Giovanni Legrenzi (baptized August 12, 1626 – May 27, 1690) was an Italian organist and composer of operas, sonatas, and sacred and secular vocal compositions during the Baroque music era. He was one of the most prominent composers in Venice in the late seventeenth century, and extremely influential in the development of late Baroque idioms across northern Italy. Along with Alessandro Stradella, Legrenzi worked with harmonic idioms so that his compositions emphasized the resolution of the dominant chord to the tonic chord, which became the key chordal movement from harmonic dissonance to consonance in the late Baroque era. Legrenzi achieved his theoretical prominence and influence as as vice-maestro and subsequently maestro at St. Marks Cathedral in Venice only after earlier refusing to let rejection dominate his life when he failed to gain musical posts in Vienna, Milan, Parma, Bologna, and Venice.
Giovanni Legrenzi was born in Clusone, near Bergamo, and probably received his early training in Clusone. He served as an organist to Santa Maria Maggiore (Bergamo) there from 1645 to 1656. In 1656, he took a position at Ferrara as the maestro di cappella at the Accademia dello Spirito Santo, where he remained until 1665. Between 1665 and 1681, his activities are poorly documented, but he may have taught at the Venetian Ospedale dei Mendicanti sometime during these years. He was rejected for positions in many cities, including Vienna, Milan, Parma, Bologna, and Venice. He also declined positions in Modena and Bergamo.
In 1681, he was hired at San Marco di Venezia (St. Mark's) in Venice as assistant maestro di cappella, and became full maestro di cappella in 1685. His students included Francesco Gasparini, Antonio Lotti, and Giovanni Varischino.
Legrenzi was active in most of the genres current in northern Italy in the late seventeenth century, including opera, sacred vocal music and several varieties of instrumental music.
His sacred vocal music was strongly tonal and contained hints of fugues where several diverse melodic lines or voices would imitate a main theme. Legrenzi experimented with shifting his sacred vocal music into several different keys containing new melodic and rhythmic directions.
He wrote many instrumental works; the most noted among these are contained in the two volumes of 'La Cetra', Op. 10, which he composed in 1673. Eighteen of his sonatas are labeled 'church sonatas' and are orchestrated for stringed instruments. In these sonatas, one hears the elements of Venetian opera where virtuosity in the melodic lines of Legrenzi's instrumental sonatas becomes apparent. Additionally, his church sonatas suggest an organization that has an opening, development, and closing using the material from the opening section of the sonata. This organization will be later known as the sonata form.
All links retrieved June 22, 2017.
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