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Annibale Padovano

born: 1527
died: 15 March 1575
country: Italy

The music theorist Vincenzo Galilei was not easily impressed. Nevertheless, in his ‘Dialogue on ancient and modern music’ (Dialogo della Musica Antica e Moderna, Venice, 1581), he described Annibale Padovano as one of those rare keyboard artists who ‘really knew how to play well and compose well’ (‘hanno veramente saputo & ben sonare, & bene scrivere’). In 1600 the theorist Giovanni Artusi described Padovano as a ‘man of great worth’ (‘huomo di gran valore’). Padovano’s playing and his instrumental compositions were praised by such men as Ercole Bottrigari, Pietro Pontio, the organ builder Costanzo Antegnati, Adriano Banchieri, Pietro Cerone and Pietro della Valle. His ricercars for instrumental ensemble were reprinted in 1588, and arranged for keyboard and lute, and were still being recopied a century after first publication. Despite the fame Padovano enjoyed in his own day, he has been relatively neglected in ours.

Annibale Padovano, born in Padua in 1527 to a carpenter called Francesco, evidently showed talent from an early age. He was already in Venice by at least June 1552, when he was paid to substitute for the aged friar Giovanni Armonio, who had served as first organist at St Mark’s for thirty-five years, but whose increasing debility was preventing him from carrying out the task diligently. On 29 November 1552, the procurators (administrators) of St Mark’s advertised that they would hold auditions the next day for Armonio’s replacement. The only candidate was the twenty-five-year-old Padovano, who impressed the procurators, the choirmaster Adrian Willaert and the other singers in the rigorous examination, which tested the candidate’s ability to improvise a fantasia on a given piece of written polyphony, to improvise imitative counterpoint over a randomly chosen plainchant, and then to respond by ear to a piece of polyphony performed by the singers. Padovano’s modest starting salary of 40 ducats was doubled in May 1553. The second organist, who played the smaller of the two instruments, was the young but already distinguished player and composer Girolamo Parabosco.

Padovano’s superior Adrian Willaert was one of the most eminent composers, theorists and teachers of his time, and pioneered the polychoral style for which St Mark’s would become famous (see Missa Mente tota & Motets, Hyperion CDA67749). It is likely that Padovano continued his studies in composition with the master. In 1556, Padovano published an important collection of thirteen instrumental ricercars, a learned contrapuntal genre cultivated particularly in Venice from the 1540s onwards by northern masters such as Willaert and Jacobus Buus, and by their Italian followers, including Girolamo Cavazzoni. In Venice, Padovano enjoyed the patronage of Giovanni Da Lezze, a procurator of St Mark’s, and frequented the circle of Antonio Zantani, who hosted musical events (‘ridotti’) in his palazzo, at which pieces such as Padovano’s new ricercars were performed. It is possible such a discerning audience appreciated that one of Padovano’s ricercars was a musical rejoinder to one published in 1547 by Buus, who had recently left Venice for Vienna. Padovano departed from Buus’ jagged, instrumental manner and his liking for stretto (close imitation), in favour of a more flowing, balanced and cantabile style, and a more compact exposition of the counterpoint. In his catalogue of the worthies of Padua (1560), Bernardino Scardeone praised Padovano as the inventor of a new highly consonant style of instrumental music, which he deployed during the processions of the doge and senate on important ceremonial occasions. The first evidence for the use of instruments at St Mark’s is found in the financial records at precisely this time. For example, on Christmas Eve 1563, a group of instrumentalists under the leadership of Paolo Favretto played in Padovano’s organ loft at St Mark’s. Such ad hoc arrangements were formalized with the appointment of full-time instrumentalists such as Girolamo Dalla Casa (‘Geronimo da Udine’) and Jacopo Bassano.

The brilliant, cocky and mercurial Padovano regularly clashed with the procurators. For example, an unspecified act of disobedience during a visit by the Queen of Poland (26 April to 4 May 1556) led to his suspension for six months. In November 1564, the procurators forbade the organists at St Mark’s from accepting lucrative engagements elsewhere and from providing substitutes for the regular services, since they had too often sent young and inexperienced students in their place. It was probably such an infraction that led to Padovano’s suspension in 1556.

