Giovanni Croce

Giovanni Croce, a “Venetian School” composer of both sacred and secular music; was particularly prominent as a madrigalist in Italy and abroad.

As a composer of sacred music, his early work was mostly conservative in approach, but later developed a more forward-looking “concertante” style; typical of the transition from the musical Renaissance to early Baroque era.

His can­zonet­tas and madri­gals (published in seven books, 1585–1607), were particularly in­flu­en­tial in Eng­land; where they inaugurated a mania for madrigal composition.

Despite his renown in Italy and abroad; his music has not main­tained the same fame today.



Giovanni Croce – LIFE

Giovanni Croce, also known as Zuanne Chiozotto, was born about 1557, in Chioggia; a fishing town, situated on the Adriatic coast of the lagoon, south-west of Venice.

Giovanni Croce. The Venetian School of MusicHe came to Venice early, at the age of 8 years old, be­com­ing a mem­ber of the boys choir at St. Mark’s; under and di­rec­tion Gios­effo Zarlino (who also hailed from Chioggia). Zarlino had ev­i­dently found him in a choir in Chiog­gia Cathe­dral and re­cruited him for St. Mark’s.

Croce may have been a parish priest, at the church of Santa Maria For­mosa and he took holy or­ders in 1585; dur­ing this pe­riod he also served as a singer at St. Mark’s. He ev­i­dently main­tained some con­nec­tion, prob­a­bly as a di­rec­tor of music; with the church of Santa Maria For­mosa; along­side his du­ties at St. Mark’s.

After Zarlino’s death, he be­came as­sis­tant “mae­stro di cappella”; dur­ing the tenure of Baldas­sare Do­nato. On the death of Do­nato in 1603, Croce took over the prin­ci­pal job as mae­stro di cappella. Unfortunately, the singing stan­dards of the fa­mous St. Mark’s cathe­dral de­clined under his di­rec­tion; probably due more to his de­clin­ing health; than his lack of mu­si­cian­ship.

He died on the 15th May 1609 and the po­si­tion of mae­stro di cappella, went to Giulio Ce­sare Mar­ti­nengo; until Mon­teverdi took the post in 1613.




Croce wrote less music in the grand poly­choral style, than An­drea and Gio­vanni Gabrieli, al­though he left a grand mass for four choirs, com­posed for Fer­di­nand of Aus­tria (the fu­ture Em­peror Fer­di­nand II) and sev­eral triple-choir Psalm set­tings; only one of which has sur­vived.

As a re­sult his music has not main­tained the same fame today, despite the fact that in his day; he was renowned as a com­poser and had a large in­flu­ence on music, both in Italy and abroad.

As a com­poser of sa­cred music he was mostly con­ser­v­a­tive, writ­ing “cori spez­zati” (split choirs) in the man­ner of Adrian Willaert and par­ody masses; more like the music com­posed by the mem­bers of the con­tem­po­rary Roman School, such as Palestrina. Their characteristics are clarity of form and a devotional spirit. However, later in his ca­reer he wrote some music in the more modern Venetian style of his day – the for­ward-look­ing “con­cer­tato style”; using multiple choruses, solo voices, crisp instrumental rhythms, and basso continuo (reinforced bass line and improvised chords for harmonic support).

The posthu­mous col­lec­tion, the “Sacre Can­ti­lene Concertate” of 1610, is for 3, 5 or 6 solo voices, con­tinuo and a 4-voice Rip­ieno; which can be mul­ti­plied ad lib (pre­sum­ably in dif­fer­ent parts of the church).

Most of Croce’s sa­cred music is for dou­ble-choir: this in­cludes three masses, two books of motets and sets of music for “Terce, Lauds and Ves­pers”. Al­though most of his sa­cred music was writ­ten for the pro­fes­sional singers of St Mark’s (in­clud­ing sev­eral pieces writ­ten for their par­tic­i­pa­tion in a free­lance com­pany of mu­si­cians under Croce’s di­rec­tion, who per­formed for the Scuole Grande of Venice); much of his music is tech­ni­cally sim­ple. For that rea­son much of it, es­pe­cially the sec­u­lar music, has re­mained more pop­u­lar with am­a­teurs. One col­lec­tion, the “motets for 4 voices” of 1597; is clearly de­signed for less am­bi­tious church choirs.

He is also cred­ited with the first pub­lished con­tinuo parts, many of his dou­ble-choir col­lec­tions being is­sued ei­ther with a “Basso per sonare nell’organo” or a “Par­tidura”, (or Spartidura); which in­di­cated two choirs.

Styl­is­ti­cally, Croce was more in­flu­enced by An­drea Gabrieli, than his nephew Gio­vanni; even though they were exact con­tem­po­raries. He pre­ferred the emo­tional cool­ness, the clar­ity of Palestrin­ia and the gen­er­ally lighter char­ac­ter of An­drea’s music.

Croce was par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in the de­vel­op­ment of the can­zonetta and the madri­gal com­edy and wrote a large quan­tity of eas­ily singable, pop­u­lar and often hi­lar­i­ous music. Some of his col­lec­tions are satir­i­cal, for ex­am­ple set­ting to music ridicu­lous scenes at Venet­ian car­ni­vals (“Mas­carate pi­acevoli et ridi­colose per il Carnevale”, 1590); some of which are in di­alect.

He was one of the first com­posers to use the term “capric­cio”, as a title for one of the can­zonet­tas in his col­lec­tion “Tri­aca musicale” (mu­si­cal cure for an­i­mal bites) of 1595. Both this and the “Mas­carate piacevoli” col­lec­tions, were in­tended to be sung in cos­tumes and masks, at Venet­ian car­ni­vals.










His can­zonet­tas and madri­gals were in­flu­en­tial in the Nether­lands and particularly in Eng­land; where they were reprinted in the sec­ond book of “Mu­sica transalpine” (1597), one of the col­lec­tions which in­au­gu­rated the mania for madri­gal com­po­si­tion there.

Croce’s music re­mained pop­u­lar in Eng­land and Thomas Mor­ley specif­i­cally sin­gled him out as a mas­ter com­poser; in­deed Croce may have been the biggest sin­gle in­flu­ence on him. He assimilated it into his music and adapted it for English taste; which preferred a lighter mood of poetry and of music. John Dow­land vis­ited him in Italy as well. Other English madrigalists included, John Wilbye, Thomas Weelkes, Thomas Tomkins, and Orlando Gibbons.


Other related posts in the category of Art-Music-Literature

The 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)

Annibale Padovano (1527–1575)

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 Bassano (c.1558-1617)

Giulio Cesare Martinengo (c.1561-1613)

Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)


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