Bassano, Giovanni

Date of birth: c.1561
Date of death: 1617

Giovanni Bassano (c.1561-1617) was an Italian Renaissance composer of the Venetian School. He played an important role in the development of instrumental ensembles in St. Mark’s basilica in Venice, being a cornettist himself. He wrote a book on instrumental ornamentation, still a resource for research in contemporary performance practice. Thanks to Bassano Giovanni Gabrieli would emerge as one of the most famous members of the Venetian School. (Arnold & Ferracioli)
Bassano was probably born in Venice around 1560. As an adolescent he arrived at St. Mark’s to be an instrumental player. In 1585 he became music teacher at the seminary associated with St. Mark’s, and in 1601 he accepted the job as leader of the instrumental ensemble until he died in 1617. He was more renowned for his playing performances than as a composer. He wrote motets and concerti ecclesiastici (church concerts) in the polychoral Venetian style, and a number of canzonettas as well that became famous in Europe. Thomas Morley knew them, printing them in an English translation in 1597.
The similarity of Bassano’s motets to the early work of Heinrich Schütz - who studied in Venice with Gabrieli - suggests that the two must have known each other. Bassano wrote many secular and sacred musical works, e.g. fantasie, ricercate, canzonette, motetti, concerti ecclesiastici, and madrigale. Although seemingly simple and homophonic, Bassano’s music is very intricate and surprisingly new.
Cees Wagemakers, 2018