Praised by poets, scholars, and fellow musicians of his day, the singer, lutenist, and teacher Pietrobono Burzelli (ca. 1417–97) achieved international renown for his skill at improvisational performances on plucked instruments. Until recently, archival documents recorded his presence at many courts on the Italian peninsula and as far away as the Hungarian court. Documents until now unknown to musicologists reveal that Pietrobono also traveled to England. In August 1466 he signed a will and testament in advance of a risky trip “ad partes Anglie” that he was planning to begin the next day.
The testament offers new information about Pietrobono’s family, home, and professional relationships. Among the witnesses to this notarial document was his tenorista, Francesco Malacise, as well as important nobles at the Este court, including the master of the stables. Additional archival evidence reveals that Pietrobono and his colleagues had been charged with bringing lavish gifts to King Edward IV on behalf of the Este court and purchasing racehorses for Borso d’Este. The journey to England thus demonstrates the long reach of Pietrobono’s reputation and offers an early example of the diplomatic responsibilities with which he would be regularly charged later in life. The testament also provides new and intriguing evidence of music and musicians traveling between Italy and England during the second half of the fifteenth century.