In the multilingual environments of Central European cities and courts, Italian musicians found a receptive market for their music. There they confronted a range of linguistic abilities that encouraged innovative approaches to musical composition and publication. Recent rediscovery of the opening sheets of Giovanni Battista Pinello’s 1584 Primo libro dele neapolitane enables us to assess one Genoese composer’s experience of a multi-ethnic, Central European milieu during an unprecedented migrational wave. As chapelmaster at the electoral court in Dresden with ties to aristocratic circles in Prague, Pinello also issued a German version that can be sung, according to the composer, simultaneously with the napolitane.

This study examines the Central European market for Italian music, the role of the Holy Roman Empire in facilitating Italian migration, and cultural challenges foreign musicians faced in their new homes. Nineteenth-century myths of nationhood depended on histories of folk-like immobility, but in fact migration was a basic condition of early modern European life. Music historians have long been aware of individual musicians’ travels from the Low Countries in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, along with a new trend, emerging around 1600, toward northward emigration by Italian musicians. Nonetheless, there is much more to say about the social underpinnings of such movements. Pinello’s fusion of languages, poetic forms, and registers invites us to reimagine the multi-ethnic complexion of Central European musical centers in the late sixteenth century.

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