Parabosco (the second organist) died in April 1557, leaving a widow, Diana, whom he had loved dearly. In his will, he not only returned her dowry, but also left her his entire estate, including 10,000 ducats in his house in Venice, and a furnished house in Piacenza. There were eleven contenders for Parabosco’s post at St Mark’s, including two men about five years younger than Padovano: Claudio Merulo, from Correggio, who was a protégé of the organist Vincenzo Parabosco, Girolamo’s father; and Andrea Gabrieli, organist at San Geremia in Venice. Padovano attended the audition, standing in for Willaert, who was away in Flanders. After Merulo was awarded the post, Gabrieli apparently left Venice; he only reappeared five years later in the circle of Orlande de Lassus, the court composer in Munich, who enjoyed an international reputation (see Missa super Dixit Joseph & Motets, Hyperion CDA68064). Soon after Merulo was appointed, he and Padovano leaned on the procurators to have the organs at St Mark’s renovated at considerable expense.

In July 1558, Padovano married Parabosco’s widow Diana. To her dowry, comprising 1,000 ducats and jewellery, he added 200 ducats more, and apparently invested the total in the mint (Zecca) of the Republic. Meanwhile, his reputation as a composer was growing. In 1561 he was named alongside the famous Cipriano de Rore in the title of an anthology of madrigals, Di Cipriano et Annibale madregali a quatro voci. In 1562, three more of his madrigals were published in collections in Venice.

After leading the music at St Mark’s for thirty years, Willaert died in early December 1562. He was replaced in April 1563 by another important composer from the Low Countries, Cipriano de Rore. (There is no firm evidence for the widespread claim that Cipriano had studied with Willaert, though he was clearly considered one of Willaert’s followers.) However, de Rore was dismayed by the situation at St Mark’s, where the division of the singers into two choirs had caused administrative and political chaos, and he returned to his former position at the Farnese court in Parma by September 1564. De Rore was succeeded on 5 July 1565 by Willaert’s former student Gioseffo Zarlino. In 1558, Zarlino had published a seminal work on compositional theory, Le istitutioni harmoniche, in which he emphasized the importance of mode as a means of determining the character of a piece and organizing its musical material. This concern was already evident in Padovano’s 1556 collection, which indicates the mode of each ricercar in its title.

In the early 1560s, Padovano’s financial situation was tight, and he borrowed money from the Zecca, probably drawing on his wife’s dowry. He began to look for more lucrative employment north of the Alps. Inserted into the Agnus Dei of his Missa Ove ch’i posi (based on a madrigal by Willaert) is a text that addresses Maximilian II as King of the Bohemians and Romans. The Mass can therefore be dated after Maximilian’s coronation as King of Bohemia on 14 May 1562 and his election as King of the Romans on 24 November 1562, but before his assumption of the imperial title in mid-1564. This Mass was published in Venice in 1566, and is also transmitted in a manuscript copied for the court chapel in Graz in 1586 (Vienna, ÖNB, Mus. Hs. 15506). A madrigal that Padovano addressed to Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria, Spirto real, was first printed posthumously in 1576, but may also date from this period.

On 17 August 1562, Padovano petitioned for a month’s leave from St Mark’s, for unspecified reasons. It is possible that he intended to woo possible employers in Austria or Bavaria. The procurators’ decision in February 1564 to increase the salary of both Padovano and Merulo to 100 ducats was perhaps calculated to ensure that they stayed. Meanwhile, the death of Emperor Ferdinand I on 25 July 1564 caused a re-shuffle of power between his sons Maximilian, who became emperor; Ferdinand II, Archduke of Further Austria (Tyrol and the Habsburg holdings in the west); and Karl (Charles) II, Archduke of Inner Austria (the eastern and southern Habsburg territories). Padovano smelled an opportunity. In 1564, he published a collection of madrigals for five voices with the prominent Venetian music printer Gardano, and dedicated it to Archduke Karl. The collection opens with a piece, Se delle voglie sue fallace segno / Ecco la Stiria et gl’altri luoghi insieme, whose text refers directly to the ceremony, held on 21 March 1564, in which the territorial estates swore fealty to Karl. Karl was clearly impressed, and in August 1564 he instructed Franz von Thurn, Maximilian’s ambassador in Venice, to pay Padovano 100 Taler (about 81 ducats). The possible presence of Andrea Gabrieli on the payroll at St Mark’s in Venice in late 1564—even if attested only in later copies of documents now lost—perhaps suggests that Padovano undertook a short trip to Graz at this time. During this time and again in early 1565, Thurn sent Archduke Ferdinand Masses and motets by Padovano and Cipriano de Rore, whom he praised as ‘perhaps the two most eminent men in Italy’. Indeed, the letters from Thurn indicate that Ferdinand had hoped to attract Cipriano to lead his own chapel in Innsbruck.

