IVO: Sacred Music in the Italian Cinquecento outside Venice and Rome


The only Italian rival that Rome had in the cultivation of sacred music in the cinquecento was undoubtedly Venice , but various other centers made noteworthy contributions also, among them Naples, where the Spanish Court fostered music for the church. The excellent Spanish composer and theorist, Diego Ortiz, summoned by the Duke of Alba, served as maestro of the Viceroyal Chapel, 1555 to 1570. His successors included Francisco Martinez di Loscos (1570-1583), Bartolomeo Roy (1583-1598), Jean de Macque, and Macque's pupil, Giovanni Maria Trabaci

Among other contributors to Neapolitan sacred music of the time were Pomponio Nenna; the native Neapolitan, Gian Domenico Montella (b. 1570), who entered the Viceroyal Chapel as a lute-player in 1591; the Calabrian, Rocco Rodio, whose five-part Missa de Beata Virgine may be rendered à 4 by omitting the Pars quinta, or à 3 either by omitting that voice and the superius or by having only the three top parts sung; and Gesualdo, whose sacred works reveal the liking for chromaticism so conspicuous in his madrigals.

Florence, Bologna, Modena, and Ferrara

At Florence, interest was very clearly concentrated on secular music. Galilei is known to have written a setting of the Lamentations, but this does not survive. Alessandro Striggio, though primarily a madrigalist, has left two Masses and a few motets. Francesco Corteccia was also noted both for his sacred music and the secular, particularly madrigals.

At Bologna, the chief musician of the period was Banchieri. Although essentially a composer of secular music, his Concerti ecclesiastici of 1595, containing music for double chorus, has the distinction of being one of the oldest prints containing an organ part. This, designated as a spartitura, gives the bass of the first chorus and also -- evidently as an aid to the organist in determining the harmony -- the superius. Barring is used. The terms "à 4" and "à 8" are inserted here and there to show whether only the first chorus is singing or both. A note A gli sig. organisti tells the player that where "à 8" appears the superius and bass of the second chorus are to be added. Banchieri wrote also Masses, psalms, etc.

At Modena, as might be expected, Orazio Vecchi wrote sacred works much affected by secular traits.

At nearby Ferrara, Luzzaschi produced a collection of motets à 5 (printed 1598). Here, too, Paolo Isnardi, musician to the Duke and maestro di cappella at the Cathedral, composed Masses, motets, Lamentations, etc. Both Rore and, as his successor, Alfonso Della Viola, held the post of maestro di capella to Duke Ercole II of Ferrara.

Sacred Music at Mantua

At Mantua, Wert proved himself a worthy incumbent of the post of maestro di cappella of Santa Barbara by writing sacred music of high excellence. Gastoldi, Wert's probable assistant, published Masses, motets, vesper psalms, etc., while Pallavicino, Wert's successor as maestro to the duke, brought out a volume of motets à 8, à 12, and à 16. Girolamo Belli, who sang in the duke's choir, printed volumes of Sacrae cantiones, etc. At the Cathedral of St. Peter's in Mantua, Viadana -- who was maestro from 1594 to 1609 -- made an important early stride in the history of baroque music with his Cento concerti ecclesiastici of 1602. Mantua was the scene also of the composition of synagogue music. Salomone Rossi's collection, Hashirim Asher Lishlomo, was printed at Venice in 1622. It consists of settings of psalms, hymns, and prayers for sabbaths and other occasions. The music is in Italian Renaissance style, without any special Hebraic character. While the music reads, of course, from left to right, the Hebrew text runs from right to left.

Sacred Polyphony at Genoa and Milan

At Genoa, Simone Molinaro's activity included the composition of Masses, motets, and Magnificats, some being provided with organ bass.

At Milan, Mathias Hermann Werrecore, a transplanted Netherlander appointed maestro di cappella at the Cathedral, published a collection of sacred motets in 1555, but Vincenzo Ruffo was the outstanding composer of sacred music, beginning in 1563, the year both of his appointment as maestro at the Cathedral and of the earliest sessions of the Council of Trent devoted to music. The production of Masses, motets, Magnificats, etc., of the other notable composer active at Milan-- Orfeo Vecchi --includes a collection entitled Motetti di Orfeo Vecchi Maestro di Cappella di S. Maria della Scala e d'altri eccellentiss. Musici (1598). Among the contents are a Surge propera and a Quanti mercenarii which are actually motet adaptations, by Orfeo, of Palestrina's Vestiva i colli and Io son ferito. Pre-eminently a church composer, Orfeo at the same time is clearly a member of a new generation: his Masses are provided with basso continuo.

Sacred Polyphony at Cremona, Bergamo, and Brescia

Ingegneri is the chief composer whose career ran its course at Cremona, the main events of Monteverdi's career having unfolded elsewhere. Ingegneri followed the course of his teacher Ruffo in writing Masses in simple style, but did not compose them to the exclusion of Masses making a greater use of polyphonic technique. Massaini became maestro di cappella in Cremona in 1595, after having formerly served in the same capacity at Salò, Prague, and Salzburg, and later on at Piacenza and Lodi. He published Masses, motets, hymns, Lamentations, etc. Born at Cremona, though active mainly in Germany, was Cesare Zacharia (Zachariis), who wrote motets, hymns, falsibordoni, etc.

At Bergamo, the Masses and motets of Pietro Vinci reveal him in a favorable light.

By Costanzo Antegnati, outstanding in the musical life of Brescia, where he was born and where he served as cathedral organist, we have motets, psalms, two books of Masses, etc. Likewise born at Brescia, but more active at Trent, was Giovanni Contino (c. 1513-1574), perhaps Marenzio's teacher, maestro di cappella to the court of Mantua, 1561-1565. His surviving works--all printed in 1560-1561---include a book of Masses, one of Lamentations, and two of motets.

Sacred Polyphony in Cities Near Venice

In the vicinity of Venice--and at times in the city itself--we find Giovanni Matteo Asola at Treviso and Vicenza; and Costanzo Porta, Balbi, Leone Leoni and Giulio Belli (not to be confused with Girolamo Belli) at least on occasion at Padua.

The Composers (and some others)

Supplemental Materials

Poetry and Prose


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