Birth: ca. 1535 in Parma, Italy
Death: May 1582 in Aquileira
Genre: Chamber Music
Though the best-documented musicians of the European Renaissance sang and composed music for the great Catholic chapels and cathedrals, it was also eminently possible for a musician to make a living as an instrumentalist - or to do both. It seems that north Italian musician Giorgio Mainerio may have done both. Mainerio is known to have been a priest of the Catholic church and to have pursued a successful career as a church musician. He was a capellano, or chaplain by 1560, and attained lucrative benefice income in the Cathedral of Udine (near Venice) in 1565. Already in 1560, the Cathedral authorities could praise his knowledge of the "art and science of singing." In 1570, Mainerio took a somewhat higher-paying job as a beneficed priest for the Cathedral of Aquileia; he taught singing to the boys there, and in 1576 he was promoted to lead the chapel choir. He died in that town in spring 1582, having fulfilled a completely respectable trajectory in his church music career.
At the same time, Mainerio also wrote music for secular purposes. Whether or not he played any of the various wind instruments with which Italian courts took their leisure for dancing, he wrote music for them, and published a collection that remains central to historians' understanding of Italian dance music. His 1578 Primo libro di balli contains much simple and direct music for courtly entertainment, but also includes the earliest known examples of an instrumental suite, and the first known set of written-out instrumental variations. His instrumental music shows both the influence of local improvisatory traditions and the counterpoint he learned for the church.
- Timothy Dickey (All Music Guide)