Lodovico Grossi da Viadana

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Lodovico Grossi da Viadana (usually Lodovico Viadana, though his family name was Grossi; c. 1560 – 2 May 1627) was an Italian composer, teacher, and Franciscan friar of the Order of Friars Minor Observants. He was the first significant figure to make use of the newly developed technique of figured bass, one of the musical devices which was to define the end of the Renaissance and beginning of the Baroque eras in music.


He was born in Viadana, a town in the province of Mantua (Italy). According to a document dating from about 150 years after his death, he was a member of the Grossi family but took the name of his birth city, Viadana, when he entered the order of the Minor Observants prior to 1588 (Mompellio 2001). Though there is no contemporary evidence, it has been claimed that he studied with Costanzo Porta (Mompellio 2001), becoming choirmaster at the cathedral in Mantua by 1594. In 1597 he went to Rome, and in 1602 he became choirmaster at the cathedral of San Luca in Mantua. He held a succession of posts at various cathedrals in Italy, including Concordia (near Venice), and Fano, on the east coast of Italy, where he was maestro di cappella from 1610 to 1612 (Mompellio 2001). For three years, from 1614 to 1617, he held a position in his religious order which covered the entire province of Bologna (including Ferrara, Mantua and Piacenza). By 1623 he had moved to Busseto, and later he worked at the convent of Santa Andrea, in Gualtieri, near Parma. He died in Gualtieri (Mompellio 2001).

Music and significance[edit]

Viadana is important in the development of the early Baroque technique of basso continuo, and its notational method, known as figured bass. While he did not invent the method—figured basses occur in published sources from at least as early as 1597 (Williams and Ledbetter 2001)—he was the first to use it in a widely distributed collection of sacred music (Cento concerti con il basso continuo), which he published in Venice in 1602. Agostino Agazzari in 1607 published a treatise describing how to interpret the new figured bass, though it is clear that many performers had by this time already learned the new method, at least in the most progressive musical centers in Italy.


  • Bukofzer, Manfred. 1947. Music in the Baroque Era. New York, W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN 0-393-09745-5.
  • Haack, Helmut. 1974. Die Anfänge des Generalbass-Satzes: die ‘'Cento concerti ecclesiastici'’ (1602) von Lodovico Viadana. 2 vols. Münchner Veröffentlichungen zur Musikgeschichte 22. Tutzing: Schneider. ISBN 3795201306.
  • Mompellio, Federico. 1967. Lodovico Viadana, musicista fra due secoli XVI–XVII. Florence.[full citation needed]
  • Mompellio, Federico. 1980. "Lodovico Grossi da Viadana" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd. ISBN 1-56159-174-2.
  • Mompellio, Federico. 2001. "Viadana, Lodovico". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Reese, Gustave. 1954. Music in the Renaissance. New York: W .W. Norton & Co. ISBN 0-393-09530-4.
  • Roche, Jerome. 1984. North Italian Church Music in the Age of Monteverdi. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0193161184.
  • Williams, Peter, and David Ledbetter. 2001. "Continuo". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

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