Birth: 1560 in Viadana
Death: May 2, 1627 in Gualtieri
Genre: Chamber Music
A prolific composer of sacred vocal music during the transition from Renaissance to Baroque styles, Lodovico Viadana was born and died near Parma, but spent his career at other centers of Italian musical activity: Rome, Cremona, Mantua, Padua, and near Venice. He used to be credited with the invention of the basso continuo, although figured-bass parts have since been noticed in slightly earlier works by Peri and Banchieri. Indisputably, though, Viadana was the first composer to write church concertos with few enough vocal parts that the organ continuo became absolutely necessary for harmonic support.
His family name was actually Grossi, but he assumed the name Viadana (after his birthplace) when he entered the order of the Minor Observants at some point before 1588. His early education and career are not well documented; from 1594 to 1597 he definitely served as maestro di cappella at Mantua Cathedral. From there he may have moved to Padua, and spent some time in Rome. The year 1602 found him in Cremona as maestro di cappella at the convent of St. Luca. He changed jobs fairly often; he spent 1608-1609 at the Concordia Cathedral near Venice, then 1610-1612 at Fano Cathedral. In 1614, he earned the title of definitor (or assistant to the head administrator of a district within the diocese) of the province of Bologna. This job he managed to hold for three years. Viadana may have repeatedly fallen victim to little religio-political intrigues among his associates; this at least is the reason for his being ordered to leave the town of Viadana in 1623 and relocate to Busseto. He ended up in the convent of St. Andrea in Gualtieri.
The first dozen of Viadana's published works, regarded as quite expressive in their day, focused on a cappella music, but by his Opus 13 he was adding an organ bass line, not quite a full basso continuo. His most important works are his Masses of 1596, his Opus 22 Lamentations, and his Opus 16 Completorium. It was his Concerti ecclesiastici, Op. 12, published in 1602, that was formerly believed to be the first instance of continuo writing. At any rate, it remains the first published use of continuo with sacred vocal music; the partly figured bass line is designed to allow any number of voices, from one to four, to sing the music, with the organ filling in the missing parts.
- James Reel (All Music Guide)