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Giovanni Paolo Colonna

Giovanni Paolo Colonna

Giovanni Paolo Colonna (1637-1695) was a composer, organist, and maestro di cappella at San Petronio, the great cathedral in Bologna, Italy. He was born in Bologna, the son of an organ builder and went to Rome to study with composers Antonio Maria Abbatini (c.1610-c.1679), Orazio Benevoli (1605-1672), and Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674).

He returned to Bologna during 1659 to become the organist in the Basilica of San Petronio, under the direction of maestro di cappella (chapel master) Maurizio Cazzati (1616-1678). Colonna succeeded Cazzati in 1674 as the maestro di cappella at San Petronio (when Vitali went to Modena) and remained in that position until his death in 1695. 

Colonna was the president of Bologna’s Accademia Filarmonica between 1672 and 1691. He did not compose instrumental music and recognized throughout Europe during his lifetime and after as one of the most distinguished composers of sacred choral music in Italy. He wrote a number of oratorios, but only six survive. He was offered the post of maestro di cappella for St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in Rome but turned the position down.

Not until the late 20th century was any of his music available in modern printed notation, and still (at the time of this writing) only a few compositions have been made available. Fortunately, the Italian label Tactus was far-sighted in releasing two wonderful CD albums during the 1990s. It is time to bring Colonna’s wonderful music back to life.

Three Steps to Colonna

Uncovering Giovanni Paolo Colonna

This is a short conversation with Anne Schnoebelen, who has been instrumental in publishing the music of the great (yet unknown) Italian 17th-century Bolognese composer Giovanni Paolo Colonna.

This video was released in conjunction with an important compact-disc recording of Colonna’s vesper psalm puplication Psalmi ad Vesperas, Op.12, performed by the Houston Chamber Choir. (4 Minutes) 

Giovanni Paolo Colonna
Dixit Dominus

We hear from Bologna, with the magnificent Dixit Dominus (Psalm 110) from Giovanni Paolo Colonna’s Psalmi ad Vesperas of 1694 (Vesper Psalms, Op. 12, for 3, 4, and 5 solo voices and instrumental ensemble, some with optional parts for a ripieno choir), performed by the Houston Chamber Choir and Festival Orchestra, directed by Robert Simpson.   

Giovanni Paolo Colonna
Vespers for San Petronio

By the middle of the 17th-century, the Italian town of Bologna had become a tremendous center of music, and there the full flowering of the 17th Century took place, not only in sacred music, but in instrumental music as well. In this audio show, we feature a fabulous recording of a complete vesper service that includes music by the great Bolognese composer Giovanni Paolo Colonna, performed by the musicians of the Cappella Musicale di San Petronio and the Coro di Voci Bianche del Teatro alla Scala di Milano, under the direction of Sergio Vartolo. (1 hour, 40 minutes)