Vincenzo Galilei


Born: 1525; Santa Maria a Monte, Tuscany   Died: July 2, 1591; Florence, Italy  
Vincenzo Galilei was a Renaissance-era Italian composer and music theorist known for his efforts to restore a working balance between music and poetry via single-line vocal music. While he did write polyphonic works, he tended to favor music for one singer, accompaniment often being given by the lute.

Some sources give Florence as Galilei's place of birth, but the greater evidence suggests it was Santa Maria a Monte in Tuscany. It
Read more appears, too, that he was born in the late 1520s, perhaps as late as 1530, not around 1520, as older reference sources claim.

Little is known of Galilei's early years, but he likely sang in church choirs as a boy and must also have taken instruction on the lute from competent teachers since, by his early adult years, he had developed a reputation as an accomplished lutenist. Galilei was married in 1562, and, courtesy of patron Giovanni de' Bardi, began music studies in Venice with Gioseffo Zarlino, probably during the following year. In 1564 Galilei's wife gave birth to their first child, Galileo, who would become the famous astronomer.

In 1568 Galilei turned out his first important theoretical treatise, "Fronimo." About two years later he produced some song arrangements with lute accompaniment, which he fashioned for his own performance purposes -- he was also a fine bass singer.

In 1578, Galilei, now a resident in Florence with his family for about six years, began a discourse with his former teacher Zarlino regarding various musical subjects but primarily dealing with modes and tuning. Galilei's ideas, which finally took shape in the 1581 volume Dialogo della musica antica et della moderna, were more sound and progressive in outlook than those of Zarlino, who took offense to them.

In 1584 Galilei produced a book of lute compositions that contained 24 groups of dances. The collection represents one example from his substantial output demonstrating his preference for the major and minor keys over the church modes. Four years later he began work on an important two-part treatise on counterpoint, which he finished in 1589 and later revised.

He produced further theoretical treatises in his last years and presumably continued composing. Many of his musical and theoretical works have not survived. Galilei probably died in late June 1591. His burial took place that year on July 2 in Florence. Read less

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