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Abatessa [Abadessa, Abbatessa, Badessa], Giovanni Battistalocked

  • Robert Strizich
  • , revised by Gary R. Boye

(b Bitonto, nr Bari; d after 1651). Italian composer and guitarist. He is known by four books of pieces for five-course Baroque guitar. They consist mainly of simple battute accompaniments to popular songs and dances of the early 17th century such as the passacaglia, ciaccona, folia, Ruggiero and aria di Fiorenza. The accompaniments are set down in the alphabet system of chord notation (alfabeto) devised by Girolamo Montesardo, in which letters of the alphabet designate fingering positions for various major and minor chords. Each of Abatessa’s books contains instructions concerning the interpretation of the alphabet tablature, the fingering of the chords and the tuning of the guitar; the 1652 book also explains how to tune the guitar with the harp, presumably for the simultaneous playing of continuo parts. The 1627 collection gives instructions regarding the execution of certain kinds of strum such as the trillo and repicco, while the 1635 book and the undated Ghirlanda di varii fiori contain a table of correspondences between alfabeto chords in different positions. The 1635 collection contains five villanellas; others are found in the 1652 book, with, however, only the words and the accompanimental chords for guitar notated.


Corona di vaghi fiori, overo Nuova intavolatura di chitarra alla spagnola (Venice, 1627)

Cespuglio di varii fiori, overo Intavolatura de chitarra alla spagnola (Orvieto, 1635) [incl. 5 villanellas, 1–3vv, bc]

Intessitura di varii fiori, overo Intavolatura di chitarra alla spagnola (Rome and Lucca, 1652) [incl. villanellas, texts and bc only]

Ghirlanda di varii fiori, overo Intavolatura di ghitarra spagnola (Milan, n.d.)


  • W. Kirkendale: L’Aria di Fiorenza, id est Il Ballo del Gran Duca(Florence, 1972), 23, 42, 65, 77ff
  • J. Weidlich: ‘Battuto Performance Practice in Early Italian Guitar Music’ (1606–1637), JLSA, 11 (1978), 63–86
  • I. Cavallini: ‘Sugli improvvisatori del Cinque-Seicento: persistenze, nuovi repertorie e qualche riconoscimento’, Recercare, 1 (1989), 32–4
  • L. Lospalluti: ‘Consideratione su Giovan Battista Abatessa e su manoscritto per chitarra del Seicento a Bitonto’, Il Fronimo, 67 (1989), 27–33
  • G.R. Boye: Giovanni Battista Granata and the Development of Printed Guitar Music in Seventeenth-Century Italy (diss., Duke U. 1995), 17–18, 37–40
  • G.R. Boye: ‘Performing Seventeenth-Century Italian Guitar Music: the Question of an Appropriate Stringing’, Performance on Lute, Guitar, and Vihuela: Historical Practice and Modern Interpretation, ed. V.A. Coelho (Cambridge, 1997), 180–94
  • J. Tyler and P. Sparks: The Guitar and Its Music: from the Renaissance to the Classical Era (Oxford, 2002)
Journal of the Lute Society of America