Alessandro Grandi Biography (BBC)
Alessandro Grandi was born probably in Ferrara, whence comes his earliest record of employment, as maestro di cappella to a music-loving charitable confraternity called the Accademia della Morte. In 1610 he switched over to another, similar institution, the Accademia dello Spirito Santo.
After publishing four books of motets he was appointed maestro di cappella at Ferrara Cathedral in 1615, but stayed in the post only two years before moving to Venice, where he became a singer at the Basilica of St Mark’s. There he worked under Monteverdi, and in 1620 was promoted to be the great man’s deputy. In 1627 he left to take charge of his own choir at the church of Santa Maria Maggiore at Bergamo, where he and his large family died during an outbreak of plague three years later.
His output was profuse, including nearly 200 sacred compositions published in eleven volumes between 1610 and 1630, as well as a sizeable body of secular vocal pieces. In his early years in Ferrara he was influenced by Gabrieli, but while his works at this time are often contrapuntal in conception, his skills in vocal melody are already apparent. Once at St Mark’s, where Monteverdi provided the large-scale music for services, Grandi came to concentrate on solo and small-scale motets in the modern manner of voice and accompaniment – indeed, thanks to his considerable gifts for dramatic and highly expressive vocal writing, he became one of the most influential composers in this new ‘monodic’ style, generated by the early opera composers but at that time only just finding its way into the church.
Grandi’s achievements in this area also include the effective introduction of instruments into the solo-voice motet. After his move to Bergamo, where he had access to a bigger ensemble, he composed music on a larger scale for soloists, instruments and choir.
In the secular field, Grandi composed two books of concertato (or accompanied) madrigals, and is thought to have been the first to use the term ‘cantata’ in his books of Cantade et arie for solo voice and continuo published during the 1620s. Grandi was one of the most talented Italian composers from the time of Monteverdi, and also one of the most popular; works of his were published not only in northern Italy, but also in Southern Germany and the Netherlands.
Profile © Lindsay Kemp
Alessandro Grandi Tracks