Roman School

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The Sistine Chapel

In music history, the Roman School was a group of composers of predominantly church music, in Rome, during the 16th and 17th centuries, therefore spanning the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras. The term also refers to the music they produced. Many of the composers had a direct connection to the Vatican and the papal chapel, though they worked at several churches; stylistically they are often contrasted with the Venetian School of composers, a concurrent movement which was much more progressive. By far the most famous composer of the Roman School is Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, whose name has been associated for four hundred years with smooth, clear, polyphonic perfection. However, there were other composers working in Rome, and in a variety of styles and forms.

Music history, sometimes called historical musicology, is a highly diverse subfield of the broader discipline of musicology that studies music from a historical point of view. In theory, "music history" could refer to the study of the history of any type or genre of music. In practice, these research topics are often categorized as part of ethnomusicology or cultural studies, whether or not they are ethnographically based. The terms "music history" and "historical musicology" usually refer to the history of the notated music of Western elites, sometimes called "art music".

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.

Rome Capital of Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

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History and characteristics

While composers had almost certainly been working in Rome continuously for the thousand years since the time of Gregory the Great, the development of a consistent style around the middle of the 16th century, due in part to the musical requirements of the Counter-Reformation, led to their being grouped together by music historians under this single label.

Counter-Reformation Catholic political and religious response to the Protestant Reformation

The Counter-Reformation, also called the Catholic Reformation or the Catholic Revival, was the period of Catholic resurgence that was initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation. It began with the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and largely ended with the conclusion of the European wars of religion in 1648. Initiated to preserve the power, influence and material wealth enjoyed by the Catholic Church and to present a theological and material challenge to Reformation, the Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort composed of apologetic and polemical documents, ecclesiastical reconfiguration as decreed by the Council of Trent, a series of wars, and political maneuvering. The last of these included the efforts of Imperial Diets of the Holy Roman Empire, exiling of Protestant populations, confiscation of Protestant children for institutionalized Catholic upbringing, heresy trials and the Inquisition, anti-corruption efforts, spiritual movements, and the founding of new religious orders. Such policies had long-lasting effects in European history with exiles of Protestants continuing until the 1781 Patent of Toleration, although smaller expulsions took place in the 19th century.

The music of the Roman School can be seen as the culmination of a development of polyphony through the infusion of music of the Franco-Netherlandish school during the last hundred years. Franco-Netherlandish composers had long been coming to Italy to live and work Josquin, Obrecht, Arcadelt, and many others made the long journey, and their musical style was decisive on the formation of the Italian styles. Under the guidance of the Vatican, and with the Sistine Chapel Choir being one of the finest of the time, it was perhaps inevitable that the stylistic center of sacred polyphony would turn out to be Rome.

Josquin des Prez Franco-Flemish composer

Josquin des Prez, often referred to simply as Josquin, was a French composer of the Renaissance. His original name is sometimes given as Josquin Lebloitte and his later name is given under a wide variety of spellings in French, Italian, and Latin, including Iosquinus Pratensis and Iodocus a Prato. His motet Illibata Dei virgo nutrix includes an acrostic of his name, where he spelled it "Josquin des Prez". He was the most famous European composer between Guillaume Dufay and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and is usually considered to be the central figure of the Franco-Flemish School. Josquin is widely considered by music scholars to be the first master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music that was emerging during his lifetime.

Jacob Obrecht Flemish composer

Jacob Obrecht was a Flemish-Dutch, Low Countries composer. He was the most famous composer of masses in Europe in the late 15th century, being eclipsed by only Josquin des Prez after his death.

Jacques Arcadelt Netherlandish composer of the Renaissance

Jacques Arcadelt was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance, active in both Italy and France, and principally known as a composer of secular vocal music. Although he also wrote sacred vocal music, he was one of the most famous of the early composers of madrigals; his first book of madrigals, published within a decade of the appearance of the earliest examples of the form, was the most widely printed collection of madrigals of the entire era. In addition to his work as a madrigalist, and distinguishing him from the other prominent early composers of madrigals – Philippe Verdelot and Costanzo Festa – he was equally prolific and adept at composing chansons, particularly late in his career when he lived in Paris.

The Council of Trent, which met from 1545 to 1563, had a significant impact on the music of the Roman School: indeed it can be argued that these reforms in the Roman Catholic Church, which were part of the Counter-Reformation, defined the music of the Roman School. The Council of Trent recommended that sacred music, especially for use in church, be written in a dignified, serious style. The Council allowed polyphonya common misconception is that they banned it outright, but this is falsehowever they did require that text which was sung be clearly understandable. In addition, while they did not ban the use of secular melodies as source material for masses and motets, such use was discouraged.

