Had Emilio del Cavaliere lived to follow up his first Oratorio with others of similar character, the result of his labours could scarcely have failed to add greatly to his already high reputation, for his first attempt met with a very enthusiastic reception. Unfortunately, the most popular among his successors devoted so much attention to the development of the Opera, that for a time the Oratorio was almost forgotten; and it was not until more than twenty years after his death that it again excited sufficient interest to lead to the production of the series of works which illustrate the Second Period of our history.
The occasion which immediately led to this revival was the Canonisation of SS. Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier. In honour of this event Kapsberger set to music an Allegorical Drama, called 'Apotheosis, seu consecratio SS. Ignatii et Francisci Xaverii,' which was several times performed at the Collegio Romano, with magnificent scenic decorations and full dramatic action, in the year 1622. The Music of this piece, which is still extant, is miserably poor, and so much inferior, both in originality and dramatic form, to the works of Monteverde and other popular writers of the period, that it is impossible to believe it could have succeeded, had it not been for the splendour of the mise en scène with which it was accompanied. Another piece, on the same subject, entitled 'S. Ignatius Loyola,' was set to Music in the same year by Vittorio Loreto. Neither the Poetry nor the Music of this have been preserved, but Erythræus assures us that, though the former was poor, the latter was of the highest order of excellence, and that the success of the performance was unprecedented. Vittorio Loreto also set to Music 'La Pelligrina constante,' in 1647, and 'Il Sagrifizio d'Abramo,' in 1648. Besides these, mention is made of 'Il Lamento di S. Maria Vergine,' by Michelagnolo Capellini, in 1627; 'S. Alessio,' by Stefano Landi, in 1634; 'Enninio sul Giordano,' by Michel Angelo Rossi, in 1637; and numerous Oratorios by other Composers, of which, in most instances, the words only have survived, none appearing to have been held in any great amount of popular estimation. An exception must however be made in favour of the works of Domenico Mazzocchi, by far the greatest Composer of this particular period, whose 'Querimonia di S. Maria Maddelena' rivalled in popularity even the celebrated 'Lamento d'Arianna' of Monteverde. Domenico Mazzocchi, the elder of two highly talented brothers, though a learned Contrapuntist, was also an enthusiastic cultivator of the Monodic Style, and earnestly endeavoured to ennoble it in every possible way, and above all, to render it a worthy exponent of musical and dramatic expression. He it was who first made use of the well-known sign now called the 'Swell' (); and, bearing this fact in mind, we are not surprised to find in his Music a refinement of expression for which we may seek in vain among the works even of the best of his contemporaries. His Oratorio, 'Il Martirio di SS. Abbundio ed Abbundanzio,' was produced in Rome in 1631; but his fame rests chiefly upon the 'Querimonia,' which when performed at S. Maria in Vallicella, by such singers as Vittorio Loreto, Buonaventura, or Marcantonio, drew tears from all who heard it. The following extract will be sufficient to show the touchingly pathetic character of this famous composition—the best which the Second Period could boast.
S. Maria Maddelena.
- Epistulæ ad diversos, lib. iv.