Sigismondo d' India

(1580? - 1629)

Italian composer. Probably born in Palermo—he described himself as "nobile palermitano" in the prefaces to his works—he spent his adolescence in Naples, where there are recoirds of a Don Carlo D'India, a relative or possibly his father. Following a musical education in that city, he would have done so as part of a musical scene that included Jean de Macque who lived in Naples from 1587 and who counted amongts his pupils Gesualdo, Maione and Trabaci.

During the first decade of the Seventeenth Century, D'India traveled around some of the most important courts of northern and central Italy: Mantua, Florence and Rome. He published his first printed work in 1606: Il primo libro de madrigali a cinque voci. In the preface to his Musiche of 1609, he recounts that in Florence he sang alogside two of the most celebrated figures in music, Giulio Caccini and the acclaimed virtuoso singer Vittoria Archilei.

In 1611 he settled in Turin as director of chamber music at the ducal court of Savoy, in the service of Carlo Emanuele I, devoting himself to composing the music for the sumptuous festivities at court, testimony of which has come down to posterity by way of his Musiche e balli a quattro voci (Venice, 1621). In the spring of 1623, however, he hurriedly left the Savoy court to avoid the exposure by malicious court gossips of a scandal. He found refuge at the court of Alfonso II d'Este, Prince of Modena, who was the son-in-law of the Duke of Savoy, and was thereafter called to Rome to take up service with Cardinal Maurizio of Savoy, the son of Carlo Emanuele I, staying there for two years. In the winter of 1626, he was summoned back to Modena by Alfonso d'Este; however, on the death of Isabella, the wife of Alfonso, he returned to Rome. He thereafter left the service of the Cardinal for good, and returned to Modena, where he spent his last years. His death there in 1629 prevented him from taking up a post offered him by the Prince-Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian I.

There exist no portraits of D'India. A Roman correspondent of Alfonso d'Este describes him as "ugly of body and shabbily dressed," though the Duke himslef noted that he was replete with "good qualities and good manners."

Over the course of twenty years he published three volumes of motets, eight of madrigals and two of villanelle alla napolitana, but he was most notable as a follower of the Florentine monodists, issuing five books of Musiche for one or two voices and continuo, and introducing into the solo madrigal some radical experiments in chromatic writing new to that medium (though well-tried, of course, in polyphonic composition). His O dolcezze amarissime is one of several powerful and distinctive songs, and his longer laments rival Monteverdi in their expressive inventiveness.

A Partial Sigismond D'India Discography | VA: Monody and the Vocal Concerto