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Giovanni Picchi

born: 1572
died: 19 May 1643
country: Italy

Although Giovanni Picchi’s accomplishments as a composer are overshadowed by those of his contemporary Castello, his career can at least be charted in outline thanks to the survival of archival and other primary evidence. Picchi spent most of his working life in the San Polo district of Venice, where he also helped raise six children, serving as organist at the church of Santa Maria de’ Frari from around 1606 until his death on 19 May 1643.

In 1623 he succeeded the recently deceased Giovanni Battista Grillo as organist of the neighbouring confraternity of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, a post formerly occupied by Giovanni Gabrieli. The organist’s duties at the scuola were recorded in 1588, with incumbents expected to attend Mass and Vespers on twenty-four feast days; Mass on the first Sunday of each month, excluding Advent and Lent; Vespers every Sunday and Compline every Friday. Picchi would also have been expected to organize musicians to represent the scuola in the city’s elaborate ducal trionfi or processions. In 1624 he was invited to compete for the post of second organist at San Marco, although the basilica’s lord procurators decided to elect Giovanni Pietro Berti instead.

Before he assumed the responsibilities of a musician in service of church and scuola, Picchi became established as a successful composer and performer of dance music. An engraving on the title-page of Fabritio Caroso’s dance tutor of 1600, Nobilità di dame, shows Picchi playing the lute in consort with three other players; he was also known as a fine harpsichordist.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 1998


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