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Sacred Music in the 17th Century:
Other Italian Composers

The musical art had reached a high point in Italy during the 16th Century and this excellence continued during the 17th. In addition to the achievements of the composers in Venice and Bologna, there was much taking place elsewhere.

Lodovico da Viadana (1560 - 1627)

     Lodovico Grossi da Viadana was a composer, teacher and Franciscan friar born near Parma. The facts of his life are sketchy. He is thought to have studied with Costanzo Porta, but this has not been proven. He became masestro di cappella at the Mantua Cathedral in 1594. In 1597 he went to Rome. Five years later history records that he was holding the position of maestro di cappella at the convent of San Luca at Cremona, then during 1608 and 1609, he was at the cathedral at Concordia, near Venice. 
     During the years 1610 through 1612 we apparently find him at the Fario Cathedral. In 1614 his religious order appointed him diffinitor of the province of Bologna, where he moved and for the three years of 1614 through 1617. He held a position that covered the entire province of Bologna, Ferrara, Mantua, and Piacenza. By 1623 he had moved to, where he worked at the convent of Santa Andrea. He died in Gualtieri, near Parma in 1627.
His Cento concerti ecclesiastici con il basso continuo (One Hundred Church Concerto with Basso Continuo) is recognized as one of the earliest works to employs basso continuo, although claims that he invented the technique are unfounded. This means that not only did he write a staff of music for bass, but he also applied the numbering system to the staff that enabled a keyboard player to realize the chords that should be played in the accompaniment of solo voices.
     He composed twenty-two volumes of sacred music. His earlier music was written in the old style (stile antico) called Renaissance a cappella polyphonic music, and his works composed after the new century had begun were mostly in the new style (stile concertato). His beautiful lamentations and responses for Holy week were published in 1609.
     A few recordings of Viadana's masterpiece Salmi a quattro chori (Psalms for four choirs) were released on three different CDs in Italy in or around 1995. Until this time, it is unknown if any recordings existed of Viadana's music. 
     Viadana was an important composer and a composer of inspired, beautiful sacred music.

Responsoria et Lamentationes
Collegium Vocale Nova Ars Cantandi
Stradivarius STR 33444
Vespri di San Luca
Coro Dell'ACCADEMIA Roveretana di Musica Antica
Fonè 94 F 09
Vespri per L'Assumzione della Beata Vergine
Vox Hesperia
Fonè 92 F08 CDE
Missa Solemnis pro Defunctis
Vos Hesperia
Stradivarius STR 22430
Salmi À Quatro Chori
Cappella Breda, Manncke
Erasmus - #169

On the Web:

Orazio Benevoli (1605-1672)

     Benevoli was a choirboy at San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome from 1617 to 1623. In or around 1624 he was elected maestro di cappella at one of the Vatican churches and he served there until 1630. After that he took up other positions in Rome. In 1644 he left Rome for Vienna to become Kapellmeister to Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, but returned two years later when he was offered the position of maestro di cappella at San Maria Maggiore. He was not there long, however, as shortly he moved to the Cappella Giulia, where he died in 1672. 
     According to Jean Lionnet Février, during his lifetime, and for fifty years after his death, Orazio Benevoli was considered to be one of the worthiest successors of Palestrina. In his writing about Benevoli, Février stated he was amazed that this composer had become almost completely forgotten today: a fine Italian composer of music in both the old and new style. Benevoli was especially known for polyphonic choral compositions that employed as many as six separate choirs.
     All of Benevoli's music, some in the old style and some in the new, was sacred amonst his pupils, family and friends, and little of it was actually published. His large-scale works are among those not published, but they were so well respected that they survived none the less. Giuseppe Ottavio Pitoni, one of his successors at the Cappella Giulia and a famous teacher, had the scores of a series of Benevoli's compositions for two, three, four and six choirs restored for his pupils to study as models of the genre. Some of these study scores were still extant in the twentieth century and were published from 1950 onwards by the Reverend Lorenzo Feininger. Benevoli's other surviving work is scattered in Europe in various libraries. 
      For a long time, the fairly well known 53-part Missa salisbugensis was attributed to Benevoli, but it has since been determined that it is not a work composed by Benevoli. 
     Manfred Bukofzer explains the Benevoli phenomenum this way: 

"While Venice was the center of progress in sacred music, Rome was the bulwark of traditionalism. The followers of the Roman school such as Paolo Agostini, Abbatini, Benevoli, Domenico and Virgilio Mazzocchi, Massaini, and Crivelli took over the polychoral style of the Venetian school, but expanded it to unprecedented dimensions in compositions for four, six, and sometimes even twelve and more choruses that have justly been called the "colossal baroque" in analogy with the architecture of the time." The colossal baroque attempted to graft the polychoral techniques of the grand concertato on the stile antico. The resulting hybrid style was typical of the Roman conservatism."

     Sigh...another lost composer of magnificent music who needs to return to this new century, who must find its feet after the upheaval that has just transpired in classical music, the music of the 20th Century.

Missa  Azzolina, Magnificat and Dixit Dominus

Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674)

     Giacomo Carissimi was the most important Italian composer of oratorios and cantatas of his day, but very little is known of his life. He was educated in Rome and became masestro di cappella at Assisi. In 1628, he moved to the church of St. Apollinaris in Rome. It was while he was the masestro di cappella at the Collegio Germanico Hungarico in Rome that he taught both Kerll and Charpentier. He also taught Alessandro Scarlatti.
     Carissimi is considered the father of the modern oratorio, as his were the models on which Bach and Handel continued the tradition. Many of his works have been lost, but the manuscripts for Le mauvais rich and Jonas are located in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and a collection of works are stored in the library of Christ Church College at Oxford. A setting of the vesper psalm Nisi Dominus and the sequence Lauda Sion are preserved in the Santini Library in Rome.

Mass for Three Voices and six motets
Oratorio Historia di Jepthe and two motets

On the Web:
Goldberg Early Music Portal

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