Lodovico Grossi da Viadana

From Academic Kids

Lodovico Grossi da Viadana (usually Lodovico Viadana, though his given name was Grossi) (c. 1560May 2, 1627) was an Italian composer, teacher, and Franciscan friar of the Order of Minor Observants. He was the first significant figure to make use of the newly developed technique of figured bass, one of the musical devices which was to define the end of the Renaissance and beginning of Baroque eras in music.

Life

He was born in Viadana, a town near Parma. Most likely he studied with Costanzo Porta, becoming choirmaster at the cathedral in Mantua in 1594. In 1597 he went to Rome, and in 1602 he became choirmaster at the cathedral of San Luca in Mantua. He held a succession of posts at various cathedrals in Italy, including Concordia (near Venice) and Fano. For three years, 1614-1617, he held a position in his religious order which covered the entire province of Bologna (including Ferrara, Mantua and Piacenza). By 1623 he had moved to Busseto, where he worked at the convent of Santa Andrea. He died in Gualtieri, near Parma.

Music and significance

Viadana is important in the development of the early Baroque technique of basso continuo, and its notational method, known as figured bass. While he did not invent the method, he was the first to use it in a widely-distributed collection of sacred music (Cento concerti con il basso continuo), which he published in Venice in 1602. Agostino Agazzari in 1607 published a treatise describing how to interpret the new figured bass, though it is clear that many performers had by this time already learned the new method, at least in the most progressive musical centers in Italy.

Viadana composed mostly sacred music: masses, Psalms, magnificats, motets, and lamentations, though there are two books of secular canzonette and a book of eight-voice Sinfonia musicali. His earlier music is clearly in a Renaissance style, strictly a cappella with balanced polyphony between the voices, but after 1602 he wrote increasingly in an early Baroque style, with frequent concertato passages, and always with a basso continuo. He also used the monodic style, especially in his later works, and some of his Psalm settings (for example the Salmi op. 27, for four spatially separated choruses) are progressive works in the Venetian polychoral style. In addition, some of his later works anticipate the later instrumental concerto: they indicate specific instrumentation — still not a widely used practice — and they involve back-and-forth dialog between groups of voices and instruments.

He also wrote some secular music, but the quantity is limited as may be expected from a member of a strict religious order. These include two volumes of canzonettas (one for three, and one for four voices) and a volume of instrumental sinfonias, which are actually more like typical canzonas (terminology was loose in the decades right around 1600: what one composer called a sinfonia, another might call a fantasia, canzona, or a ricercar). In the sinfonias each individual composition bears the name of a different town in Italy: they can almost be conceived as an early kind of program music.

Viadana's music was influential not only in Italy, but also in Germany, on composers such as Michael Praetorius, Johann Schein and Heinrich Schütz. It was largely through Viadana that the concertato style arrived in Germany, the country that was to develop it most eagerly in the early 17th century.

Sources, and Further Reading

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