Our new book Motet Cycles Between Devotion and Liturgy has been published by Schwabe Verlag.
Click here to view it on the publisher’s website.

This book explores the corpus of motet cycles composed and disseminated in manuscript and printed sources of polyphony ca. 1470–ca. 1510, including works by Loyset Compère, Gaspar van Weerbeke, and Franchinus Gaffurius. In doing so, it tackles some of the most essential and stimulating issues of late medieval and Renaissance music, clustering around the role of sacred polyphony in the interaction between devotion and liturgy. The different chapters, organized in four sections, cover topics ranging from the relationship between ritual and cycles to the “shape and sound of prayer texts”, revisit the problematic association between Milan, motetti missales and Josquin, and offer a series of case studies approached from an interdisciplinary perspective. By addressing issues of textual and musical design, function, and performance, the book illuminates this fascinating repertory and the rich devotional and cultural context in which it flourished.

Contributors: Clare Bokulich, Felix Diergarten, Eva Ferro, Daniele V. Filippi, Marco Gozzi, Andrew Kirkman, Robert Nosow, Agnese Pavanello, Joshua Rifkin, Francesco Rocco Rossi, Fañch Thoraval, Hana Vlhová-Wörner.


Our new book Codici per cantare: I Libroni del Duomo nella Milano sforzesca has been published by Libreria Musicale Italiana. Click here to view it on the publisher’s website and get a free download of the introduction.

The Libroni (literally “big books”) prepared for the Duomo under chapel master Franchinus Gaffurius are among the most valuable cultural treasures from Renaissance Milan. The four large manuscripts contain a diverse repertory of sacred polyphony for Mass and Vespers, including works by Compère, Weerbeke, Josquin, Isaac, and Gaffurius himself. This was the music that resounded under the gothic arches of the cathedral, still under construction, in a momentous period of the city’s history. The years during which the Libroni were copied (c.1490–1507) saw the rise of Ludovico Sforza (“il Moro”), his dramatic fall, and the subsequent French domination over the duchy of Milan. The rule of the Sforza came thus to an end (apart from the short-lived restorations of the 1510s and 1520s), and the role of the city in European geopolitics changed irreversibly. Codici per cantare presents a set of studies dedicated to the Libroni and subdivided into two sections: the first has an interdisciplinary nature, with essays on the cultural, social, and ritual context, whereas the second contains musicological investigations on the repertory of the Libroni, from the motetti missales to liturgical compositions for the Office. A codicological analysis and a new annotated catalogue of the Libroni (edited by Cristina Cassia) complete a volume that aims to become a reference work for all interested in Gaffurius’s manuscripts.

Contributors: Bonnie J. Blackburn, Cristina Cassia, Daniele V. Filippi, Martina Pantarotto, Edoardo Rossetti, Francesco Rocco Rossi, Thomas Schmidt, Daniele Torelli, Norberto Valli, Massimo Zaggia.

01/2019: Outreach event at the Archive

On a bright January morning a class of 7th graders from the music programme of the Secondary School Quintino di Vona (Milan) visited the Archive of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo. Archivist Maddalena Peschiera and her collaborators, together with Daniele Filippi from the Polifonia Sforzesca Team, welcomed them and illustrated the treasuries of the Archive. Gaffurius’s Librone 1 and other gems from the musical section of the archive could not be missing among the showcased items! A tour of the cathedral’s monumental organ with organist Alessandro La Ciacera concluded this stimulating experience.


12/2018: A seminar on digital editions at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis

On December 6, 2018 the Polifonia Sforzesca research team engaged the community of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in a debate over digital editions of early music. We briefly presented our perspective and illustrated some case studies of existing editions, before opening a discussion with performers, teachers, scholars, and students, about such questions as:

  • Have you ever used a digital edition of music? If yes, how did you use it?
  • In an existing or imaginary digital edition, what features do you find most useful, or, on the contrary, useless?
  • How do you combine or balance the use of facsimiles and that of modern editions for purposes of study, analysis, performance?
  • Editions of vocal music often provide extensive critical notes about the sung texts, besides an historical introduction and the critical apparatus regarding both text and music: how often do you consult these different resources?
  • Ultimately, what do you wish from a new edition of the music you are interested in?

Both theoretical thoughts and practical examples from the participants’ daily life animated a vibrant and thought-provoking conversation.

Thanks to Martin Kirnbauer for hosting us in the series Donnerstags-Akademie, and to all the numerous participants for sharing their ideas with us.



FOTO: © Susanna Drescher 2016 www.susannadrescher.ch

2018.12.06._Donnerstags-Akademie_Polifonia sforzesca – Invitation


01-02/2018: Gaffurius goes digital

Thanks to funding from the SNF, and to a joint effort by the Veneranda Fabbrica, our research team, and the experts in the digital photography of musical manuscripts from DIAMM (the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music based in Oxford), the Libroni digitization campaign took place between January and February 2018.


In this gallery you see archivists Maddalena Peschiera and Alessandra Micheletto, photographers Lynda Sayce and Fred Cale, and musicologist Daniele Filippi sharing an intense week of work, research, and companionship.

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01/2018: Project Presentation at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis

On Thursday, January 18, 2018 the Polifonia Sforzesca Research Project was presented at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. After Agnese Pavanello outlined the project, Daniele Filippi introduced the forthcoming research portal, which will give open access to the main research results of the project. In turn, Cristina Cassia discussed the possibilities offered by digital editions of Renaissance music, and Rolf Wissmann elucidated the technical aspects connected therewith.

12/2017: Opening of the Cassette Ratti (Fourth Gaffurius Codex) at the Veneranda Fabbrica

In December 2017 Agnese Pavanello and Daniele Filippi visited the Archive of the Veneranda Fabbrica in order to have the long-awaited opportunity to see what remains of the Fourth Librone. The manuscript was severely damaged in a fire at the International Exposition of Milan in 1906; after preservative treatment, the fragments were arranged in a set of boxes, named Cassette Ratti after Achille Ratti (director of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in the 1910s, later Pope Pius XI), who supervised the process. In the 1950s the fragments were treated with chemicals at the Istituto di Patologia del Libro in Rome, in order to enhance the visibility of the text, and subsequently photographed. Our goal, shared with the archivist, Dr Maddalena Peschiera, was to determine the state of the fragments (never extracted from their boxes in the past sixty years), and evaluate whether they could be included in the upcoming campaign for the digitization of the Libroni. Two experts from the Istituto centrale per il restauro e la conservazione del patrimonio archivistico e librario (ICRCPAL), Dr Silvia Sotgiu and Dr Simonetta Iannuccelli, came from Rome, opened the boxes, and extracted the fragments. The verdict? Alas, judge by your eyes. A conservation plan is now being designed, and the safest option for us is to digitize (and digitally restore) the existing glass negatives made in the 1950s.

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Immagini distribuite con Licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 4.0 Internazionale.