Giovanni Picchi
Giovanni Picchi was an Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 composer, organist
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

, lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

nist, and harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

ist of the early Baroque
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 era. He was a late follower of the Venetian School, and was influential in the development and differentiation of instrumental forms which were just beginning to appear, such as the sonata and the ensemble canzona
In the 16th century an instrumental chanson; later, a piece for ensemble in several sections or tempos...

; in addition he was the only Venetian
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 of his time to write dance music for harpsichord.


Little is known about Picchi's early life, but his birthdate (1571 or 1572) can be inferred from his death record which states that he was 71 when he died on May 17, 1643. The earliest documentary evidence pertaining to him, unusually enough, is a picture: he appears as a lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

nist on the title page of a 1600 dance manual by Fabritio Caroso
Fabritio Caroso
Fabritio Caroso da Sermoneta was an Italian Renaissance dancing master and a composer or transcriber of dance music.His dance manual Il Ballarino was published in 1581, with a subsequent edition, significantly different, Nobiltà di Dame, printed in 1600 and again after his death in 1630...

 (Nobilità di dame). Sometime before February 1607 he was hired as organist at the Venetian church of the Frari, and from 1623 to his death he was also organist at the confraternity
A confraternity is normally a Roman Catholic or Orthodox organization of lay people created for the purpose of promoting special works of Christian charity or piety, and approved by the Church hierarchy...

 Scuola di San Rocco, the most prestigious and wealthy of all the Venetian confraternities. In 1624 he applied for the position of second organist at St. Mark's, but Giovanni Pietro Berti was chosen instead.

He was a close contemporary of Monteverdi
Claudio Monteverdi
Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer.Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition – the...

, being born four years later and dying six months earlier than the more renowned composer.

Music and influence

Of Picchi's music, mostly instrumental music survives. One harpsichord toccata
Toccata is a virtuoso piece of music typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections, with or without imitative or fugal interludes, generally emphasizing the dexterity of the performer's fingers...

 is included in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book
Fitzwilliam Virginal Book
The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book is a primary source of keyboard music from the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods in England, i.e., the late Renaissance and very early Baroque. It takes its name from Viscount Fitzwilliam who bequeathed this manuscript collection to Cambridge University in 1816...

 (how it got there is not known – very little Italian music is included in that English collection); three passamezzos survive in a manuscript from Turin
Turin is a city and major business and cultural centre in northern Italy, capital of the Piedmont region, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River and surrounded by the Alpine arch. The population of the city proper is 909,193 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat...

; and in 1619 he published a collection of harpsichord dances, Intavolatura di balli d'arpicordo. In addition, he published a collection of 19 ensemble canzonas in 1625, Canzoni da sonar.

His harpsichord dances are of three types: dances in triple meter, dances in triple meter paired with saltarello
The saltarello was a lively, merry dance first mentioned in Naples during the 13th century. The music survives, but no early instructions for the actual dance are known. It was played in a fast triple meter and is named for its peculiar leaping step, after the Italian verb saltare .-History:The...

s, and pieces which use a ground bass. Most of the works with ground bass use some type of romanesca
Romanesca was a song form popular in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It was most popular with Italian composers of the early Baroque period...

 pattern, consisting of a line descending by fourth
Interval (music)
In music theory, an interval is a combination of two notes, or the ratio between their frequencies. Two-note combinations are also called dyads...

, rising by step, then descending again by fourth or fifth, rising by step, and so forth (the Pachelbel
Johann Pachelbel
Johann Pachelbel was a German Baroque composer, organist and teacher, who brought the south German organ tradition to its peak. He composed a large body of sacred and secular music, and his contributions to the development of the chorale prelude and fugue have earned him a place among the most...

 Canon, probably written several decades after Picchi's death, is probably the most famous example of variations over a romanesca bass).

Within his ensemble canzonas, Picchi worked to differentiate several types of instrumental writing which were critically important to later forms such as the concerto
A concerto is a musical work usually composed in three parts or movements, in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra.The etymology is uncertain, but the word seems to have originated from the conjunction of the two Latin words...

. In particular, he used well-defined concertino
Concertino (group)
A concertino is the smaller group of instruments in a concerto grosso. This is opposed to the ripieno which is the larger group contrasting with the concertino....

, ritornello
A ritornello is a recurring passage in Baroque music for orchestra or chorus. The first or final movement of a solo concerto or aria may be in "ritornello form", in which the ritornello is the opening theme, always played by tutti, which returns in whole or in part and in different keys throughout...

, and cadenza
In music, a cadenza is, generically, an improvised or written-out ornamental passage played or sung by a soloist or soloists, usually in a "free" rhythmic style, and often allowing for virtuosic display....

s in his ensemble music, following and further developing a practice initiated in the music of Giovanni Gabrieli
Giovanni Gabrieli
Giovanni Gabrieli was an Italian composer and organist. He was one of the most influential musicians of his time, and represents the culmination of the style of the Venetian School, at the time of the shift from Renaissance to Baroque idioms.-Biography:Gabrieli was born in Venice...

 and the other composers of his generation. His writing for concertino groups was probably the most innovative aspect of his style, and foreshadowed the work of composers in the middle Baroque such as Corelli
Arcangelo Corelli
Arcangelo Corelli was an Italian violinist and composer of Baroque music.-Biography:Corelli was born at Fusignano, in the current-day province of Ravenna, although at the time it was in the province of Ferrara. Little is known about his early life...

. Picchi used both sequential variation and echo effects, and scored for a variety of instruments including violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

s, bassoon
The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that typically plays music written in the bass and tenor registers, and occasionally higher. Appearing in its modern form in the 19th century, the bassoon figures prominently in orchestral, concert band and chamber music literature...

s, recorder
The recorder is a woodwind musical instrument of the family known as fipple flutes or internal duct flutes—whistle-like instruments which include the tin whistle. The recorder is end-blown and the mouth of the instrument is constricted by a wooden plug, known as a block or fipple...

s and trombone
The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. Like all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player’s vibrating lips cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate...

s, often in the same piece.

Picchi seems to have used the terms canzona and sonata interchangeably, sometimes calling a piece "canzona" in the score and "sonata" in the part book; the differentiation of these forms was only just beginning in the early 17th century.


External links

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