By 1 July 1565, Padovano was already on Archduke Karl’s payroll, though he did not officially leave his position at St Mark’s until 2 August 1565, when he asked permission to travel to ‘France’—clearly a ruse. During the following week, Padovano gave his wife Diana power of attorney to manage their affairs in Venice and their property near Vicenza. Merulo was appointed as Padovano’s successor as first organist at St Mark’s, but had to cover the duties of both organists until a new assistant could be appointed. Although this period was probably quite lucrative for Merulo, it was also tiring, and kept him from working on his new business venture, a printing workshop. In October 1566, the position of second organist was offered to Andrea Gabrieli. Merulo and Gabrieli would work together at St Mark’s for the next two decades, as distinguished players, composers and teachers.

In February 1566, Archduke Karl sent Padovano back to Venice to purchase instruments to the value of 170 crowns. There he perhaps stayed with the notary Marcantonio Cavanis, a patron of musicians, including Andrea Gabrieli. While in Venice, Padovano gave Gardano a collection of four Masses—his own Missa Ove ch’i posi and Missa Ut queant laxis, and a Mass each by Lassus and Cipriano, who were both esteemed at the Habsburg courts—which appeared in 1566. The following year, Gardano released a volume of Padovano’s motets for five and six voices, opening with the superb five-voice Domine a lingua dolosa. Also in 1567, the rival firm of Scotto published two madrigals by Padovano, including a musical dialogue for eight voices (Cinto di chiare palme) in honour of Archduke Karl, who is praised in the text as the true heir to the glory of the Habsburgs. The trip back to Venice also gave Padovano a chance to attend to his property affairs.

By 1567, Karl had appointed Padovano as head (obrister musicus) of the band of eleven instrumentalists at his court, for a monthly salary of 25 florins. Meanwhile, Karl’s chapel was in the hands of the distinguished Netherlands polyphonist Johannes de Cleve (see Missa Rex Babylonis & other works, Hyperion CDA68241), who directed an ensemble comprising ten boys and their teacher, fifteen adult singers (some of whom had been recruited from the chapel of the late Emperor Ferdinand I) and an organist. In Graz, Padovano no longer had to play routine services as court organist, for that position was already filled by Abraham Strauss, and then from 1571 by the Italian Mambrianus Gallo. Rather, it appears that Karl wanted Padovano to build up the instrumental resources of the court to deal with the new style of music—grand, spacious, aurally and emotionally impressive—cultivated in Venice.

Indeed, for Archduke Karl, Padovano’s Venetian background was a premium. While the chapel of his father Ferdinand I was dominated by Netherlandish and Austrian singers, Karl preferred Italian musicians. This policy had both aesthetic and political reasons. Firstly, he clearly liked Italian—particularly Venetian—music. Secondly, Karl, responding to the mood of the Counter-Reformation, believed that Italian musicians were less likely than northerners to be influenced by Luther or Calvin. The increasing Italianization of the music of the court in Graz was in some cases even carried out by northern musicians, such as Lambert de Sayve, a native of Liège who began his Habsburg career as a choirboy in the chapel of Ferdinand I and moved to Graz after Padovano’s death. Although Sayve came from the Low Countries and spent most of his career in Austria, he composed lavish polyphony that consciously imitated the Venetian manner, such that Michael Praetorius could mention him in the same breath as Giovanni Gabrieli, Andrea’s nephew and student.

