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Giovanni Croce

First Book of Motets for Eight Voices and Organ

Richard Charteris
March 17, 2014

332 pp.

3 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1576472446

Hardback 8.5 X 11 $64.00

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Born in Chioggia, a fishing village on the south western perimeter of Venice’s lagoon, Giovanni Croce (1556–1609) made a major contribution to the musical life of the Veneto, eventually becoming maestro di cappella at St Mark’s Basilica. It was, however, as a composer of mellifluous madrigals and motets that he achieved widespread fame throughout Europe. The demand for his music caused many of his collections to be reprinted, some of them time and time again. Indeed, his first book of motets for eight voices, found here, appeared in more editions than any of his other collections, the first in 1594 and the last in 1622. This volume includes an edition of all eighteen of the Latin motets in the collection. A detailed investigation of the music and its sources commences the publication. Among its offerings is information about the usage of the texts, including an English translation for each piece. The volume sheds new light on a wide variety of subjects, including how the works were treated by some of the composer’s contemporaries. All the music falls within the standard vocal range and will suit a wide variety of choral groups. Although organ music appears with each work, its use is not essential and the motets can be performed solely by voices. Two exciting motets in the collection celebrate the military triumph of the Israelites over their adversaries, Percussit Saul mille and Benedictus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Striking antiphonal exchanges also appear in many other works, such as in Omnes gentes plaudite manibus, the text of which played such a significant role in the Venetian celebrations of the Feast of the Ascension, which were crowned by the ceremony of the Sposalizio del mare in which the Doge symbolically ‘married’ the Adriatic on behalf of the Republic. The collection also includes Croce’s transcendent setting of Veni in hortum meum, one of his loveliest motets.


Richard Charteris:

Emeritus Professor in Historical Musicology at the University of Sydney. He has published extensively in the field of music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, comprising a large number of monographs, scholarly articles and critical editions printed in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

He is the world authority on Giovanni Gabrieli and on a number of other composers as well as some collectors of the period, and he has uncovered a vast quantity of otherwise unknown early works and sources in northern hemisphere collections. Professor Charteris’s editions are used worldwide for concerts and recordings.

He is a Governor of the Dolmetsch Foundation of Great Britain, and a member of editorial boards in Europe and the USA. In 1990 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and in 2002 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in London. Among awards he has received is the Centenary Medal in recognition of his contribution to international musicology. For further information, see his website:


March 24, 2016

First Book of Motets for Eight Voices and Organ. Giovanni Croce. Ed. Richard Charteris. With Michael Procter. Hillsdale: Pendragon, 2014. lxxvi þ 256 pp. $64. By any measure, Giovanni Croce (1557–1609) must be considered one of the most significant and influential Italian composers of his generation. A pupil of Gioseffo Zarlino, Croce spent his career in Venice and was associated with the Basilica of San Marco, where he served as maestro di cappella from 1603 until his death. Yet despite his prolific output in both sacred and secular musical genres, Croce has received very little scholarly attention. This volume presents his first book of eight-voice motets, published in 1594 and reissued in six subsequent printings between 1596 and 1622. Intended as the fifth volume in a fourteen-volume quatercentenary edition of Croce’s music with Michael Procter as general editor, the edition was published separately after Procter’s untimely death in 2012 led to the cancellation of the planned complete edition. Charteris plans to produce editions of two other collections of sacred music by Croce, and it is to be hoped that other scholars will take up the task of editing Croce’s music, making this important repertory widely available for performance and study. Charteris is a prolific editor of late sixteenth-century English and Italian music, including collected editions of the works of Bassano, Giovanni Gabrieli, and Alfonso Ferrabosco the elder. The editorial work here is characteristically meticulous in its presentation of the musical text, which is clearly laid out and printed in modern clefs with unreduced note values; the critical commentary is thorough and easy to use. The music of the edition reveals Croce’s style to be harmonically conservative: he has a particular affinity for extroverted texts, which afford him the opportunity for rapid, syllabic text declamation and antiphonal effects between the two choirs. In their commentary on the texts of the motets, Charteris and Procter note the possible roles of Croce’s motets in the civic and religious ritual of early modern Venice. The editors suggest a new interpretation for two motets in the collection, Percussit Saul mille and Benedictus Dominus Deus Sabaoth, both with Old Testament texts commemorating the military victories of David and Gideon against their enemies. The texts of these works have often been linked to the annual commemorations of the Battle of Lepanto, the 1571 naval victory of the Holy League against the Ottoman Empire, but this edition cites new and unpublished research by Michael Morell, who argues that Croce’s motets were written to commemorate the Battle of Sisak, a 1593 victory of the Hapsburg and Croatian armies against Turkish forces. Morell’s proposal is based on his research into the dedicatee of Croce’s motet collection, Raimondo Della Torre, a prominent supporter of the military campaign in Croatia. To this debate should be added a recent article by Iain Fenlon, not cited in the edition (“Old Testament Motets for the War of Cyprus [1570–71],” in “Recevez ce mien petit labeur”: Studies in Renaissance Music in Honour of Ignace Bossuyt, ed. Mark Delaere and Pieter Berg'e [2008]: 71–82). The two interpretations, of course, are not mutually exclusive. What makes this edition of special importance, however, is the new research it presents into issues of historical performance practice. Charteris has been able to establish that this collection is the first set of vocal partbooks to include a separate keyboard part. In so doing, he corrects errors in dating by previous scholars, notably Howard Mayer Brown. While Michael Morell has argued that this organ partbook (labeled Spartidura) was published in the early seventeenth century and backdated to 1594, Charteris is able to demonstrate convincingly that the printed dating is correct, making Croce’s print one of the earliest printed witnesses to the practice of accompanying vocal polyphony with organ. Among the details indicated in the Spartidura partbooks is the practice of transposing the music down by a fourth or fifth when it is printed using high clefs (a notational practice called chiavette by later theorists). Section 6 of Charteris’s introduction presents new evidence for this practice, surveying later manuscript sources for Croce’s motets in German organ tablature, including a hitherto-overlooked set of handwritten annotations in a copy of Croce’s organ partbook. These tablature sources represent the performance decisions made by organists of the time, indicating that exceptions to the rules were possible: popular motets like Percussit Saul mille exist in versions indicating performance at the original high pitch as well as the standard transposition. This wealth of new information will make this publication of interest not only for the Venetian polychoral repertoire it contains, but for its new insights into chiavette transposition practice and the early history of organ continuo playing. AARON JAME S , Eastman School o f Music, University o f Rochester

