The Kennedy Center

Alfonso Ferrabosco the Elder



Biography

Alfonso Ferrabosco was an Italian who had a great influence on the course of English music.  He was born in 1543 into a prominent musical Bolognese family, the oldest son born of Domenico Ferrabosco an admired composer.  He lived in Rome and worked briefly in Lorraine for Charles of Guise.  Around 1562 he moved to England where he worked for Queen Elizabeth I. He was responsible the madrigal popularity in England. 
 
He pledged his exclusive services to Queen Elizabeth and was a suspiciously well-paid musician at the court of Queen Elizabeth.  There was speculation he spied for her around the time of the Inquisition.  His frequent trips between England and Italy came with great controversy, so much so that he was charged with crimes while abroad.  Neither the Pope nor the Inquisition fully approved of his spending time in England, which was at the tume actively at war with Roman Catholic countries.  While these allegations were never proven he left England in 1578 never to return.  Queen Elizabeth I tried to get him to return to England but her attempts were unsuccessful. 
 
He fathered two children between 1575 and 1578. The oldest also named Alfonso Ferrabosco became an important composer in England just like his father. Ferrabosco the Elder left his two children behind in England in the custody of the Queen's court.  She provided for their care and musical training by Gomer van Awsterwyke, a musician on her payroll.  In 1582 Ferrabosco took a job working for the Duke of Savoy and started to settle down with his wife Susanna di Simonibus of Antwerp.  A year later in 1583 he received his inheritance.  He then petitioned Queen Elizabeth to return custody of his two children in England but the Queen refused.  And in 1588 while still embroiled in controversy with the Queen, he died suddenly in Bologna.  Ferrabosco wrote sacred music and instrumental music.
Alfonso Ferrabosco the Elder