Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/825

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VENICE.

poured balm into my wounded ears.' Finally, at the close of the last century, Mancini wrote thus, ' I am of opinion that in all Italy there are no schools of music worthy the name, save the Conservatoires of Venice and Naples and the school conducted by Bartolommeo Nucci of Pescia.'

The Venetians were always a music-loving race. Not only did the people display a natural ability for the art in the popular music of the streets and the songs of the gondoliers, but the city long possessed schools of cultivated music in the choir of St. Mark's, in the theatres, and above all in the four great Scuole or Con- servatoires, which were attached to the pious foundations of the Pieta, the Mendicanti, the Ospedaletto, and the Incurabili. So famous did these schools become that the greatest masters of Italy, and even of Europe, applied for the post of director, and were proud to write oratorios, motets, and cantatas for the pupils. The names of Lotti, Galuppi, Scarlatti, Hasse, Por- pora, Jomelli, Cimarosa, to take a few only, must always shed a lustre upon the Conserva- toires over which they presided ; and there is a tradition that Mozart, when under contract to produce an opera for the Fenice, promised an oratorio for the Incurabili choir.

The four hospitals were not, in their origin, designed as schools of music. They were built and endowed by the munificence of private citi- zens, to receive the poor and infirm : their position as Conservatoires was only gradually developed. The Pieta at San Giovanni in Bragola, was founded in the year 1348, by Fra Pierazzo d'Assissi as a succursal to the Foundling Hos- pital at San Francesco della Vigna. After the death of Pierazzo both hospitals were united at San Giovanni, and placed under the Ducal supervision. The institution was supplied with wood and corn free of charge, and enjoyed a rental of nearly three hundred thousand ducats. The children of the hospital were taught singing, among other accomplishments, and the school of music gradually developed until it came to enjoy the highest reputation in Venice. At the time of de Brosses' visit the Pieta possessed the finest orchestra in the city. The Hospital of the Pieta was the only one of the Conserva- toires which survived the downfall of the Re- public and escaped the financial collapse which overtook so many pious foundations of Venice.

The Hospital of the Mendicanti was first founded in the I3th century, for the reception of lepers. In the year 1225 these unfortunates were all collected at SS. Gervasio e Protasio; and in 1262 they were removed to the island of San Lazaro in the lagoon. As the leprosy gradually disappeared from Venice, the institu- tion and its funds were devoted to the assistance of mendicants and impotent persons. In the 1 7th century Bartolommeo Bontempelli and Domenico Biava, two wealthy citizens, built and endowed the Hospital at SS. Giovanni e Paolo. The School of Music at the Mendicanti sprang up in the same way as the school at the

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��Pieta had grown ; and, towards the close of the 1 8th century, it had acquired a high repute. In the year 1775, on May 28, the Emperor Joseph II. was entertained at the Mendicanti, and a new oratorio was performed in his honour. The contemporary account of the visit describes how ' the whole party betook themselves to hear the new oratorio sung by the girls of the Mendicanti orphanage. The Emperor's suite occupied places reserved for them in the tribune opposite the grille which enclosed the choir where the girls sang. But the Emperor and his brother, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, attempted to enter the choir. They were not recognized at first by the lady guardians of that door, forbidden to all men without distinction of person, and admittance was refused. The Emperor, however, was pre- sently recognized and admitted. He amused himself by turning over the leaves of the music, and by taking part in a full chorus with his own well modulated voice.' In the year 1777, owing to financial difficulties and mismanagement, the hospital of the Mendicanti was closed, though the choir continued to take part in concerts and oratorios for some time longer. The buildings of the Mendicanti now form part of the great Civic Hospital of Venice.

The Ospedaletto was founded in 1527, at SS. Giovanni e Paolo, as a poorhouse arid orphan- age. S. Girolamo Miani was among its early benefactors, and so too, by report, was Ignatius Loyola. The Conservatoire of the Ospedaletto seems to have been the least renowned of the four Venetian Schools, though Dr. Burney ex- presses himself much satisfied with the singing which he heard there, ranking it after the Incurabili.

The Incurabili, on the Zattere, an hospital for incurables, was founded in 1522, by two noble ladies, Maria Malipiero and Maria Grimani, under the inspiration of San Gaetano Thiene. The first building was of wood ; but the new church was begun in 1566 and finished in 1600. The education of the girls who were admitted to the hospital was supervised by a committee of twelve noble ladies. Dr. Burney gives the palm to the orchestra and choir of the Incurabili. This Conservatoire was raised to its high position by the labours of the two famous masters Lotti and Galuppi. Galuppi, called II Buranello, was the last maestro of the Incurabili choir, and wrote for it the last oratorio performed before the closing of the institution in 1776, the ' Moyses de Sinai revertens.' Six years later the concert- room of the Incurabili was opened once more for a performance ofGaluppi's 'Tobias,' in honour of Pope Pius IV. The Procurator Manin, at his own charges, caused the hall to be painted with scenes from the life of Tobias, and decorated with mirrors. The oratorio was given by a picked choir and orchestra chosen from the four Conservatoires ; and the performers were all dressed in black silk.

The girls who were admitted to the four great Conservatorios of Venice, were by rule required to prove poverty, ill-health, and Venetian birth.

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