Annibale Padovano

Annibale Padovano, Venetian School composer and organist of the late Renaissance and one of the early developers of keyboard music.

Born in Padua in 1527, he was first organist at St Mark’s in Venice, from 1552 to 1565 and enjoyed a fruitful relationship with second organist Claudio Merulo.

In 1566, he moved to Graz in Austria, as organist at the court of Archduke Karl II, where he rose to chief musician in 1567 and director of music in 1570. He died in Graz in 1575.

He made an important contribution to the development of organ music; particularly “ricercares” and “toccatas”; which he published in 1556 and 1604. Among his other published works were madrigals (1561, 1564) and sacred pieces (1567, 1573).



Annibale Padovano – LIFE

Little is known about the early life and training of Annibale Padovano (Latin – Annibalis Patavinus) early life, except that he was born in Padua (hence his name) in 1527. He may have been of humble origins, as suggested by the fact that he is remembered not with a surname; but with the toponym of the place of birth.

It is believed that he received a musical education at the school of Bertoldo Sperindio, organist of the cathedral of Padua.

However, he must have already been well known and esteemed at San Mark’s in Venice. For, when in 1552 the competition for the first organ of the Basilica was announced, it was done with little publicity and as shown by the documents of the Procuratoria, he was the only candidate. It would appear that he enjoyed the appreciation of the maestro di cappella Adriano Willaert and the singers of the cathedral.

Music of Annibale PadovanooHe was duly hired as first organist at an annual salary of 40 ducats; collaborating with the second organist, Girolamo Parabosco. However, it seems that his first year or two, was not without some issues.

Firstly, he fell ill for a period and then fell out of favour and given a six-month suspension for “inobedience”; the cause of which is not clear!  He soon returned to favour no doubt due to his excellent musical ability; even helping to appoint the new second organist Claudio Merulo.

Together, the partnership with Merulo worked effectively and even profitably, so that the two again had a salary increase of up to 100 ducats and other gratifications; such as Easter and Christmas bonuses.

The basilica had already been using spatially separated choirs of voices, but this development allowed spatially separated organs and any instrumental accompaniment to perform in each of the two lateral choir lofts. This was a key development in polychoral music of the Venetian school.

From around 1556, Padovano had begun to publish his works, he entered the circle of themost famous musicians, in particular in the prestigious circle of Willaert’s students; Cipriano de Rore, Costanzo Porta, Gioseffo Zarlino and Andrea Gabrieli.

His skill, together with that of Merulo, earned him a large number of lucrative opportunities in the many splendid functions of parishes, monasteries and great schools. This ever-increasing activity, led him inexorably to neglect his office at St. Mark’s; only to be to replaced by some of his pupils when necessary. It was this abusive behaviour of neglect of official duties, that led to an official admonition from the Senate; not to leave the workplace without permission.

He remained in this post until 1565, when he decided to move on and Merulo; took over the job of first organist. Whether it was due to any local difficulties or not, it was not unusual for Venetian musicians to leave their native area, to seek their fortunes in Habsburg domains; which generally remained friendly towards Venice.

It is known that in early July or August 1565, Annibale was in Graz at the court of Archduke Karl II of Austria. Within a year he permanently accepted the post of organist; even with a salary lower than the Venetian one (said to be 25 florins).

In the court of the Habsburgs, Padovano quickly became a highly appreciated composer and a much-admired performer: this allowed him a rapid career progression, from simple organist to chief musician in 1567 and finally to maestro di cappella in 1570.

Thanks to his fame and consolidated position as official court musician, Annibale was in charge of the compositions for the wedding of Wilhelm V of Bavaria with Renata of Lorraine; celebrated in Munich on February 22, 1568. The music was directed by the respected maestro di cappella, Orlando di Lasso.

Music of Annibale PadovanooIt was probably for this wedding, that Padovano composed one of the works for which he is most famous today, the monumental “Mass for 24 voices(Left); whose manuscript is preserved in Vienna in the Staatsbibliothek.

He probably also composed the music for the marriage between Archduke Karl and Maria of Bavaria; that took place in Vienna on 26 August 1571. It would be the “Dialogue for seven voices“, described in a letter of 19 September 1571; between Duke Guglielmo of Mantua and the ambassador, Ippolito Nuvolono.

The excellent relations with Lasso and the Bavaria court, then allowed him in 1573; to dedicate to Wilhelm V, the “Missarum quinque vocum liber primus“, published in Venice by Gardano.

Padovano died on the 15th March 1575, in Graz.



Although Padovano published a book of motets, a book of masses, and two books of madrigals; he is mainly remembered for his instrumental music. He was a notable early composer of ricercars, a predecessor of the fugue. Many of the themes he used derived from plainchant, but he included considerable ornamentation in the melodic lines. In addition he often broke the theme up for motivic development in a surprisingly “modern” way, anticipating the developmental techniques of the common practice period.

Probably his most famous compositions are his toccatas; which were perhaps the earliest examples of the toccata in its more modern sense, as an improvisatory and highly ornamented piece. Usually, he included imitative interpolations between improvisatory sections and also meter changes from duple to triple; anticipating later music of the Venetian school.

While in Bavaria, he wrote an enormous mass for 24 voices, which makes use of three choirs of eight voices each. This composition was performed for the wedding of Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria to Renata of Lorraine. This piece has been recorded by the Huelgas Ensemble, led by Paul Van Nevel and today is one of his most popular pieces (see photo below left)

Music of Annibale PadovanooMusic of Annibale Padovanoo









Venetian School of Music

Major members of the Venetian School of Music. 

Adrian Willaert (c.1490-1562) 

Jacques Buus (c.1500-1565)

Andrea Gabrieli (c.1532-1585)

Nicola Vicentino (1511-c.1576)

Cipriano de Rore (c.1515-1565)

Gioseffo Zarlino (1517–1590)

Baldassare Donato (1525–1603)

Costanzo Porta (c.1529-1601)

Claudio Merulo (1533–1604)

Gioseffo Guami (c.1540-1611)

Vincenzo Bellavere (d.1587)

Girolamo Diruta (c.1554-after 1610)

Girolamo Dalla Casa (d.1601)

Giovanni Gabrieli (c.1555-1612)

Giovanni Croce (c.1557-1609)

Giovanni Bassano (c.1558-1617)

Giulio Cesare Martinengo (c.1561-1613)

Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)


See my post to learn all about St Mark’s Basilica


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