Guami Gioseffo

(Lucca 1542 - Lucca 1611)

Born in Lucca in 1542, Gioseffo Guami studied in Venice with Adriano Willaert, Annibale Padovano and other teachers of St. Mark’s chapel. Here he became singer of the cappella grande and probably deputy organist. He composed and published in Venice his first book of madrigals (1565), dedicated to Gioseffo Bonvisi and Ludovico Penitesi, two patrons from Lucca who had financed Guami’s education. Highly esteemed in Venice – Zarlino defined him an «eccellente compositore e sonator d’organo soavissimo» – Guami frequently appeared in Venetian vocal anthologies. From 1568 to 1570, Guami was in Munich serving as organist Duke Albert V of Bavaria; after a few years stay in Italy (1574-79), he returned there as capo delli concerti. Because of his duties as teacher, musician and organizer of the court’s musical life, he did not composed much, except for his second book of madrigals today no longer extant. With Albert V’s death in 1579, Guami returned to Lucca as organist at S. Michele for a few years: he had been appointed to this post since 1574, but had never took it up. He married Ortensia Bedini and had three children, all of them musicians. By 1595 he was maestro di cappella in Genoa, serving prince Gian Andrea Doria; but two years later he was back to Lucca. In April 1588 he became organist at St. Mark: his election had been strongly supported by well-known composers – Zarlino, G. Gabrieli, Bassani, Croce – who praised Guami’s talent. However, under unknown circumstances – probably disappointed he was not chosen as successor of Zarlino – Guami returned in 1591 to Lucca. On April 5, he was appointed organist at the cathedral, holding this position until his death. His music was appreciated by many composers and pupils: he was praised by V. Galilei (Dialogo della musica antica e della moderna, Firenze 1581), G. M. Artusi (Seconda parte dell’Artusi overo delle imperfettioni della moderna musica, Venezia 1603), G. Zarlino (Sopplimenti musicali, Venezia 1588) and by A. Banchieri, one of his pupils who dedicated to Guami his Cartella musicale (Venezia, 1614). Banchieri also mentioend his teacher in the Conclusioni nel suono dell’organo (Bologna, 1609) and in the Lettere armoniche (Bologna 1628). Among Guami’s pupils, also his three sons Domenico, Vincenzo e Valerio. Domenico (Lucca, 8 December 1583 – Lucca, 2 June 1631) was organist, singer, composer and priest. He spent all his life in Lucca, here being by 1600 his father’s assistant at the cathedral. Some of his motets are included in Italian anthologies (see G. Guami’s CATALOGUE: 16083, 16122); Nerici listed among his catalogue a book of motets, Canzoni latine con accompagnamento di basso (Venice, 1685), although elsewhere attributed to other composers. In the Conclusioni (Bologna, 1609), Banchieri praised Domenico and his brother Vincenzo for their musical talent. After his father’s death, Vincenzo (Lucca, 5 luglio 1585 – Lucca, 1614/1615) was appointed on 20 January 1612 organist at Lucca cathedral. He held this position until his death (between 1614 and 1615). In 1612 and 1613, he appeared on the payrolls as organist at the court of Archduke Albert in Antwerp. A motet is included in his father’s Sacrarum cantionum (Venice, 1608). Valerio (Lucca, 14 April 1587 – Lucca, 4 November 1649) succeeded on 16 January 1615 his brother Vincenzo as organist at Lucca cathedral. In 1635 he was elected superintendent of the Cappella Palatina of the Signoria di Lucca, a position held until his death. He composed church music, including a few motets published in sacred anthologies (see G. Guami’s CATALOGUE: 16083, 16122, and in Sacri affetti con testi da diversi eccellentissimi autori raccolti da Francesco Sammaruco romano, Roma 1625 [16251]). In 1636 he composed dramatic music for the Tasche (traditional comedies performed for a three-day official ceremony of the Republic of Lucca). In the same year he also composed music for the oratorios (such as Cristo alla colonna) at S. Maria Corteorlandini (no longer extant). Gioseffo Guami’s music certainly shows Willaert and Rore’s influence. Chromaticism, cross-relations, coro spezzato technique, careful text-setting characterize his secular and sacred music. In the last years, the fashionable stile concertato finally emancipates instrumental style from vocal supremacy.

DIGITAL CATALOGUE · Works of Guami Gioseffo

Chamber music


Canzonette alla Francese