The 450th Anniversary of Giovanni Animuccia's Death

Monday, June 7, 2021

Giovanni Animuccia is one of the many people whose musical anniversaries we are marking in 2021. He was likely born around 1510 in Florence, went to Rome in around 1550, and was chapel master of the Cappella Giulia beginning in 1555 at San Pietro. Animuccia held this position until his death on 25 March 1571.

That Giovanni Animuccia was highly regarded in his day can be seen, on the one hand, through the high number of his publications during the Council of Trent. On the other hand, this can also be shown through the reception of his works. The number of his publications in the 1550s and 1560s exceeds that of all other composers in Rome. For example, his mass Gaudent in coelis is still in the repertoire of the Cappella Sistina in the 17th century, and in the 19th century his works show up in connection with the church music revival.

The phrase “madrigali spirituali” was first used by Animuccia in a printed edition published in Rome in 1565. The first book of his Madrigali a tre voci con alcuni Mottetti et Madrigali spirituali (RISM ID no. 990001245) is divided into three sections of 12 secular madrigals, 5 sacred madrigals, and 4 motets. The three motets each have a secunda pars, so there is an even balance of 12 sacred and 12 secular pieces.

In the book of masses that appeared in 1567 (RISM ID no. 990001237), Animuccia does not use secular models and uses instead exclusively chant melodies.

Animuccia’s second book of laude from 1570 (RISM ID no. 990001239) is the first time we have double-chorus compositions like motets, psalms, and laude in Rome. From this, the double-chorus motet became established over the following years. The dramatic and narrative structure of the double-chorus works strongly points to the oratory. This can be reflected in the friendship, since 1551, between Animuccia and Filippo Neri.

Image: Title page of Canticum B. Mariae Virginis, Rome 1568 (RISM ID no. 990001238), copy from Princeton University (US-PRu, public domain).

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Category: Musical anniversaries


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