In 1568, Padovano travelled in the archduke’s party (along with eleven trumpeters, a timpanist and two cornetto players) to the wedding of Wilhelm of Bavaria (later Duke Wilhelm V) and Renée of Lorraine. The Bavarian court musician Massimiliano Troiano described many of the pieces performed during the wedding celebrations, which lasted over two weeks. During one meal was performed ‘a battle piece for eight instruments by Messer Annibale the organist, with trombones and high cornetti’ (‘Vna Battaglia ad otto, die Messere Aniballe Organista, con tromboni, e cornetti alti’). This was probably the Aria della Battaglia per sonar d’Istrumenti da Fiato, published in the 1590 collection Dialoghi musicali with another battle piece for eight wind instruments by Andrea Gabrieli. Later in the Munich wedding festivities ‘were performed various and very beautiful concerti for twelve instruments by Annibale Padovano and other composers, shared by six instruments of the violin family, five trombones, a cornetto and a sweet-sounding regal’, a small organ with reed pipes, probably played by Padovano himself (‘e qui furono fatte uarii e bellissimi concerti, a dodeci, opere di Aniballe padouano, e di altri autori, compartiti con sei uiole da brazzo cinque tromboni, un cornetto, & un regale dolce’). Finally, on Sunday 7 March 1568, a Mass for twenty-four voices by Padovano (preserved in Vienna, ÖNB, Mus. Hs. 16702) was performed. On 1 June 1568, Archduke Karl, ensuring that Padovano would not be tempted by offers from other courts, raised his salary to 37 florins and 30 crowns a month, and promised him 100 florins annually on top of his salary if he undertook to serve the archduke for life.

In 1569, Archduke Karl passed through Venice. To welcome him, Andrea Gabrieli composed a dialogue in eight voices, Felici d’Adria, which was published in his second book of madrigals (Venice, 1570). Gabrieli also dedicated to Karl his first book of Masses (1572), for six voices, praising the Archduke’s extraordinary promotion of music. A payment of 50 florins made in 1573 was presumably a reward for this dedication. In 1580, Gabrieli dedicated a collection of pastoral madrigals to Archduke Ferdinand. Such details attest to the craving for Venetian music amongst the Habsburgs in the last third of the sixteenth century.

On 12 March 1570, Johannes de Cleve resigned from his position as master of Karl’s chapel in Graz to concentrate on composition. Karl promoted Padovano to the leadership of the chapel, thus placing him in charge of both the singers and the instrumentalists, traditionally separate bodies within the court household. As choirmaster, Padovano was responsible not simply for training the choirboys, but also for seeing to their accommodation, food and material needs. During his time there, the number of musicians increased. By 1572 there were eleven boys and twenty-two adult singers (seven altos, ten tenors and five basses), and by 1590, the number of instrumentalists had grown to seventeen. In March 1571, the Venetian ambassador Giovanni Michieli remarked that the archduke had ‘a chapel that exceeds that of any other prince in its size and the quality of the musicians’ (‘ha una capella, e per quantità e per qualità dei musici che senza dubbio ecceda quella d’ogni altro prencipe’). A manuscript probably copied for the chapel in Graz during Padovano’s time there (Regensburg, Bischöfliche Zentralbibliothek, Ms. A.R. 775-777) contains instrumental versions of 120 pieces of originally vocal polyphony with indications of the instruments that were to take each voice—an unusually precise source for the sixteenth century. Amongst these is the motet Domine a lingua dolosa by ‘Hainwalt Padoano’, scored for three trombones, three soprano shawms (‘Discand’) and two alto shawms (‘Pumert’).

On 26 August 1571, Archduke Karl married Maria of Bavaria in the Augustinian church at Vienna. Padovano, Lassus and Philippe de Monte, chapelmaster of Maximilian II (see Missa Ultimi miei sospiri & other sacred music, Hyperion CDA67658), were paid handsomely for compositions written for the occasion. Padovano wrote and directed music for ‘cornetti and various foreign musical instruments’ (‘cornetti, et varij stromenti di Musica forestieri’) to accompany an allegorical masque and jousting contest between Europe, Asia, Africa and America, stage-designed by Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Padovano also celebrated the union in a dialogue for seven voices (now lost). After Maria’s arrival in Graz, Padovano’s duties included instructing her in music, either on the keyboard or lute, or perhaps both. Maria admired Lassus’ music, and evidently fostered the vigorous musical exchange between the courts of Munich and Graz. She may have been responsible for bringing the musicians Simone Gatto and Georg Graser from Munich to Graz.

