Born: ca. 1508 in Verona
Dead: Feb 9, 1587 in Sacile
Genre: Choral Music, Vocal Music, Chamber Music
One of the most versatile and influential Italian-born composers of the mid-sixteenth century, Vincenzo Ruffo was born in Verona and embarked upon a musical career at an early age. His earliest known schooling took place at Verona Cathedral's Scuola degli Accolti, where he served as a choirboy and presumably also learned the rudiments of polyphonic composition. He took priestly orders in 1531, and presumably served minor musical positions until his first documented major employment, that of maestro di cappella for the Cathedral of Savona in 1542. Unfortunately, the vagaries of war forced Ruffo into an early retirement from this post, as the Genoese army destroyed that church in 1543. Ruffo quickly took a new post with the Governor of Milan, and upon the death of that individual in 1546 returned to Verona. In the early 1550s, Ruffo succeeded to the two most important musical posts in Verona: master of music for the city's renowned Accademia Filarmonica and master of the chapel for Verona Cathedral. It seems that much of Ruffo's prolific secular music (especially his contributions to the Italian madrigal) dates from his service to the Accademia.
The year 1563 is usually described as a "turning point" in Ruffo's life. In that year, he returned to Milan to take the job of chapelmaster at Milan Cathedral. In Milan, he made the acquaintance of the passionate and influential Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, one of the driving forces in the Catholic Reformation in terms of church music. Borromeo famously conducted a "test" in Rome of the ability of Catholic composers to write music in which the sacred words could be understood. Ruffo apparently took Borromeo's aesthetics to heart, and the sacred music that dominated his compositional life after 1563 tends to follow the pattern. Oddly, Ruffo's final days seem to pass into professional obscurity. After retiring from the prominent post in Milan in 1572, Ruffo served the smaller chapels of the Cathedral of Pistoia and Sacile in Friuli. He died there in 1587 and was buried beneath a headstone proclaiming the man's extreme old age.
- Timothy Dickey (All Music Guide)