Boccaccio in musica nel Cinquecento: fortuna e recezione delle ballate del Decameron

Franco Piperno

The success of the Decameron in the sixteenth century is evident not only in literary history but also in the history of music. Secular polyphonic production in the sixteenth century showed a limited but significant interest in lyrical Boccaccio and specifically in the ballate used to close each of the Decameron giornate. This study examines the recurrence of these ballate in the poetic choices of the sixteenth century madrigal players in connection both with the Decameron’s publishing success and the commercial, didactic and literary taste strategies which led musicians or their clients to choose certain musical texts rather than others. The ballate (nine out of ten plus one belonging to the Rime) were sung with a certain continuity from the 1530s to 1612. In the case of composer-publisher Scotto they were frequently chosen as “classic” texts – like the sonnets of Petrarch and the Ariosto octaves – to support polyphonic compositions intended for didactic use. The papal censorship which was imposed on the Decameron between 1559 and 1573 had no impact on the minimal but constant presence of the Boccaccio ballate in the poetic choices of the madrigal players of those years.