In 1571, Padovano was sent back to Venice to buy more instruments and recruit further musicians, including the organist Mambrianus Gallo. He returned to Venice again in 1573 to enlist singers, to buy flutes, and to give Gardano a new collection of three Masses (Missa A la dolc’ ombra, Missa Ultimi miei sospiri and Missa Domine a lingua dolosa), dedicated to Wilhelm of Bavaria, brother of Archduchess Maria. It is possible that this collection, for which Wilhelm gave Padovano 40 florins, contains music sung at the wedding of Karl and Maria in 1571. At this time, some singers at St Mark’s, evidently aware of Padovano’s scouting missions, used the possibility of employment elsewhere as leverage for an increase in their salaries. But even if Padovano ruffled feathers in Venice, he could evidently still rely on the services of old colleagues during his frequent trips to the Serenissima. For example, in 1573 Karl’s agent in Venice paid Zarlino 25 crowns, presumably for assisting Padovano carry out the archduke’s wishes in the city.

While visiting Venice in 1573, Padovano had one last task: dictating his will to a notary. He left his possessions to his mother Marietta and his wife Diana, on the condition that they should live together in harmony for the rest of their lives. If they could not, he nominated two arbitrators—including the musician Girolamo Dalla Casa—to divide the estate. If Diana married again, she would forfeit her share of the estate, receiving only her dowry. Padovano also authorized his agent Andrea de Zonis to withdraw 50 ducats from the Zecca. On 7 August 1574, he had de Zonis withdraw another 1,250 ducats from the Zecca—probably everything that was still left of the 1,000 ducats of Diana’s dowry and the further 200 that he had contributed to it, plus whatever interest had accrued in the meantime.

In 1574, Padovano successfully sought to have his contract of life-long service in Graz rescinded, claiming that the pressure of enforced loyalty was causing him emotional distress. He would not have long to enjoy this theoretical freedom: he died on 15 March 1575, at the age of just forty-eight. Five days later, his widow Diana petitioned the archduke to pay her Padovano’s regular pension of 100 florins for eight years, ‘since I have been left alone and penniless, because he cared for nothing except having a good time gambling, and furthermore because of the great expense incurred during his illness’ (‘per la qual son restata sola et senza denari, perche lui non atendeua senon darsi bon tempo nel giocare e ancor per la gran spesa fatta nella sua infirmita’). She asked that he be buried in Vienna, with a monument appropriate to his renown. Perhaps guessing that Padovano had neglected to tell Diana that he had been released from his contract of life-long service and its associated pension of 100 florins, Karl nevertheless instructed his treasury to pay Diana a one-time gratuity of 100 florins. Archduchess Maria reported Padovano’s death to her brother Wilhelm, with a mixture of genuine emotion and typical aristocratic disdain for servants: ‘You might be well aware, I believe, that our Annibale is dead. May God have mercy on him. I am very sorry to have lost his art, and him. My playing will now certainly suffer for it.’ (‘So glaub ich, du wirst wol wissen, das vnnser häniwäl gestorben ist; gott sey im genedig; es ist mir gar leit vmb sein kunst, vmb in; iezt wird mein schlagen schon ein loch haben.’) After the pious Wilhelm asked his sister for further details, she replied on 20 April 1575 that the composer had died ‘in a very Christian manner and well; he forgave all others, showed great contrition for his sins, and died in full command of his senses. I was heartily glad when I heard that.’ (‘Das du begerst zu wissen, was der häniwäl fir ein endt genomen hab; so ist er got sey lob gar kristlich vnd wol gestorben, hat allen menschen verzigen vnd vber sein sindt gros reue gehabt, ist gar verninfdig gestorben; ich bin in hertzen fro gewest, wie ichs geherd hab.’)

from notes by Grantley McDonald © 2024


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