Claudio Merulo (also spelled Merlotti, Merulus, also Claudio da Correggio; 8 April 1533 ? 4 May 1604) was an Italian composer, publisher and organist of the late Renaissance period, most famous for his innovative keyboard music and his ensemble music composed in the Venetian polychoral style. He was born in Correggio and died in Parma. He was born Claudio Merlotti and he Latinised his surname (meaning little blackbird) when he became famous in Venetian cultural clubs.
Merulo is famous for his keyboard music. His Toccatas, in particular, are innovative; he was the first to contrast sections of contrapuntal writing with passageworks; often he inserts sections which could be called ricercars into pieces which otherwise are labelled toccatas or canzonas. (In the late 16th century, these terms are only approximately descriptive; different composers clearly had different ideas of what they meant). Often his keyboard pieces begin as though they are to be a transcription of vocal polyphony, but then gradually add embellishment and elaboration until they reach a climactic passage of considerable virtuosity. Sometimes, especially in his later music, he develops ornaments which acquire the status of a motif, which is then used developmentally; this anticipates a principal generative technique in the Baroque era. Often Merulo casually ignores the 'rules' of voice-leading, giving the music an expressive intensity more associated with the late school of madrigalists than with keyboard music of the time. His keyboard music was hugely influential, and his ideas can be seen in the music of Sweelinck, Frescobaldi and others; because of the immense influence of Sweelinck as a teacher, much of the virtuoso keyboard technique of the north German organ school, culminating in Johann Sebastian Bach, can claim to be descended from the innovations of Merulo.
Even though the fame of his instrumental music has overshadowed much of his a cappella vocal output, Merulo was also a madrigalist. Since he was a member of what is known today as the Venetian School, he also wrote motets for double choir in the manner of Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli. He published two books of Madrigali a 5 voices (1566 and 1604), one of Madrigali a 4 (1579) and a 3 (1580).
The famous essay of keyboard technique Il Transilvano (1593), by Girolamo Diruta, was dedicated to Merulo, indicating his status as one of the most important keyboard players of Renaissance.
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