Aaron JAmes
Rennaissance Quarterly LXIX, No. 1

July 1, 2014

Giovanni Croce was a major composer of motets in Renaissance Venice, unjustly neglected today and largely eclipsed by the fame of Monteverdi. This volume was supposed to be the fifth in a projected series of 14 volumes of his complete works. The series was terminated due to the untimely death of one of the co-editors, Michael Procter, but Richard Charteris, the other co-editor, is planning to at least issue one more volume. This particular volume, containing the complete transcriptions of Croce's First Book of Motets, opens with a historical and musicological essay, followed by a complete list of sources, cross-referenced, and finally, the main body of the text: transcriptions themselves. While originally scored for eight voices and organ, the motets can be performed a capella. English translations of the texts are provided throughout, enabling the making of specific performance cues. A book to be read while listening to one of the few recordings of Croce's music, or while organizing one's own Renaissance performance, or as a general study of this interesting composer's style and influences.

Eithne O'Leyne, Editor
Book News, INC

May 17, 2014

Part of a series on the Croce Quatercentenary Edition, "Giovanni Croce: First Book of Motets for Eight Voices and Organ" was begun to be edited by Michael Procter (died May 3, 2012) and finished by Richard Charteris, Emeritus Professor in Historical Musicology at the University of Sydney) with assistance of Michael Procter. This volume, fifth in a series of fourteen projected volumes, presents full scores of music for eighteen motets for voice and organ of popular religious Latin music from 16th century Venice. In addition to full vocal/organ scores of the 18 motets, significant analytic chapters on scoring, performance, modal analysis, transposition rubrics, transposition practice, sources, critical commentary and text and translations are included, written by both Charteris and Procter as indicated. The motet titles are as follows: Omnes gentes plaudite manibus, Ave virgo sponsa Dei, Quaeramus cum pastoribus, Ubi pascas ubi cubes? Factum es silentium, Decantabat populus Israel, Plange quasi virgo, Ornaverunt faciem templi, Percussit Saul mille, Benedictus Dominus Deus Sabaoth, Laudate Dominum in sanctis eius, Descendit angelus Domini, Anima mea liquefacta est, Virgo decus nemorum, Audite verbum Domini, Veni in hortum meum, Deus misereatur nostri, and Ecce panis angelorum. The Renaissance polyphony works of Croce were successful and popular in his lifetime and are still performed with the help of informed scholarship such as is included in this volume.

Nancy Lorraine, Senior Reviewer
“The Midwest Book Review”
MBR Bookwatch

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