A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Mel, Rinaldo del

1670024A Dictionary of Music and Musicians — Mel, Rinaldo delJames Robert Sterndale-Bennett

MEL, Rinaldo del, 'Gentilhuomo Fiamengo,' and distinguished composer of the 16th century. The date and town of his birth are not known, but his nationality is assured, not only by the above title, which appears on more than one of his works, but by his own words, 'la natione nostra Fiammengo.' He is not to be confused with Gaudio Mell, a name which Adami,[1] Liberati,[2] and Martini[3] give to Palestrina's master Goudimel. Having served Sebastian, King of Portugal, and his successor, Cardinal don Henriquez as Chapelmaster, he arrived in Rome in 1580. This change in his career may be accounted for by the annexation of Portugal to Spain in that year. If Philip II. was unwilling to keep up a useless retinue in Lisbon, he would certainly make no exception in favour of 'Flemish gentlemen,' who indeed were never to his liking. Why Mel turned his steps to Rome we know not. Once there, however, he presented himself without loss of time to Palestrina, but soon found himself out of his depth on musical subjects, and confessed that Rinaldo's questions could not keep pace with Pierluigi's answers. So the ex-Chapelmaster set himself down to school tasks again, ambitious to become a worthy disciple of that Roman school which he declared was the greatest in Europe.[4] His diploma was soon obtained, for his publications began in 1582, and between that year and 1595 he published 5 books of motets and 15 books of madrigals, besides contributing to various collections which carried his name from Rome to Venice, Nuremberg, Antwerp, and Munich.

Up to 1590 he probably lived chiefly in Rome, though we find him at Liége in 1587,[5] where some of his family were in the service of Ernest, Duke of Bavaria. Part of the time he is said to have been chamber-musician to Gabriel Paleotto, archbishop of Bologna, who had himself some knowledge of music.[6] When the diocese of Sabina was placed under Paleotto's charge in 1591 he founded a college, improved the cathedral at Magliano, and made many changes in the internal government. The appointment of a new Chapelmaster agrees well enough with these facts, and it is in the year 1591 that we hear of Mel's appointment to the cathedral and the new college. He dates from Calvi, a little town near Magliano, March 20, 1593, and from Magliano[7] itself, 1595. From this time his publications cease, and we have no further record of him. He is said to have been already well advanced in life when he left Portugal, and by this time was probably an old man. So we may assume that the end of his life was near, and that he did not long survive Palestrina.

Mel's works are at present difficult to obtain. The British Museum does little more than record his name,[8] and in the Fétis Library at Brussels, such a rich treasure house, he is quite unknown. The only work in modern notation is a Litany in the 'Musica Divina,' Ann. II, vol. 3 (Ratisbon, 1869). [App. p.716 "Correct the last sentence by a reference to the Catalogue of the Motett Society's publications [see additions below, under Motett Society], where an anthem adapted by Dr. Aldrich to the words 'O praise the Lord,' from a work of Mel's, is found in vol. iii. p. 128."]
  1. 'Osservazioni per ben regolare Capella ponttf. (Roma 1711). (Brit. Mus. C. 20 c.)
  2. Lettera in risposta ad una del Sig. Pers. (Brit. Mus. 556 c. 8.)
  3. 'Giudicio di Apollo.' bound up with 3rd vol. of Martini's 'Storia della Musica.' (Brit. Mus. 557 eq.)
  4. Baini is responsible for this story. See 'Memorie di Palestrina.'
  5. Madrigali á 6 (Anvers 1588). See also Fétis, Biographie, under 'Melle, Renaut de.'
  6. See Fantuzzi, 'Notizie delli Scrittori Bolognesi' (Bologna 1788).
  7. See dedication of 'Liber 5me motectorum' (Venice 1595).
  8. A 'quinto' part of the 2nd book of Madrigals (á 6), the only book of Mel's in the library, gives the title 'Gentilhuomo F.,' and contains the dedication to Cardinal Minucci. which speaks of 'la natione nostra Fiammengo,' and bears the date 'Calvi. March 20, 1593.'