2017 January 14: Claudio Merulo

January 14, 2018 10:30

Echo for Trompette              Claudio Merulo (1533–1604) [ORGAN]

"Be Thou My Vision"


Claudio Merulo was an Italian composer, publisher and organist of the late Renaissance period, most famous for his innovative keyboard and ensemble music. He was born Claudio Merlotti and Latinised his name (meaning ‘little blackbird’) when he became famous in Venetian cultural clubs.

Little is known of Merulo’s early life. He studied with Zarlino (1517–1590), a music theorist who, amongst other things, experimented with keyboards that had 19 keys per octave instead of the usual twelve. One of Zarlino’s other students was Vincenzo Galilei — father of the famous astronomer Galileo. At age 23 Merulo was appointed organist at Old Cathedral of Brescia, and his skill as an organist must have been impressive because a year later he became organist at St. Mark’s, one of the most prestigious organ posts in Italy, selected over a list of candidates that included Andrea Gabrieli.

At St. Marks they had TWO organs — a larger and a smaller. Merulo was organist of the smaller until the ‘first organist’ suddenly left his post for one in Hapsburg for unknown reasons and Merulo was promoted to ‘first bench’ (something like ‘first chair’ for organists). At age 51 Merulo also suddenly left his organist post where he was both well-liked and well-paid, to take a position at a much smaller church in Parma. He remained there until his death age 71.

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