Dr Giovanni Varelli

Prize Fellow in Music, Magdalen College

Music in the early Middle Ages (ca. 800–1100), early development of music writing, politics and geographies of chant transmission, liturgical manuscripts.


Giovanni's research interests span from Latin palaeography and codicology, medieval liturgy, music theory and notation, philology and reception history, manuscripts digital restoration and conservation techniques to ethnomusicology and dialectology.

Following the award of a Gerda Henkel Stiftung Fellowship, Giovanni will be Visiting Fellow at the Institut für Musikforschung of the University of Würzburg and at the Fakultät für Katholische Theologie for the University of Regensburg from April until November 2019.


Giovanni Varelli is a Prize Fellow at Magdalen College working on musical notations in early-medieval Italy, focusing in particular on cognitive processes in the development of music writing and on the influence of the contemporary political and ecclesiastical context on music book production. Giovanni completed his BMus at the Faculty of Musicology in Cremona in 2008, with a dissertation on the medieval music fragments from the northern-Italian abbey of San Benedetto in Polirone, near his hometown Mantua, working with Prof. Giacomo Baroffio. He then moved to Oxford for a British Academy funded internship to work at the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM). In 2009 he was awarded the ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ Grant from the University of Pavia to work as a consultant musical palaeographer at the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, and in 2010 Giovanni received his MMus from Royal Holloway, University of London, working with Dr Helen Deeming on a newly discovered source of early polyphony. After a one-year experience as assistant music librarian at the Conservatoire of Reggio Emilia he moved to the University of Cambridge, where he completed his PhD under the supervision of Prof. Susan Rankin, working on musical notation and liturgical books from the abbey of Nonantola in the late Carolingian period. Most recently, Giovanni was cataloguer of medieval manuscripts and fragments for the Universities of Padua and Bolzano/Bozen (2016).


In Hilary 2019, Giovanni will teach the elective seminar ‘Music and Writing’ for the Master of Studies in Music.


Selected Publications

‘Appunti sulla nonantolana come più antico canone notazionale di area italiana’ in Studi Gregoriani 30 (2015), pp. 47-76.

‘Two Newly-Discovered Tenth-Century Organa’ in Early Music History 32 (2013), pp. 277-315.

‘The Early Transmission of Chant in Northern Italy: The Evidence of Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, B 48 sup., ff. 141-142in Études Grégoriennes XL (2013), pp. 253-282.

‘Rhythm, Pitch and Text Setting in Palaeofrankish Notation: The Case of London, British Library, Harley MS 3019’ in Cantus Planus: Papers Read at the 16th Meeting of the IMS Study Group, Vienna, Austria, Aug. 21 – 27 2011, ed. Robert Klugseder (Vienna-Purkersdorf: Hollinek, 2012), pp. 409-414.

‘Liturgia e musica a Polirone: le testimonianze manoscritte nei codici della Biblioteca Teresiana di Mantova’ in Rivista Internazionale di Musica Sacra 32/2 (2011), pp. 157-192.

Disiecta Membra Musicae. Studies in Musical Fragmentology, ed. G. Varelli (Berlin: de Gruyter, forthcoming 2020).

‘How did Musical Notation Travel? Singers, Manuscripts and Routes (ca. 760–1100)’, in Material Cultures of Music Notation, ed. F. Schuiling and E. Payne (Abingdon: Routledge, forthcoming 2020). 

‘Le passiones SebastianiNazari et Celsi e Christophori in un frammento inedito di passionario in minuscola retica’, forthcoming in Analecta Bollandiana 137/1 (2019).

Aspects of Visuality in Nonantolan Music Script’, in Von der Oralität zum SchriftBild. Visuelle Kultur und musikalische Notation (9. – 11. Jh.), ed. M. Nanni (Geissen, forthcoming 2019).

‘I frammenti medievali nelle legature degli incunaboli di Novacella nell’Universität- und Landesbibliothek Tirol’ in La ricerca sulle fonti musicali in Trentino-Alto Adige / Die musikalische Quellenforschung in Trentino-Suedtirol, ed. G. Gabrielli (Lucca: Libreria Musicale Italiana, forthcoming 2019).


Contact details

Dr Giovanni Varelli
Magdalen College
Oxford OX1 4AU