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Giovanni Antonio Terzi

c.1580-c.1620


Italian lutenist and composer. The title of his Gagliarda nova del padre dell´autore indicates that his father was a musician. He was apparently an accomplished singer as well as a lutenist.
Donato Calvi, a literary man of Bergamo, wrote that he loved vocal music, but even more that of instruments; and if with his voice he emulated the harmony of the heavens, with the sound of his lute he vied with that of the angels.
His two surviving lutebooks show him to have been a virtuoso player. Both contain intabulations ranging from madrigals, canzonas and motets to instrumental pieces and dances of all kinds. The first book (1593)includes 17 compositions with two lute parts; they may be played as duos, or each part may be performed separately, as a solo.
11 other pieces per suonar in concerti...& solo have only one lute part, and are presumably intended for ensemble performance in unison. The later collection(1599) offers a similar repertory, including pieces for two lutes, one for four lutes and one for a viola bastarda to play with a liutto grande.
Of the numerous dances and purely instrumental pieces, very few are by Terzi. Several of the intabulations include texts, but the voice part is not indicated. Both collections draw on popular repertory, and are interesting reflections of contemporary taste.
Terzi was an extraordinarily skilful intabulator; his arrangements never obscure the original compositions, but it is clear that he was chiefly concerned with solo performance in a brilliant, virtuoso style. He delighted in rapid figurations and arabesques.
Terzi is without doubt one of the greatest lutenists of his age and one of the most important figures in the history of the music of the sixteenth century, and not just that of the lute. He is the one of the last major figures in the lutenist tradition of Francesco da Milano, before the radical changes represented by composers such as Frescobaldi and Kapsberger.
His dances and intabulations of other composers vocal and instrumental music is of the highest caliber, while his own canzonas and fantasias are not quite as good as some of his contemporaries. In this his is only showing his modernity, as the fantasia was, by his time, a dying tradition, while the future of music (in the 17th century) would be built mostly on dance music.

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