While reading about Vavilov's "Ave Maria" previously attributed to Caccini, I met an interesting argument, that probably nobody in the USSR and maybe later in the western countries noticed that the usage of circle of fifths here (if Caccini is the author) predates the widespread usage if it at least by several decades. So is there really no known examples of circle of fifths at the age when Caccini lived and created?

  • It's not clear what you're asking. Caccini is not the author, which is made clear in the linked article.
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 18:04
  • &Aaron: the question is clear to me: was the use of the circle of fifths common practice in the time of Caccini? This is a very interesting question. When I heard the piece the first time I was suspicious that this was not by Caccini but I didn‘t notice that he was born 100 years before Albinoni, Vivaldi, Marcello etc. Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 18:09
  • @AlbrechtHügli Circle of fifths didn't exist in Caccini's time. The circle is an artifact of equal temperament. Bach is generally credited with being the first to prove that composition in all twelve keys was possible, and he does use fifths-based movement quite frequently. I'd be surprised if someone comes up with an answer pre-dating Bach, but that would be quite fascinating.
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 18:20
  • We often use the term synonym for descending fifths. The Ave Maria doesn‘t run through the whole circle ... Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 18:43
  • @Aaron the circle of fifths certainly did exist in Caccini's time. 12-tone keyboards predate equal temperament by a few centuries. Circle-of-fifth progressions date back at least to the middle renaissance, though with a diminished fifth or augmented fourth to stay within the diatonic scale.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 23:14

2 Answers 2


There's an early example in a treatise on rasguedo for Spanish guitars; this treatise was written by Joan Carles Amat about 1595 or so. It does show how to move guitar accompaniments around the cycle of fifths. Some things are not so clear; the harmonic organization is in terms of 8 modes rather than major and minor scales. Joan does use both root position and first inversion chords as chords. Not everything in music theory happens at once. (Hexachordal theory was important at least up to 1800.

It looks like the rasguedos may have often followed a cycle of fifths but whether this is counted as a composition is unclear.

  • Very interesting indeed. I googled a little, the work [The Spanish Baroque Guitar and Seventeenth-Century Triadic Theory] (semanticscholar.org/paper/…) not only mentioned Amat, but also noticed that Amat was, incidentally, not the first composer to write music that cycled through all twelve equally-tempered keys. Even earlier instances can be found in the lute literature, for example, a dance collection written in 1567 by Jacomo Gorzanis
    – andromax
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 21:02

I think the question is: Why didn‘t musicians or editors doubt that Caccini was the Composer of this Ave Maria.

enter image description here

I thought one premise must be the well tempered tuning, but:

The Circle of Fifths was invented by Nikolai Diletskii in his late 1670's treatise on composition called the Grammatika. In 1728, Johann David Heinichen improved upon the design to bring us the modern version we use today. enter image description here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle_of_fifths

And it‘s said that Schütz and Monteverdi used this sequence:

Descending fifths sequences, also known as "circle of fifths" sequences, are the most commonly used types of sequences,[5] singular extended in some works of Claudio Monteverdi and Heinrich Schütz.[6] It usually consists of a series of chords whose bass or "root" notes follow a pattern of descending fifths (or ascending fourths)

Descending fifths

So Giulio Romano Caccini lived from 1551-1618, Monteverdi 1567-1643, Schütz 1585-1672.

Obviously we can assume that descending 5ths like Vavilovs uses in this Ave Maria could have been practiced too by Caccini.

Amarilli, mia bella

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