IV. The High Renaissance (16th Century)
IVn. The Venetian Style.
The only Italian rival that Rome had in the
cultivation of sacred music in the 16th century was Venice. The
great event in the domain of sacred music in early 16th century
Venice was the election, in 1527, with the support of the Doge
Andrea Gritti, of
maestro di cappella
of St. Mark's. With the appointment of this foreign-born
musician, Venetian sacred music acquired a leader destined to
raise it to a position of loftiest eminence.
From 1525 to 1527, Willaert had served Cardinal
Ippolito d'Este at Milan. At some time during the latter year
cantor regis Ungariae.
This, however, does not mean that he spent time in Hungary. But
it does help to show that his reputation had grown and to
explain why he should have been made
maestro di cappella
at so great a house of worship as St. Mark's, regarded as the
most important in Italy after St. Peter's. His fame spread all
over Europe, and Susato, Attaingnant, and others published
works of his even though he resided in Italy.
Numerous northern composers of earlier
generations had previously been active in Italy; but, although
they composed for Italian employers and absorbed Italian
elements into their own music, they did not, to any marked
degree, transmit Franco-Netherlandish technique to native
composers. Willaert, however, by directing the music at St.
Mark's and by functioning as a teacher as well as in other
capacities, helped to establish what may legitimately be called
a Venetian School. The effect of his residence in Venice is
evident in the technical resources of sacred polyphony
's--during the whole of the century.
Willaert's three main contributions to sacred
polyphony in Italy-- the last two apparently made solely (aside
from his activity as a teacher) through his motets, etc.-were
(i) the establishment of Franco-Netherlandish technique as a
part of the musical language of church music there; (2) the
development of choral antiphony; and (3) the cultivation of a
"modern" style emphasizing faultless declamation of the
Having the choir divided for the antiphonal
singing of part-music was a device known in the north;
moreover, it was not new to Italian soil, but the old practice
was to achieve new life at the hands of Willaert (who, however,
is not credited with its invention by
, s is offen claiied). No doubt inspired especially by the two
choir lofts at St. Mark's, one facing the other, Willaert wrote
for two choirs singing alternately, each
and at times together
Polyphonic writing for alternating choirs made
for color and brilliance and had an important effect upon the
further history of polyphony. In fact, the technique was more
commonly used by some of Willaert's successors, e.g.,
, than by him. Where music was composed for alternating choirs,
it was--notwithstanding occasional polyphonic passages,
especially at cadences--essentially in block harmony style,
thus giving expression to the Italian predilection for chordal
Willaert was succeeded as maestro in 1563 by
Cipriano de Rore
, and he himself was succeeded in 1565 as
maestro di cappella
by a pupil of Willaerts--the celebrated
The line of great musicians that added still
further luster to St. Mark's in the early part of the century
maintained its high excellence toward the close. Strangely
enough, the organists, on the whole, contributed more
brilliantly to the repertory of vocal polyphony than did the
maestri di cappella.
This polyphony flourished with particular splendor. But it was
to the motet rather than to the Mass that Venetian composers,
as a group, dedicated their best effort.
The production of the versatile
(first organist, 1557-1584) included Masses--one on
Cara la vita mia,
one on Andrea Gabrieli's
Benedicam Dominum, etc.,
Magnificats, and numerous motets.
at the second organ in 1564 and Merulo at the first organ in
1585--when he was himself succeeded at the second organ by
--produced sacred music of great distinction. His Masses
include a four-part
in the normal style for this species, which, for him, is
Mass composition, however, was of secondary
importance to Giovanni, as it was to most of his Venetian
contemporaries. The golden age of the polyphonic Mass, indeed,
was drawing to a close. It was in Giovanni's motets that the
Venetian style of polychoral composition attained its
culmination. Motets of his began to appear in the 1587 volume
representing him and Andrea jointly. "Giovanni Gabrieli is the
musical Titian of Venice, as Palestrina is the musical Raphael
of Rome." With his compositions, however, we have definitely
crossed the border into the domain of baroque music.
The motets of
, who became Giovanni's colleague by succeeding
at the first organ in 1588, include a five-part
In die tribulationis
that opens with a point of imitation, in which all voices
ascend a minor sixth chromatically; degree-inflection continues
to play a role in the rest of this highly dramatic work. In a
publication of 1585, the
who was known for a work dealing with ornamentation, names
"Musico dell'Illustr. Signoria di Venetia;"
in 1595, or earlier, he became maestro of music at the Seminary
of St. Mark's and, by 1607,
"capo de' concerti"
at St. Mark's. His varied production includes motets--some with
organ bass. When Bassano was appointed maestro at the Seminary,
in the post, the Seminary having been moved to a distance from
the cathedral in 1592 and Donato having succeeded Zarlino as
maestro di cappell
athere in 1590. Though preponderantly a composer of secular
works, Donato has left us a small quantity of sacred music.
A number of Masses by
--Donato's successors as maestro in 1603--which appeared from
1596 to 1599, indicate that he was the chief representative of
the Missa brevis in Italy. Their brevity can hardly be
exceeded. The Benedictus of the five-part
Missa prima sexti toni
comprises only eleven measures, the Osanna included. The
writing of this work, however, is not perfunctory.
--succeeding Croce, in 1613, after the intervening incumbency
of Martinengo--is the last of the maestri at St. Mark's
belonging to the High Renaissance. His production of sacred
music was small before he assumed this post. His early
(printed in 1582, i.e., during his Cremonese period) short
compositions à 3--almost exercises in classic polyphonic
writing--show how firmly he had been grounded in the
traditional style by Ingegneri. Nearly all these little pieces
open imitatively but, in some, literal imitation seems to be
deliberately avoided. In his Mass printed in 1610, Monteverdi
again pays his respects to the past, but writes on a much
grander scale. The composition--which is à 6, with a
final Agnus à 7--is an example of the parody Mass, by
then almost obsolete, and is based on
In illo tempore loquente Jesu.
The writing is full and rich, but archaic in manner for
Monteverdi, who reworks, in traditional fashion, the ten motifs
upon which Gombert had built his points of imitation.
Monteverdi's most distinctive productions in the sacred field
consist not so much of conservative, though admirable, works
like these as they do of music combining voices and instruments
and contributing to the development and establishment at St.
Mark's of the blossoming baroque style.
Composer´s bibliography and music