1540 - 1611
composed during the Renaissance period
The Guami family of Lucca was one of the more important and longer lasting of Renaissance Italy's regional musical dynasties, and Gioseffo Guami (born ca. 1540 in Lucca, died there in 1611) is today considered its most significant representative -- and indeed, Gioseffo's fame as organist and composer was remarkably widespread in his own day.
Guami's life may have begun and ended in Lucca, but his activities in between were hardly confined to that city: in his twenties, he was in Venice as a musician at St. Mark's Cathedral (where Adrian Willaert was at the time also serving); and then, in 1568, he took up an eleven-year appointment as organist at the court of the Duke of Bavaria at Munich. After a stint back in his hometown, Guami moved to Genoa (ca. 1584) to direct the Prince's musicians, and then, in 1588, he was back to Venice and St. Mark's, now as principal organist at that most famous of Italian institutions. But, true Guami family member and preeminent Lucca native that he was, Gioseffo Guami's longest appointment was to the Cathedral in Lucca, where he played organ for twenty full years -- from 1591 right up to his death. Just why Guami left the prestigious post at St. Mark's to return to Lucca remains unknown.
Compared to, say, his beloved brother Francesco's small catalog of compositions, Gioseffo's extant music seems a veritable deluge. First and foremost are his many five- and six-voice madrigals (published in several volumes between 1565 and 1601). He, of course, also composed a considerable amount of sacred vocal music, including a volume of Sacred songs (Sacrae cantiones) for large vocal ensembles (five to ten voices), a Magnificat (1590) and several Latin motets. There is also instrumental music -- an organ toccata and a pair of four-part Fantasias key among them -- to his credit.
Gioseffo Guami was highly prized and praised by his contemporaries as an organist and a composer, and he seems to have been a worthy teacher as well, counting among his pupils the notable next-generation madrigal composer Adriano Banchieri. ~ Blair Johnston, Rovi