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.