Paolo Quagliati


Born: 1555; Chioggia, Italy   Died: November 16, 1628; Rome, Italy  
The career of Italian composer Paolo Quagliati spans the period marking the end of the Renaissance and the early years of the Baroque period. Always a little out of step with the complex contrapuntal style and heavy chromaticism of the late Renaissance, Quagliati enthusiastically adopted the idiom of the "second practice," though stopped short at composing opera. Born into the minor nobility in Chioggia, he left for Rome at about the age of 19 Read more and spent the rest of his life there. His earliest publications, dating from 1583 to 1588, are of secular canzonetti in a very light style for the period; Quagliati's earliest known sacred works appear in the 1590s, at the beginning of his long professional association with various churches in Rome as an organist and maestro di cappella. In 1594, Quagliati was made a Roman citizen; his 1606 madrigal comedy Il carro Fedeltà d'Amore was cited by its librettist Pietro della Valle as the first work of musical theater ever heard in Rome, although this claim is hard to prove or disprove. In 1608, Quagliati brought out his only book of madrigals, dedicated to Odoardo Cardinal Farnese and designed to be performed either by a group of voices or by a soloist with a small group of instruments. By 1620, Quagliati was in the employ of the Ludovisi family and was named private chamberlain to Alessandro Ludovisi when the latter was named Pope Gregory XV in 1621. For the wedding of Pope Gregory's nephew Niccolò Ludovisi to late composer Don Carlo Gesualdo's daughter Isabella Gesualdo in 1623, Quagliati assembled his most ambitious collection, La sfera armoniosa. This work is made up of 25 secular pieces of various kinds, some adapted from his 1608 collection, most of them scored for one to three voices and a concertato part for violin. By the time of his death at about the age of 73, Quagliati was one of the most venerated musicians in Italy.

Although Quagliati may have contributed music to the wedding of Gesualdo's daughter, his musical style is about as far from Gesualdo's as one is likely to encounter among Italian composers of the early seventeenth century. Quagliati's melodic style is generally direct and his use of harmony relatively uncomplicated. Although the quantity of Quagliati's surviving music is small, a considerable part of it is devoted to sacred music, which remains practically unknown. Quagliati's vaunted reputation did not long survive him, and some of the early prints of Quagliati's music have disappeared, though not his Ricercate e canzoni (1601) for organ, as was once thought -- it survives in a single copy. An Organ Toccata on the Eighth Tone, a one-off piece that appeared in a 1593 collection, is the work for which Quagliati is best known in modern times. Read less

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