Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi (ca. 1554 – 1609), was an
Italian composer of the late Renaissance and early
Baroque periods. He is known for his 1591 publication
of balletti for five voices. He was born at Caravaggio,
Lombardy. In 1592 he succeeded Giaches de Wert as
choirmaster at Santa Barbara's, and served until 1605
under the Dukes Guglielmo and Vincenzo Gonzaga.
According to Filippo Lomazzo, Gastoldi became
choirmaster at the Duomo, Milan, afterwards, but other
considerations seem to make this point doubtful.
His two sets of balletti, a strophic vocal dance,
however, are the most prominent and influential. These
were written for five voices, and contained passages of
nonsense syllables (e.g. "fa la la") which seemed to
personify a type of lover and love-making. As a whole,
Gastoldi's balletti were a musical commedia dell'arte,
and included the following compositions: Contento (The
Lucky One), Premiato (The Winner), L'Inamorato (The
Suitor), Piacere (Pleasure), La Bellezza (Beauty),
Gloria d'Amore (Praise of Love), L'Acceso (The Ardent),
Caccia d'Amore (Love-Chase), Il Martellato (The
Disdained), Il Bell’humore (The Good Fellow), Amor
Vittorioso (Love Victorious), and Speme Amorosa
(Amorous Hope). His balleti music basically had a
simple chordal texture, fast declamation and rhythmic
accents at the expense of contrapuntal display, as is
to be expected from their close relationship to dance
Gastoldi's Balleti a Cinque Voci was published in
Venice in 1591, and immediately became a "best seller."
Within a short time, the collection was reprinted ten
times, not only by their original publisher but also in
other countries as well. Composers like Vecchi,
Banchieri, Hassler, and Morley were greatly captivated
by this musical creation (compare Morley's ballett Now
is the Month of Maying for a clear example of
It is certain that many frottole, villancicos, and
chansons francaises were intimately related to dance,
but it seems true that Gastoldi was the first scholarly
author, presumably since the thirteenth century, to
compose songs for dancing which were modeled on
instrumental patterns, and were perfectly apt for
instrumental performance alone.
The title page of the balletti bestows the title
"Maestro di Cappella del Serenissimo Signor Duca di
Mantova" to Gastoldi. However, this has no slightest
intention of masking sophistication behind the
spontaneous naivete of Gastoldi's works, because the
entire content is a collection of simplicty, healthy
playfulness, communicative carefreeness, and gaiety.
The common trait is, of course, the Fa-la refrain,
(which incidentally became "lirum-lirum "in Gloria
d’amore) with skipping rhythms, clear lines, and frank
tonality. Gastoldi sought to vary his compositions from
ballet to ballet by sometimes writing in triple time,
in double or by the alternate use of major and minor.
Otherwise, it cannot be said that he at all attempted a
psychological differentiation between the several
"Il Risentito" is from the Balleti a Cinque Voci (No.
10) and is set in 3 voices (ATB). I created this
arrangement for String Trio (Violin, Viola & Cello).