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Benedetto Sanseverino (fl. 1620 - 22)

Very little is known of Benedetto Sanseverino.  He was Italian, and was working in Milan when his 1620 treatise, Intavolatura facile delli passacalli, was published. Two years later, Sanseverino published what amounts to a second edition of Intavolatura facile with a new title: Il primo libro d’intavolatura per la chitarra alla spagnuola. Today, Sanseverino’s second publication is more well known.

Sanseverino was an innovative composer. He lived at time when the alfabeto system of guitar notation was in use: certain letters indicated chords, much like our modern chord charts. Sanseverino’s rhythmic specificity and and use of barlines sets him apart from earlier guitar composers. It’s only in Intavolatura and Il primo libro that we can actually interpret the rhythmic practices of the time.

Like many other composers, Sanseverino wrote out popular song forms (in various modes) in his book. These include many passacaglias and chacconnes, a popular choice among early guitar composers as their repeated harmonic progressions made teaching the ins and outs of the alfabeto system easier.

Can I get Benedetto Sanseverino’s Treatises?

The short answer is no. The extant copies of Sanseverino’s two treatises are held at The British Library, and no one currently published a facsimile edition of the works. There is, however, a good overview of the content of Intavolatura facile here and Il primo libro here.