Diomedes Cato

b Venice before 1570 - d after 1607

Italian composer and lutenist resident in Poland. He was often referred to simply as "Diomedes".He worked at the court of King Sigismund III of Poland at least from 20 March 1588 until August 1593. In 1593-94 he probably accompanied the king on a journey to Sweden, where, according to Norlind, he was among the best known foreign composers by 1600. He was in the service of Stanislav Kostka, treasurer of Pomerania, before 1588 or from 1600 to 1602, when he rejoined the king´s service.
His output includes music for voices, viol consort , keyboard and lute. It is for his lute pieces that he is best known. These comprise preludes and fantasias, dances and intabulations of vocal pieces. In the preludes homophony predominates, though there are occasional imitative entries and some florid, quasi-improvisatory passage-work. One is in the form of a miniature set of variations. The fantasias, Cato´s most interesting compositions, are more of the imitative ricecare type. The melodic material is notably homogeneous, and some of the pieces are clearly monothematic. Those in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, are in a traditional Renaissance polyphonic style, imitative throughout and with melodic lines of vocal character.
The fantasias in RISM 1603, however, contain certain traits characteristic of Baroque polyphony, especially in the use of short motifs to shape melodics lines and in the episodic structure of certain sections; episodes often appear within and between the expositions of thematic material. Sometimes there are sharp contrasts between successive short sections.
Among the dances, several merit special attention, particularly two unusual Italian dances - the barriera, a court dance, and the favorito, which can perhaps be regarded as an elaboration of a "favourite" galliard. Eight Polish dances are probably based on folk melodies. The madrigal Tirsi morir volea is extant in two sources with only the top part texted, possibly indicating that it was intended as a solo song with instrumental accompaniment.

Piotr Pozniak
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