Baldassare Donato (also Donati) was an Italian composer and singer of the Venetian school of the late Renaissance. He was maestro di cappella of the prestigious St. Mark's Basilica at the end of the 16th century, and was an important figure in the development of Italian light secular music, especially the villanella.
Donato represented a progressive trend in the Venetian school, which was already a progressive tradition compared to the other major contemporary Italian musical styles (especially as compared to the Roman School). The progressive trend in the Venetian school was represented by composers such as Donato, Giovanni Croce, and Andrea andGiovanni Gabrieli; the conservative trend involved composers and theorists such as Zarlino, Cipriano de Rore, and Claudio Merulo, who tended to follow the Franco-Flemish style which was predominant almost everywhere else in Europe until after mid-century.
Donato's sacred music is the most conservative portion of his output, usually using polyphony in the Palestrina style, but also using some of the grand polychoral effects of the Gabrielis. In spite of his evident disdain for Zarlino's conservatism, he clearly absorbed some of his style and teaching, as can be seen in his smooth mastery of counterpoint and Zarlinoesque use of dissonance, at least when he was deliberately composing in the Franco-Flemish style.
Probably his greatest significance to music history is in the development of a light secular form known as the villanella, a lighter form of madrigal, of Neapolitan origin. Some of these pieces may have been intended for dancing, and they were evidently popular. They are similar to the French chanson, often have a memorable melody in the topmost part, contain vigorous cross-rhythms, and avoid the polyphonic and chromatic complexity of the mid-century madrigal.
Donato also wrote madrigals in a more serious style, as well as psalm settings, motets, and ceremonial music.