Gioseffo Guami

Gioseffo Guami, (1540/2-1611) was a Venetian School composer, organist, teacher and singer of the late Renaissance.

In 1588, he was appointed as first organist St. Mark’s Basilica under the “maestro di cappella”, Gioseffo Zarlino; until he left for Lucca in 1591.  

A prolific composer of madrigals and instrumental music, he was renowned as one of the finest organists and composer in Italy of the late 16th century. Guami was also the principal teacher of the madrigal composer, Adriano Banchieri.



Gioseffo Guami – LIFE

Gioseffo Guami was born in Lucca, sometime between 1540-1542 (varying reported dates!) and had a younger brother Francesco; born in 1543.

The Guami family of Lucca, was one of the more important and longer lasting of Renaissance Italy’s regional musical dynasties and Gioseffo Guami is today considered its most significant representative.  Indeed, his fame as organist, composer and teacher; was remarkably widespread in his own day.

Little is really known about his early life, before he came to St. Mark’s in Venice; one of the most prestigious musical institutions in Italy. In 1561, he studied with Adrian Willaert and Annibale Padovano and served as a singer.

In 1568, he left Venice and went to Munich, Bavaria, serving as first organist at the court of Albrecht of Bavaria for eleven years and the location of the famous Franco-Flemish composer Orlande de Lassus. In the early 1570’s, he made temporary return visits to Italy; being accompanied by Lassus, at least on one occasion.

In 1579, he was hired as organist in Lucca, where he stayed until 1582 or possibly later.

In 1585, he moved to Genoa, working as “maestro di cappella”, directing the Prince’s musicians. Precise, details of his movements are uncertain, until his return to St. Mark’s; but it is certain that he was composing and acquiring fame as an organist during these years.

In 1588, he was appointed to the post of first organist at St. Mark’s Basilica,under the direction of “maestro di cappella” Gioseffo Zarlino. However, when Zarlino died, Guami returned to Lucca in 1591; possibly because he was not appointed as Zarlino’s successor.  In Lucca, he enjoyed his longest appointment of around twenty years, where he was organist at the cathedral; until he death in 1611.



Compared to, say, his beloved brother Francesco’s small catalogue of compositions; Gioseffo’s extant music seems a veritable deluge.

First and foremost, are his many five- and six-voice madrigals (published in several volumes between 1565 and 1601). He also composed a considerable amount of sacred vocal music, including a volume of Sacred songs (Sacrae cantiones), for large vocal ensembles (five to ten voices); a Magnificat (1590) and several Latin motets. There is also instrumental music: an organ toccata and a pair of four-part Fantasias key among them; credited to him.

Music of Gioseffo Guami


The major influences on Guami’s sacred music style are from Willaert, his teacher at St. Mark’s, and Cipriano de Rore and later from Lassus; who may have been friends, since they served together in Munich and evidently travelled together.

In his secular music he was most progressive, using an unusual amount of chromaticism and modulation to distant keys, undoubtedly influenced by Nicola Vicentino.

Guami also wrote numerous instrumental canzonas, but unfortunately, his organ music appears to have been lost, for only one piece survives; in a collection by Girolamo Diruta. The canzonas are in the up-to-date Venetian style: antiphonal, ornamented and using starkly different thematic material in different sections. They also contain an unusual level of motivic development for pre-Baroque music. (Def: Canzona (It. plural canzone), is an instrumental musical form of the 16th and 17th centuries that developed from the Franco-Netherlandish chanson. It differed from the similar forms of ricercare and fantasia in its livelier, markedly rhythmic material and separation into distinct sections).

Gioseffo Guami, was also important as a teacher, providing instruction to composers such as Adriano Banchieri, one of the key figures in the transition to the Baroque style. Vincenzo Galilei, the progressive music theorist, lutenist and father of the astronomer; also wrote about Guami’s music, talent and fame.










Try these links below:


Gioseffo Guami | The Classical Composers Database | Musicalics:

Free scores by Gioseffo Guami at the International Music Score Library Project

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)

Annibale Padovano (1527–1575)

Costanzo Porta (c.1529-1601)

Claudio Merulo (1533–1604)

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)


Other posts in the category of Art-Music-Literature


Gioseffo Guami    Gioseffo Guami    Gioseffo Guami    Gioseffo Guami



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