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Encyclopedia > Giacomo Antonio Perti

Giacomo Antonio Perti (16611756) was an Italian composer of the Baroque era. He was mainly active at Bologna, where he was maestro di cappella for sixty years. He was the teacher of Giuseppe Torelli and Giovanni Battista Martini.


He was born in Bologna, and began studying music early, learning harpsichord and violin there; later he studied counterpoint. By the age of 17 he had already written a mass, a motet, and a setting of the Magnificat; and in 1678 he wrote his first opera and oratorio. During a stay in Parma, where he studied with Giuseppe Corso, he formed his sacred music style; most of his psalm settings of the 1680s and 1690s show the influence of Corso. Later he went to Venice, most likely for a production of one of his operas.

In 1690 he returned to Bologna, acquiring the post of maestro di cappella at S Pietro, which he held for six years. In 1696 he transferred to another Bolognese church, S Petronio, where he served as maestro di cappella until his death at the age of 94, after an extraordinarily long creative life.

Perti was a prolific composer of operas and sacred music, and was recognized as a distinguished musician not only by other composers, but by aristocrats and emperors, including Ferdinando III de'Medici (one of the last of the Medici) and Emperors Leopold I and Charles VI.


Perti was highly regarded for his sacred music and his operas. Of the operas, few remain of the original 26. Perti claimed in his correspondence that he was influenced by the melodic style of Cavalli, Antonio Cesti, and Luigi de Rossi in writing them; however he shows considerable originality in instrumentation, use of dialogue and countermelody. His output of sacred music was even more prolific: he wrote 120 psalm settings, for one voice, chorus, basso continuo, and various other instruments; 54 motets, for similar forces; 28 masses; 83 versetti and other miscellaneous sacred music.

He also wrote secular music, including 142 solo cantatas (one of the commonest secular vocal forms in late 17th century Italy), and some instrumental music including sonatas and sinfonias for a variety of instruments.

References and further reading

  • Article "Giacomo Antonio Perti," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980. ISBN 1561591742
  • Manfred Bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1947. ISBN 0393097455



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