Tarquinio Merula

(1594 or 1595 - 1665)

Italian composer and organist. In 1616 he was appointed organist of S. Maria Incoronata, Lodi; moved to Poland, probably in 1621, serving as organista di chiesa e di camera to the King of Poland, Sigismund III, from at least 1624. Returning to Cremona by at least 1628, Merula was appointed maestro di cappella at Laudi della Madonna, a post he held on three different occasions (1627-31, 1633-35, 1646-65); he held positions in Bergamo during intervening years, at both S. Maria Maggiore (1631-32), from which post he was dismissed for indecent behavior and the neighboring cathedral (1638-42). He collaborated with five others in composing the opera La finta savia (Venice, 1643) and was a member of the Accademia dei filomusi of Bologna. He published eight collections of church music, four of canzonas and sonatas and five of secular music (madrigals, dialogues and monodies). A notable instrumental composer, he was concerned with matters of musical structure; this preoccupation appears also in his church music, in which stock basses like the romanesca or ostinato figures from plainsong are used to give unity to longish psalm or Mass settings. Merula was one of the first composers to write solo motets with string accompaniment; his sacred concertos for small forces resemble Monteverdi 's settings in their rich elaboration. His secular monodies and accompanied madrigals include some of the finest work of the period.

VA: Monody and the Vocal Concerto  |  VE: The Sonata in Seventeenth Century Italy  |  VG: Sacred Music in the Seicento