Giovanni Battista Buonamente


Born in Mantua about 1595, Giovanni Battista Buonamente is traditionally believed to have studied with Salamone Rossi. Certainly the style and content of some of his extant collections of instrumental music point in this direction. There is speculation, too, that he studied with Monteverdi, but given his presumed age and the complications in Monteverdi’s life, this is less likely. Nevertheless, as a Mantua alumnus and instrumentalist, Buonamente would certainly have kept abreast of developments in Venice.

In 1622 we find him working as musico da camera (“chamber, i.e. court musician”) at the court of emperor Ferdinand III in Vienna, and later as imperial composer at the Hofkapelle (“court chapel”). The introduction of new violin techniques to Austria is ascribed to Buonamente before his Basilica and Friary, San Francesco d’Assisi
Basilica and Friary, San Francesco d’Assisi
(Wikimedia Commons)
return to Italy in 1631, as violinist at Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo. After spending another year in Parma, he went to the sacro convento of Assisi as maestro di capella, where he worked until his death in 1642. A Franciscan friar, Buonamente naturally wrote a good deal of sacred music which, unfortunately, is now mostly lost.

He is also responsible for seven books of instrumental music, the last four of which have survived. The final book seven, first published in 1637, exists only in a hand–written copy by Alfred Einstein: all but the Canto part of the original edition were destroyed during the second world war.

The most obvious argument that Buonamente studied with Rossi stems from an inspection of the contents of his Quarto libro de varie sonate, sinfonie, gagliarde, corrente e brandi ... (“Fourth Book of Various Sonatas, Sinfonias, Galliards, Courantes and Brandos ...”), published in Venice in 1626. The title and table of contents read almost exactly as do those of Rossi’s third book of Varie sonate of 1613. The formula–based sonatas are similar — Buonamente’s tend to be more extended — and the sinfonias of both collections exhibit similar AABB form. Buonamente closes with an arrangement of the Ballo del Gran Duca, the concluding O che nuovo miracolo from the Florentine La Pellegrina spectacle, still popular after more than thirty-five years.


His fifth book (1629) includes similar material, again scored for two violins and basso di viola, although in a couple of instances, pieces are grouped together (sinfonia, gagliarda and la sua corrente) albeit without thematic relation. Further included are fifteen arie, brief pieces also in AABB form. Some of these are, perhaps, works he wrote for the Mantua court, with which he continued to correspond and for which he continued to provide music.

The character of Buonamente’s sixth book of 1636 entitled Sonate e canzoni a due, tre, quattro, cinque et a sei voci (“Sonatas and Canzonas for Two, Three, Four, Five and Six Voices”) is more subtle. There are no dances, but instead works in which there is plenty of opportunity for an organic symbiosis among the players as each elaborates what at first glance is simple thematic material, whether in close imitation

Buonamente, Canzon a 4 (1636), excerpt

or across more extended phrases, one voice elaborating on another, as in earlier works.

Buonamente, Sonata secunda (1636), excerpt



Frequently there is a reprise of the opening material — a technique sometimes employed by Castello — and the matter may be treated or developed in other sections or meters.

Buonamente, Canzon a 4 (1636), excerpt

⇐ Salamone Rossi | Giovanni Fontana ⇒

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