Adriano Banchieri

Situated approximately halfway between the east and west coasts of Italy, and about halfway between the cities of Ferrara and Florence is Bologna, a city at least as old as Rome and Adriano Banchieri
Adriano Banchieri
(Wikimedia Commons)
distinguished as home of the world’s oldest university. It was also the birthplace of Tommaso Banchieri, renowned in his day as an organist, theorist and composer.

Banchieri entered a Benedictine monastery in his nineteenth year, and took Olivetan holy orders at age twenty–two, dropping his given name in favour of Adriano. His work as organist took him to various ecclesiastical venues near Bologna including Lucca, Siena and Verona, as well as Venice, whence hailed his teacher Guami, who had studied under Wert and Padovana. Indeed, the subject of organ playing and liturgical music was one among several in which Banchieri became somewhat of a celebrity in his day.

In 1600, Pope Clement VIII published the Caeremoniale Episcoporum which laid out various forms of worship service in the Catholic Church, especially with respect to reforms and changes stemming from the Council of Trent. Protestant grievances had included perceived abuses of the rôle of music in worship. The Caeremoniale thus included strictures about when the organ could be played during Mass and the Offices, and when it should not be played; when organ alone could replace, say, a particular chant or other liturgical song, and some rather vague stipulations about the sober style in which it should be played.

Clement’s tome didn’t really hit the street for several years, and was otherwise rather lax in prescribing anything really musically concrete, but Banchieri nevertheless took it quite seriously. In 1605 he published his Organo suonarino (“The sonorous organ”), containing organ verses, psalms, hymns and a variety of solo works for use during liturgical services. It proved relatively popular and subsequently saw a number of editions, and it was influential in ecclesiastical circles.

Banchieri’s strictly instrumental music, such as the Canzoni alla francese of 1596 were conservative, carrying on the Renaissance tradition. For example, his La Pomponazza adheres to a contrapuntal style, interjecting only a brief homophonic passage before resuming with the original material.



On the other hand, he was, like others of his day interested in musical drama, particularly in the use of madrigal cycles to tell a story, a technique now called madrigal comedy. He did not, however, agree with the direction that monodists like Caccini and Peri were taking, even though he understood the use of organ basses and figured bass with solo singing.

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