(bc1540; d after 1609). Italian composer. He may have been born in Venice or, in view of his early career, in Ancona, but there is no documentary evidence of this. He is first recorded as maestro di cappella at Ancona Cathedral from 1575, and he may have been there as late as 1579; he was at the Santa Casa, Loreto, from July 1580 to July 1582. After serving as maestro at Gemona from October 1586 to December 1588, and at Cividale del Friuli in 1589 he returned to the Santa Casa as maestro from October 1596 to October 1603. The inclusion of a piece by him in a predominantly Roman collection (RISM 160917) suggests that he was then living in Rome, and his Roman contacts seem to have been strong from the late 1560s. The second book of canzoni alla napolitana (1569) is dedicated to a nobleman from nearby Macerata and the 1575 volume of canzoni to Giacomo Boncompagni, to whom Palestrina subsequently dedicated his first madrigal book (1581). Moreover, Ferretti was one of the contributors to the collection compiled in 1586 in honour of Giovanni de' Bardi's bride (15867).
Ferretti's most successful and influential works were his early napolitane, which enjoyed a popularity north of the Alps rivalled perhaps only by Marenzio’s lighter pieces and Gastoldi's five-voice ballettos; they were being reprinted there as late as 1634. Despite the titles of his seven books, few of the pieces are true villanellas except in form; most are arrangements of earlier three-voice Neapolitan canzoni in which the traditional style of these models is fused with madrigalian influences. And not all of his texts are Neapolitan: Quae pars est o Selí Selamelèch (from the Primo libro delle canzoni a sei voci), celebrating the Battle of Lepanto (1571), contains an attack on the Sultan in Dalmatian-Venetian dialect. The poem, which is characteristic of much that had appeared in the wake of the victory, had circulated earlier in poetic pamphlets printed in Venice. In the earlier books the musical characteristics of the villanella are still often evident (the intertwined motifs and affective endings of pieces such as Del crud'amor from the second book, ed. in EinsteinIM, are untypical) but the later pieces, and especially those from the second six-voice book, are disciplined by the tone and rhetoric of the serious madrigal. Of all his collections this one is the closest to the style of the madrigal (significantly it is the only one that does not include the qualifying ‘alla napolitana’ on the title-page); of its 21 pieces, three are genuine madrigals (setting longer and more serious poems than those of the traditional canzoni), one is a mascherata and another a dialogue. The latter, Su, su, su non più dormir, is an obscene text which Ferretti treats in a mock-serious manner. In its polyphonic resource, textural contrasts and use of representational devices this piece is already indicative of the interdependence of the light and the serious styles, an important feature of the 1580s and particularly of the work of Giuseppe Caimo and Girolamo Conversi. By then the stylistic differences between canzoni and madrigals had all but disappeared.
Ferretti's napolitane, particularly the early books, were reprinted and admired in Antwerp, Nuremberg and especially England. If, as Kerman has suggested, the crucial influence of Morley on the English madrigal is in effect the influence of the classic Italian canzonet style, then it is one in which Ferretti's pieces, together with Orazio Vecchi's, are the most important elements. Morley readily acknowledged his debt to the musical and textual models of Ferretti, ‘who as it should seeme hath imploied most of all his study that way’.
T.Morley: A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (London, 1597/R), 80; ed. R.A. Harman (London, 1952, 2/1963/R), 295
G.Tebaldini: L'archivio musicale della Cappella lauretana (Loreto, 1921)
J.C.Hol: Horatio Vecchi's weltliche Werke (Strasbourg, 1934/R)
F.Grimaldi: La cappella musicale di Loreto nel Cinquecento: note d'archivio (Loreto, 1981), 56–7
C.Assenza: Giovan Ferretti tra canzonetta e madrigale: con l'edizione critica del quinto libro di canzoni alla napolitana a cinque voci (1585) (Florence, 1989)
I.Fenlon: ‘Lepanto: le arti della celebrazione nella Venezia del Rinascimento’, Crisi e rinnovamenti nell'autunno del Rinascimento a Venezia, ed. V. Branca and C. Ossola (Florence, 1991), 373–406, esp. 386