattista di Bennardino (D’Accone 582).

In 1570, Tiberio is again imprisoned, this time for making “certain disparaging remarks” about several gentlemen. He spends a week in prison, without salary (D’Accone 582).

Siena's Palazzo Pubblico, where Tiberio Rivolti is employed as trombonist with the Palace wind band.
Siena's Palazzo Pubblico, where Tiberio Rivolti is employed as trombonist with the Palace wind band.

Musical Prominence

Eventually Tiberio apparently learns his lesson, managing to avoid sanctions, while adding to his Palace position a prestigious trombone post at the Siena Cathedral. He later takes a leave from Siena to serve at the court of Habsburg Emperor Rudolph, ultimately returning to previous posts in Siena (D’Accone 595).

The Siena cathedral, where Tiberio Rivolti eventually obtains an additional trombone post, while continuing duties with the Palace wind band.
The Siena cathedral, where Tiberio Rivolti eventually obtains an additional trombone post, while continuing duties with the Palace wind band.

Finally, Tiberio also serves, apparently with distinction, as the maestro di canto at Siena’s venerable Santa Maria della Scala, where he directs the music and schools the orphans in rudiments of singing and counterpoint. He is credited with being an excellent teacher and making significant musical improvements during his tenure there (D’Accone 597; Reardon 123-126).

Not bad for a headstrong trombonist who couldn’t seem to keep himself out of trouble early in his career! For another Renaissance trombonist with a colorful life, see The Strange Case of a 15th Century Trombonist-Composer-Murderer.

Santa Maria della Scala, Siena, where Tiberio Rivolti serves with distinction as maestro di canto and teaches orphans the rudiments of music.
Santa Maria della Scala, Siena, where Tiberio Rivolti serves with distinction as maestro di canto and teaches orphans the rudiments of music.

Sources:

D’Accone, Frank A. The Civic Muse: Music and Musicians in Siena during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Reardon, Colleen. “Insegniar la Zolfa ai Gittatelli: Music and Teaching at Santa Maria della Scala, Siena during the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries” in Irene Elm, Alyson McLamore, and Colleen Reardon, eds. Musica Franca: Essays in Honor of Frank A. D’Accone. Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon Press, 1996.

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    • kimballtrombone profile image
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      kimballtrombone 7 years ago

      Thanks, Joyus Crynoid. Tiberio does seem to fit the mold, doesn't he?

    • Joyus Crynoid profile image

      Joyus Crynoid 7 years ago from Eden

      Great hub. Apparently we trombonists have been making trouble for a long time!

    • kimballtrombone profile image
      Author

      kimballtrombone 7 years ago

      Good question. "Trombone" was originally an Italian word. It comes from "tromba" (Italian for trumpet) and "one" (Italian for large); in other words, it originally meant simply a large trumpet. You can read more about many of the other names for trombone throughout history in this hub: https://hubpages.com/entertainment/Trombone-Names-...

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 7 years ago from USA

      Hi Kimball...+++ - Question: Where did the name of the device, "Trombone, come from?

      Gus :-)))

    • kimballtrombone profile image
      Author

      kimballtrombone 7 years ago

      Thanks, equealla, for your comments. I agree--people writing "certain scandalous words" and making "certain disparaging remarks" seem like pretty normal happenings today! Although there's something about trombone players, even in our time, that makes it hard for them to stay out of trouble (probably because they sit in the back and count rests so much of the time).

    • equealla profile image

      equealla 7 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      Strict times, I must say. According to the things he was jailed for, I think more than half the population of today will have spend time in jail for. How things has changed.

      I loved the pictures and stand in awe of the construction and detail of some of those buildings.

      This was a nice read, thanks.

      Congratulations on the hubnugget an wellcome to this community.

    • kimballtrombone profile image
      Author

      kimballtrombone 7 years ago

      Thanks for visiting, akirchner. Hope your son still finds time to toot his own horn once in a while!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      Awesome subject - my son played trombone through high school (and still plays piano). Well done - and congrats on the hubnugget nom!

    • kimballtrombone profile image
      Author

      kimballtrombone 7 years ago

      Thanks, Shawn. Glad to hear from a fellow brass player!

    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 7 years ago from The Lone Star State

      This is a very interesting hub. I look forward to reading your other hubs. I am a trumpet player and I love all the brass instruments. Congrats on your Hubnugget nomination!

    • kimballtrombone profile image
      Author

      kimballtrombone 7 years ago

      Denise, thanks for checking out the trombone hubs--I appreciate your passing them on to your trombonist-friend. We bone players sometimes don't realize how long (and interesting) our history is!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Welcome to Hubpages. I enjoyed the information and have a friend who is a trombonist. I plan to pass your hubs onto him. Loved the photos. Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination. :)

    • kimballtrombone profile image
      Author

      kimballtrombone 7 years ago

      Thanks, Starfishfelix. Glad you liked it!

    • Starfishfelix profile image

      Starfishfelix 7 years ago from California, United States

      Very interesting slice of history I probably would never have encountered otherwise!

    • kimballtrombone profile image
      Author

      kimballtrombone 7 years ago

      Thanks, mquee! A lot of people are a little surprised trombone has been around as long as it has. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • mquee profile image

      mquee 7 years ago from Columbia, SC

      Nice piece of history that was entertaining to read. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your nomination.

    • kimballtrombone profile image
      Author

      kimballtrombone 7 years ago

      Thanks, fetty and ripplemaker! I enjoyed writing it--it's great seeing history come to life.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      In behalf of the adventurous Hubnuggets Team, we wish you all the best on your Hubnuggets nomination. Please follow this link where you can read all about it...and vote too! http://hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/Phantom-of-the...

    • fetty profile image

      fetty 7 years ago from South Jersey

      Seems to me to be a definitive article on the trombone. Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination. A lot of history here. Nice hub!