Girolamo Dalla Casa

Girolamo Dalla Casa, a “Venetian School” composer-performer of the late Renaissance and part of a virtuoso ensemble, with his two brothers.

In 1568, Girolamo, along with his two brothers Giovanni and Nicolò, were hired as an instrumental ensemble, under the direction of Giovanni Gabrieli at St Mark’s and presumably played in many of the elaborate polychoral compositions of the time.

Perhaps, his most significant contribution to music of that era, was his two-part treatise on ornamentation “Il vero modo di diminuir”; marking the end of the purely Renaissance style and the transition into Baroque practice.



Girolamo Dalla Casa – LIFE

Nothing is known about his life prior to his arrival at Venice; but he was probably born in Udine, sometime before the middle of the 16th century. (The Province of Udine is located in mid-east Friuli Venezia Giulia, bordering Austria to the north, Slovenia to the east and the Adriatic Sea  to the south).

Girolamo Dalla Casa, along with his two brothers, Giovanni and Nicolò, were first hired by the musical establishment of St Mark’s Basilica on 29 January 1568; where they formed the first permanent instrumental ensemble.

Giovanni Gabrieli, clearly had great respect for the brothers musicianship, influencing the development of his music and they are presumed to have played in many of the elaborate polychoral compositions of the time.

In 1572, Dalla Casa served as Venetian agent, for the purchase of a large number of wind instruments and printed editions of music for the court of John of Austria, half-brother of Philip II of Spain and hero of the Battle of Lepanto in the previous year.

The transaction, made through the resident Spanish ambassador in Venice, Diego Guzmán de Silva; came to the considerable sum of 154 scudi, 3 lire, and 20 soldi in gold. The instruments purchased, included four tenor and two soprano shawms, six alto cornetts, five mute cornetts, two large [bass?] cornetts and two dulcians and trumpets from Nuremberg and Augsburg. An unusually large sum was charged for a “‘cassa di flauti grossi” (chest of large recorders), which may have included several SATB consorts.

The purchase also included, five printed books by Cipriano de Rore, four books by Orlando di Lasso, four books by Vincenzo Ruffo and a collection by Pedro Guerrero. Included were other books, whose contents were not specified in the receipt; which is dated 20 February 1572 and signed by Dalla Casa.

Dalla Casa was a virtuoso player of the cornett, which he described as: “the most excellent of all the wind instruments …. because it mimics the human voice, better than the other instruments do”.

The use of the Dalla Casas by Gabrieli and St. Mark’s, foreshadowed and may have influenced; the development of the concertino-ripieno style of the concerto grosso in the later Baroque musical era. Being a smaller group of virtuoso instrumentalists, playing in contrast to larger instrumental and vocal forces arrayed around them and being in the centre of a hugely influential stylistic movement; they functioned as an early form of concertino. Much of the music which Gabrieli and the other Venetians wrote for them survives.



From his compositional output, two books of madrigals and one book of motets survive; which probably was not thought to be large.

More important to musicology however, was his two-part 1584 treatise on ornamentation (Il vero modo di diminuir). It gives clear and precise examples of ornamentation; as it was practiced in singing and playing French chansons and Italian madrigals at the time.

In contrast to earlier ornamentation treatises, Dalla Casa introduced short ornamental patterns with jerky and discontinuous rhythms, such as the “tremoli groppizati” and “groppi battute”; to emphasize particular notes and heighten their emotional effect. Diminutions on interval skips of sixths, seventh and octaves, also appear for the first time in this treatise, which is regarded as marking the end of the purely Renaissance style of ornamentation and the beginnings of Baroque practice. (Definition. Diminution is the shortening of the time values of the notes of a melody. This technique often brings a heightened sense of “urgency” or “tension” to the music.)

From this treatise, it is clear that polyphonic works were usually performed unadorned, but works in a more homophonic style and especially grand polychoral works with frequent sectional changes and prominent cadences; were embellished with ornaments, few of which appear in the actual notated music.

Nothing appears to be known about the date, place and circumstances of his death.


Music by Girolamo Dalla CasaMusic by Girolamo Dalla Casa


Selected publications

Dalla Casa, Girolamo. 1584. Il vero modo di diminuir con tutte le sorti di stromenti di fiato, & corda, & di voce humana. 2 vols. Venice: Angelo Gardano.

Facsimile reprint, with a preface by Giuseppe Vecchi, Bibliotheca musica Bononsiensis, sezione II, no. 23 (Bologna: Arnaldo Forni Editore, 1970).

Another facsimile reprint in Viole de gambe: Méthodes, traités, dictionnaires et encyclopédies, ouvrages généraux, 3 vols., edited by Paolo Biordi and Vittorio Ghielmi, 1:139–249.

Méthodes & traités. IV: Italie 1600–1800 No. 17 (Courlay, France: J. M. Fuzeau, 2004). English translation by Jesse Rosenberg in Historic Brass Society Journal 1, no. 1 (1989): 109–14.



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)

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)



Girolamo Dalla Casa    Girolamo Dalla Casa    Girolamo Dalla Casa    Girolamo Dalla Casa

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This