Giovanni Croce (also Ioanne a Cruce Clodiensis) (1557 – May 15, 1609) was an Italian composer of vocal music who lived during the late Renaissance, and is recognized as a member of the Venetian School. He was prominent as a madrigalist, one of the few among the Venetians, and in the genre was superseded only by Claudio Monteverdi. He was influenced by Andrea Gabrieli.
Croce created secular and sacred vocal musical compositions that are not viewed as masterpieces, but that were and that remain popular for their ease of singing and performing. Croce composed many canzonettas and madrigals and his madrigal comedies became forms of constant entertainment in the lives of seventeenth century Venetians.
Croce was born in Chioggia, a fishing town on the Adriatic coast south of Venice. He came to Venice early, becoming a member of the boy's choir at St. Mark's under the direction of Gioseffo Zarlino by the time he was eight years old. He may have been a parish priest at the church of Santa Maria Formosa, and he took holy orders in 1585; during this period he also served as a singer at Saint Mark's. He evidently maintained some connection, probably as a director of music, with Santa Maria Formosa alongside his duties at the cathedral in Saint Mark's Square.
After the death of Zarlino, he became assistant maestro di cappella, during the tenure of Baldassare Donato. When Donato died in 1603 Croce took over the principal job as maestro di cappella but the singing standards of the famous Saint Mark's cathedral declined under his direction, most likely due more to his declining health than his lack of musicianship. He died in 1609; the position of maestro di cappella went to Giulio Cesare Martinengo until 1613, at which time Monteverdi took the job.
Croce wrote less music in the grand polychoral style than Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, and as a result his music has not maintained the same fame to the present day; however he was renowned as a composer at the time, and was a large influence on music both in Italy and abroad. As a composer of sacred music he was mostly conservative, writing cori spezzati in the manner of Adrian Willaert, and parody masses more like the music composed by the members of the contemporary Roman School. However, later in his career he wrote some music in a forward-looking concertato style, which attempted to combine the innovations of Viadana with the grand Venetian polychoral manner. Throughout his career, the sacred and the secular music that he composed was generally easy to perform, possibly because he wrote it for his parish church rather than for the virtuoso singers of Saint Mark's. The ease of performance, especially of Croce's secular music, has assured that it remains popular with amateurs even to today.
Stylistically, Croce was more influenced by Andrea Gabrieli than by Gabrieli's nephew Giovanni, even though the younger Gabrieli and Croce were exact contemporaries; Croce preferred the emotional coolness, the Palestrina clarity, and the generally lighter character of Andrea's music. Croce was particularly important in the development of the canzonetta and the madrigal comedy, and wrote a large quantity of easily singable, popular, and often hilarious music. Some of his collections are satirical, for example setting to music ridiculous scenes at Venetian carnivals (Mascarate piacevoli et ridicolose per il carnevale, 1590), some of which are in dialect.
Croce was one of the first composers to use the term capriccio, as a title for one of the canzonettas in his collection Triaca musicale (musical cure for animal bites) of 1595. Both this and the Mascarate piacevoli collections were intended to be sung in costumes and masks at Venetian carnivals.
His canzonettas and madrigals were influential in the Netherlands and in England, where they were reprinted in the second book of Musica transalpina (1597), one of the collections which launched the mania for madrigal composition there. Croce's music remained popular in England and Thomas Morley specifically singled him out as a master composer; indeed Croce may have been the biggest single influence on Morley. John Dowland visited him in Italy as well.
All links retrieved June 22, 2017.
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