Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/549

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

still retained, with certain modifications, chief among which was the introduction of a Personage called the 'Historicus,' to whom were assigned certain narrative passages interpolated between the clauses of the Dialogue for the purpose of carrying on the story intelligibly in the absence of scenic action. This idea was no doubt suggested by the manner of singing the History of the Passion during Holy Week in the Pontifical Chapel, where the 'First Deacon of the Passion' sings the words of Our Lord, the Second those of the Chronista (or Evangelista), and the Third those of the Synagoga (or Turba). Carissimi used this expedient freely, and his example soon led to its general adoption, both in Italy and Germany. His Oratorios indeed excited such universal admiration, that for very many years they served as models which the best Composers of the time were not ashamed to imitate. As a matter of course, they were sometimes imitated very badly; but they laid, nevertheless, the foundation of a very splendid School, of which we shall now proceed to sketch the history, under the title of our Fourth Period.

Carissimi's most illustrious disciple—the only one perhaps whose genius shone more brightly than his own—was Alessandro Scarlatti, a Composer gifted with talents so versatile that it is impossible to say whether he excelled most in the Cantata, the Oratorio, or the Opera. His Sacred Music, with which alone we are here concerned, was characterised by a breadth of style and dignity of manner which we cannot but regard as the natural consequence of his great contrapuntal skill, acquired by severe study at a time when it was popularly regarded as a very unimportant part of the training necessary to produce a good Composer. Scarlatti was wiser than his contemporaries, and carrying out Carissimi's principles to their natural conclusion, he attained so great a mastery over the technical difficulties of his Art that they served him as an ever ready means of expressing, in their most perfect forms, the inspirations of his fertile imagination. Dissatisfied with the meagre Recitative of his predecessors, he gave to the Aria a definite structure which it retained for more than a century—the well-balanced form, consisting of a first or principal strain, a second part, and a return to the original subject in the shape of the familiar Da Capo. The advantage of this symmetrical system over the amorphous type affected by the earlier Composers was so obvious, that it soon came into general use in every School in Europe, and maintained its ground, against all attempts at innovation, until the time of Gluck. It was found equally useful in the Opera and the Oratorio; and, in connection with the latter, we shall have to notice it even as late as the closing decades of the 18th century. Scarlatti used rhythmic melody of this kind for those highly impassioned Scenes which, in a spoken Drama, would have been represented by the Monologue, reserving Accompanied Recitative for those which involved more dramatic action combined with less depth of sentiment, and using Recitativo secco chiefly for the purpose of developing the course of the narrative—an arrangement which has been followed by later Composers, including even those of our own day. Thus carefully planned, his Oratorios were full of interest, whether regarded from a musical or a dramatic point of view. The most successful among them were 'I Dolori di Maria sempre Vergine' (Rom. 1693), 'Il Sagrifizio d'Abramo,' 'Il Martirio di Santa Teodosia,' and 'La Concezzione della beata Vergine'; but it is to be feared that many are lost, as very few of the Composer's innumerable works were printed. Dr. Burney found a very fine one in MS. in the Library of the Chiesa nuova at Rome, with 'an admirable Overture, in a style totally different from that of Lulli,' and a song with Trumpet obbligato. He does not mention the title of the work, but the following lovely Melody seems intended to be sung by the Blessed Virgin before the finding of our Lord in the Temple.

<< \new Staff { \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 4/4 \relative c'' { \autoBeamOff r4 c8 b a[ gis] a c | c[ b] r a a[ gis] r b16 e, | a8[ b] c a f[ e] f4 ~ | f8 d' b g e4 c'8 g | r bes a16[ g] a8 g4 c8 g | r bes a bes16 c g4 r8 c16 c | c8[ f,] bes a d[ gis,] a4 ~ | a8 b! c8. b16 a4 s8_"etc." } }
\addlyrics { Il mio fig -- lio o -- vè, che fa, do -- ve fia la mia gio -- ja, il mio te -- sor, Fig -- lio o -- v'è che fà, Fig -- lio che fà do -- ve stà? do -- ve fà la mia gio -- ja il mio te -- sor? }
\new Staff << \clef bass \new Voice \relative a, { \stemDown a4. b8 c b c a | \clef treble r8 <g'' b d> <f a d>4 r8 <e gis b> q <d gis b> | c4 r8 c c c c c | b b b b c c, r c' | c c c c c c, r4 | c'8 c c <c f> <c e>4 r | r8 <d f> d c <b d> q c <cis e> | d <dis fis> e <e e,> <e a,>4 s8 }
\new Voice \relative c'' { s1 s <c a>8 <gis e> a <a e> <a d,> <a c,> <a d,> q | <g d> q q q <g e> q s <g e> | <bes g> <g e> f16 e <f c'>8 e <g e> s4 | <g bes>8 <g e> f g16 a g4 s | s8 a f e gis b e, a | a4. gis8 a4 } >> >>

Alessandro Scarlatti died in 1735, at the age of 66. Among the most popular of his contemporaries were D. Francesco Federici, who wrote two Oratorios, 'Santa Cristina' and 'Santa Caterina de Siena, for the Congregation of Oratorians, in 1676; Carolo Pallavicini, who dedicated 'Il Trionfo della Castità' to Cardinal Otthoboni, about the year 1689; Fr. Ant. Pistocchi, whose 'S. Maria Vergine addolorata,' produced in 1698, is full of pathetic beauty; Giulio d'Alessandri, who wrote an interesting Oratorio called 'Santa Francesca Romana,' about 1690; and four very much greater writers, whose names are still mentioned with especial honour Caldara, Colonna, Leo, and Stradella. Caldara