Francesco Usper

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Aliases: Sponga, Spongia, Sponza


Born: c. 1560/61, in Rovigno [now Rovinij] or Parenzo [now Poreč], Istria

Died: 24 February 1641, Venice


Francesco Sponga-Usper: a Venetian composer; he worked a lot in "minor" Venetian institutions - but we must to recall that Venice was, at this time, one of the leading cities of musical Europe, and then so-called "minor" institutions were at least equivalent to leading institutions of other Italian cities. Hs family name was Sponga (also spelled Sponza, a fairly common name in Rovigno, at his time, until modern era): Usper was the name of his protector - Lodovico Usper, a prominent legal in Venice, at the end of 16th century.

His music is especially interesting, since he indicates with precision the instruments involved in the vocal and instrumental groupings. This leads to a quite interesting, effective, and in some cases 'experimental' mix of instrumental and vocal sounds.

1585 He moves to Venice, where he lived until his death; composition studies with Andrea Gabrieli.

1596 Organist of the Scuola Grande di s. Giovanni Evangelista, in Venice.

1605 (ca.) organist in the Venetian church of S. Salvatore.

1607 Elected cappellano (priest) of the Scuola Grande di S. Giovanni Evangelista in Venice.

1616 He is "capo" (head) of a "compagnia de' cantori" (group of singers).

1617 He conducts the musical performance for the festa in occasion of the saint's festivity, at the Scuola Grande di S. Rocco in Venice; others performer: G.B. Grillo, G. Picchi, F. Cavalli, B. Barbarino AKA 'il Pesarino', F. Bonfante, others.

1621 (25 May) He took part, with some important pieces, at the funeral mass for the Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo II de' Medici, in the church of S. Giovanni e Paolo in Venice, together with Monteverdi and G. B. Grillo.

1623 He collaborates again (see year 1617) at the musical performances hold in the Scuola di S. Rocco, for the saint's holyday, conducted by Monteverdi.

1623 (ca.) He's temporary first organist in S. Marks.

1624 He's elected Capo di chiesa (head of priests) of the Scuola Grande di S. Giovanni Evangelista.

View the Wikipedia article on Francesco Usper.

List of choral works

Click here to search for this composer on CPDL


  • 1595: RICERCARI / ET ARIE FRANCESI / a Quattro Voci / DI FRANCESCO SPONGA / Discepolo di Andrea Gabrieli / Nuovamente composte, e date in luce. / (Signo.) / IN VENETIA, Appresso Giacomo Vincenti. / MDXCV. (dedicated to Lodovico Usper, a wealthy Venetian lawyer)
  • 1604: IL PRIMO LIBRO / DE MADRIGALI / A CINQUE VOCI / DI FRANCESCO SPONGIA / DETTO USPER. / Novamente composto, & dato in luce. / (Sign.) / In Venetia Appresso Ricciardo Amadino. / M DCIIII. (dedicated to a component of the noble Venetian family Lipomano)
  • 1614: MESSA, E SALMI / DA CONCERTARSI / NEL'ORGANO / Et anco con diversi Stromenti, a Cinque Voci, / & insieme Sinfonie, &. Motetti à Una, Due, / Tre, Quattro, Cinque, & Sei Voci / DI FRANCESCO USPER / ORGANISTA NELLA CHIESA / DI S. SALVATORE DI VENETIA / Novamente composti, & dati in luce. / CON PRIVILEGIO. / (Sign.) / IN VENETIA. / Appresso Giacomo Vincenti. MDCXIV. (dedicated to the bishop of Parenzo)
  • 1619: COMPOSITIONI / ARMONICHE / Nelle quali si contengono, Motetti Sinfonie Sonate / Canzoni & Capricci A l. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. voci. / Et in fine la Battaglia A 8. per Cantar Sonar. / DI FRANCESCO USPER ORGANISTA / NELLA CHIESA DI S. SALVATOR. / DI VENETIA. / Opera Terza. / CON PRIVILEGIO. / BASSO CONTINUO. / (Sign.) / STAMPA DEL GARDANO / IN VENETIA MDCXIX. / Appresso Bartolomeo Magni.
  • 1627: SALMI / VESPERTINI / Per tutto l'Anno, Parte a Doi Chori, parte Concertati / al'uso moderno, & parte alla breve, come si / Cantano nelle Capelle De Prencipi. / A 4. 5. & Otto Voci. / Con il Basso Continuo. / DI D. FRANCESCO USPER / Capo della Gran Scola di S. Giovanni Evangelista / Di Venetia. / Opera Quinta. / CON PRIVILEGIO. / BASSO (Sign.) Continuo. / STAMPA DEL GARDANO. / IN VENETIA M. DC. XXVII. / Appresso Bartolomeo Magni.

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