Born: c. 1560, Longiano, Italia
Died: after 1620, Imola, Italia
Biography: Italian composer. According to his own testimony, he was a pupil of Giovanthomaso Cimello in Naples before 1569; he then returned to Longiano and entered the Franciscan monastery there on 30 September 1579. On 7 November 1582 he became maestro di cappella at Imola Cathedral and on 20 May 1590 he was engaged for three years in a similar capacity at S Maria, Carpi; in 1591, however, he moved to S Francesco, Bologna, as ‘praefectus musices’. He seems to have been at Ferrara in 1592 and 1593, and in 1594 or 1595 he went to Venice as maestro di cappella of the church of the Ca’ Grande; in 1596 he took a similar position at Montagnana Cathedral. In 1597 he was maestro di cappella at the court of Duke Alfonso II d’Este and at the Accademia della Morte in Ferrara, and was maestro at Osimo Cathedral in 1599. From 1600 he was maestro di cappella at the cathedral and archiepiscopal seminary of Ravenna, and in 1603, after a brief stay at Reggio, he became maestro at Forlì Cathedral. At the beginning of 1606 he returned to the Ca’ Grande and on 9 May moved to S Antonio, Padua, where he stayed until 1608. In 1610 he was maestro di cappella at S Francesco, Assisi, and from 7 January 1611 to 1 April 1613 he again worked at Imola Cathedral. In 1615 he was once more maestro di cappella at the Ca’ Grande and in 1621 he returned finally to Imola. A Franciscan monk named Sante Belli, maestro di cappella at Correggio in 1590, seems to have been his brother. Some sources have incorrectly identified Giulio Belli with a scholar of the same name from Capodistria. He has also been confused with G.C. Belli, a court lutenist at Mantua. Several of Belli’s students have become known as composers, including G.B. Spada and Roberto Poggiolini.
A contemporary writer noted that Belli was a ‘virtuous and highly honoured man, and most skilled in his profession’ (see Casadio). This is confirmed mainly by his sacred works, some of which ran into many editions. His early music shows the influence of Palestrina and of the north Italian polychoral style, but his later works, particularly the sacred concertos, use smaller forces and acknowledge contemporary practice by including continuo parts. He also added continuo parts to later editions of some of his works that had originally been composed a cappella. Most of his masses are for five voices, but rapidly changing vocal groupings in the antiphonal choruses often give the impression of six to eight parts. His masses parody motets more often than madrigals, but he wrote a fine mass on Palestrina’s Vestiva i colli. He was less prolific as a composer of secular vocal music, but he was sufficiently well-known as a madrigalist to find a place in Morley’s Madrigals to Five Voyces (RISM 1598). His canzonettas of 1584 are characterized by lively part-writing and consonant harmony. His instrumental pieces of 1613 are early examples of three-part canzonas.
View the Wikipedia article on Giulio Belli.
List of choral works
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- Missarum liber primus, 5vv (1586)
- Psalmi ad vesperas in totius anni solemnitatibus … duoque cantica beatae virginis, et in fine addito Te Deum laudamus, 5vv (1592)
- Missarum sacrarumque cantionum, liber primus, 8vv (1595)
- Psalmi ad vesperas in totius anni solemnitatibus, duoque cantica beatae virginis, 8vv (1596)
- Missarum, liber primus, 4vv (1599)
- Sacrarum cantionum, cum litaniis Beatae Virginis Mariae, liber primus, 4–6, 8, 12vv (1600)
- Psalmi ad vesperas in totius anni festivitatibus, ac tria cantica Beatae Virginis Mariae, 6vv (1603)
- Salmi vespertini, che si cantano in tutte le feste dell’anno (1607) (reedition of above publication)
- Compieta, mottetti & letanie della madonna, falsi bordoni sopra li otto toni, con li Sicut erat interi, 8vv (2 choirs) (1605)
- Compieta, falsi bordoni, antifone et litanie della madonna, 4vv, bc (org) (1607)
- Missae sacrae, 4–6, 8vv, bc (org) (1608)
- Concerti ecclesiastici, 2, 3vv (1613)
- Canzonette … libro primo, 4vv (1584)
- Il primo libro de madrigali, 5, 6vv (1589)
- Il terzo libro de madrigali, 6vv (1590)
- Il secondo libro de madrigali, 5, 6vv (1592–3)
- Il secondo libro delle canzonette, 4vv, con alcune romane, 3vv (1593)