Johannes Ciconia (c. 1370 – between 10 June and 13 July 1412) was a composer and music theorist of the late Middle Ages, born in Liège but who worked most of his adult life in Italy, particularly in the service of the Papal Chapels and at the cathedral of Padua.
Ciconia was born in Liège, the son of a priest also named Johannes Ciconia and a woman of high standing. The composer had the same name as at least three other men around Liège, and this has created confusion about his biography. A Johannes Ciconia, probably the composer's father, worked in Avignon in 1350 as a clerk for the wife of the nephew of Pope Clement VI. Another Johannes Ciconia is recorded in Liège in 1385 as a duodenus, generally a person of young age; scholars agree that this is the composer himself.
Papal records suggest that Ciconia was in the service of Pope Boniface IX in Rome in 1391. His whereabouts between the early 1390s and 1401 are unknown. From this time until his death in 1412, he remained connected with the cathedral of Padua. It is unclear whether he arrived in Padua earlier than 1401. His lament, Con lagrime bagnadome, is described in one source as written for the death of Francesco of Carrara. If this refers to Francesco il Nuovo, then it would date from after 1406. If, however, it was written for the death of Francesco il Vecchio, as scholars have assumed, then it would place him in Padua by 1393. The possibility of an intermediate stay in Pavia has also been suggested by Nádas and Ziino, on the grounds that this is where he would have formed his connection with the House of Visconti and acquired knowledge of the ars subtilior style and the compositions of Philipoctus de Caserta quoted in his Sus un fontayne (see below).
Ciconia's music mingles styles. Pieces typical of northern Italy, such as his madrigal Una panthera, appear with pieces steeped in the French ars nova. The more complex ars subtilior style surfaces in Sus un fontayne. While it remains late medieval, his writing increasingly points toward the melodic patterning of the Renaissance, for instance in his setting of O rosa bella. He wrote music both secular (French virelais, Italian ballate and madrigals) and sacred (motets, mass movements, some of them isorhythmic). He is also the author of two treatises on music, Nova Musica and De Proportionibus (which expands on some ideas in Nova Musica). His theoretical ideas stem from the more conservative Marchettian tradition, and can be contrasted with those of his Paduan contemporary Prosdocimus de Beldemandis.
Although contrafacts and later sources of his compositions suggest that he was well known in Florence, his music is scarcely represented in major Florentine sources of the period; for instance, no example of his works in the Squarcialupi Codex. But many of his motets and Mass sections appear in the Bologna MS Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica, Q15.
Complete Work Recordings
- Johannes Ciconia: Oeuvre intégrale, Huelgas Ensemble (Pavane, 1982).
- Johannes Ciconia: Opera omnia, La Morra (ensemble) and Diabolus in Musica (ensemble) (Ricercar, 2011).
- John Nádas and Agostino Ziino, The Lucca Codex (Codice Mancini): Introductory Study and Facsimile Edition (Lucca: Libreria Musicale Italiana, 1990), p. 43.
- Giuliano di Bacco, John Nádas, Margaret Bent and David Fallows, "Ciconia, Johannes." S.v. in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd Edition (London: Macmillan, 2001).
- Suzanne Clercx (later Clercx-Lejeune), Johannes Ciconia: Un musicien liégeois et son temps (Vers 1335-1411), Vol. 1. La vie et l'œuvre, Vol. 2. Transcriptions et notes critiques (Bruxelles: Palais des Académies, 1960).
- Albert Dunning, "Low Countries", Grove Music Online, accessed 28 October 2010 (subscription required).
- Richard H. Hoppin, Medieval Music (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1978).
- Philippe Vendrix, ed., Johannes Ciconia: musicien de la transition (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2003).