Cardinal Domenico Capranica (1400-1458) on the singers of Pope Nicholas V
‘In honour of immortal God, the Supreme Pontiff Nicholas V filled the most sumptuous sanctuary that he had erected among the papal courts in the Vatican with many singers. Once, after Mass, he asked Domenico what he thought of that choir of singers, as if he were going [to ask] about a most honourable thing. [Domenico] replied that it seemed to him like a sackful of piglets, in that one could hear the loud din of people shouting, but not make anything of it.’
‘Nicolaus Sum. Pont. V. cella quam sumptuosissimam in pontificia, quae est in Vaticano, Deo Immortali erexerat, cum multis cantoribus replesset; et aliquando Dominicum percunctaretur post missam, tanquam de re honorificentissima facturus esset, quid ei de illo canentium choro videretur, respondit sacculum sibi porcellis plenum videri, audiri namque clamantium strepitum, sed nihil ex eo percipi.’
The anecdote is from Capranica’s biographer, Battista Poggio
Quoted after Giuseppe Baini, Memorie storico-critiche della vita e delle opere di Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (Rome: Società tipografica, 1828). Translation from Rob Wegman, The Crisis of Music in Early Modern Europe, 1470-1530 (New York: Routledge, 2005).
The image below is from I-Fl MS Mediceo Palatino 87, the beautifully ornate ‘Squarcialupi Codex,’ one of the most impressive collections of Italian 14th-century music, most likely compiled in Florence in the early 15th century.