Council of Trent 19th Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church

The Council of Trent, held between 1545 and 1563 in Trent, was the 19th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. Prompted by the Protestant Reformation, it has been described as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation.

Mass (music) Form of sacred musical composition

The mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the invariable portions of the Eucharistic liturgy to music. Most masses are settings of the liturgy in Latin, the liturgical sacred language of the Catholic Church's Roman liturgy, but there are a significant number written in the languages of non-Catholic countries where vernacular worship has long been the norm. For example, there are many masses written in English for the Church of England. Musical masses take their name from the Catholic liturgy called "the mass" as well.

In western music, a motet is a mainly vocal musical composition, of highly diverse form and style, from the late medieval era to the present. The motet was one of the pre-eminent polyphonic forms of Renaissance music. According to Margaret Bent, "a piece of music in several parts with words" is as precise a definition of the motet as will serve from the 13th to the late 16th century and beyond. The late 13th-century theorist Johannes de Grocheo believed that the motet was "not to be celebrated in the presence of common people, because they do not notice its subtlety, nor are they delighted in hearing it, but in the presence of the educated and of those who are seeking out subtleties in the arts".

The combination of the reforms of the Council of Trent with the presence of the extremely talented composers inheriting the Franco-Netherlandish style, was the production of a body of music which has sometimes been held to represent the peak of perfection of Renaissance polyphonic clarity. The subject matter of "16th Century Counterpoint" or "Renaissance Polyphony" as taught in contemporary college music curricula is invariably the codified style of the Roman School, as it was understood by Johann Fux in the early 18th century. It is important to recognize, though, that the "Palestrina style" was not the only polyphonic style of the time, though it may have been the most internally consistent. The polyphonic style of Palestrina may have been the culmination of a hundred years of development of the Franco-Netherlandish style, but it was one of many streams in the late 16th century, and significantly contrasts with the music of the Venetian school to the north, as well as the music being produced in France and England at the same time.

Renaissance music musical period between the 15th and 17th centuries

Renaissance music is vocal and instrumental music written and performed in Europe during the Renaissance era. Consensus among music historians has been to start the era around 1400, with the end of the medieval era, and to close it around 1600, with the beginning of the Baroque period, therefore commencing the musical Renaissance about a hundred years after the beginning of the Renaissance as it is understood in other disciplines. As in the other arts, the music of the period was significantly influenced by the developments which define the Early Modern period: the rise of humanistic thought; the recovery of the literary and artistic heritage of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome; increased innovation and discovery; the growth of commercial enterprises; the rise of a bourgeois class; and the Protestant Reformation. From this changing society emerged a common, unifying musical language, in particular, the polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish school, whose greatest master was Josquin des Prez.

Johann Joseph Fux Austrian composer

Johann Joseph Fux was an Austrian composer, music theorist and pedagogue of the late Baroque era. He is most famous as the author of Gradus ad Parnassum, a treatise on counterpoint, which has become the single most influential book on the Palestrinian style of Renaissance polyphony. Almost all modern courses on Renaissance counterpoint, a mainstay of college music curricula, are indebted in some degree to this work by Fux.

Other composers living and working in Rome, while not considered members of the Roman School, certainly influenced them. The most famous of these is probably Luca Marenzio, whose madrigals were wildly popular in Italy and elsewhere in Europe; some of the composers of the Roman School borrowed his expressive techniques, for instance word painting, for occasional use in a liturgical setting.

Luca Marenzio Italian composer

Luca Marenzio was an Italian composer and singer of the late Renaissance. He was one of the most renowned composers of madrigals, and wrote some of the most famous examples of the form in its late stage of development, prior to its early Baroque transformation by Monteverdi. In all, Marenzio wrote around 500 madrigals, ranging from the lightest to the most serious styles, packed with word-painting, chromaticism, and other characteristics of the late madrigal style. Marenzio was influential as far away as England, where his earlier, lighter work appeared in 1588 in the Musica Transalpina, the collection that initiated the madrigal craze in that country. Marenzio worked in the service of several aristocratic Italian families, including the Gonzaga, Este, and Medici, and spent most of his career in Rome.

Word painting is the musical technique of composing music that reflects the literal meaning of a song's lyrics. For example, ascending scales would accompany lyrics about going up; slow, dark music would accompany lyrics about death.

While the Roman School is considered to be a conservative musical movement, there are important exceptions. Rome was the birthplace of the oratorio, in the work of Giovanni Francesco Anerio and Emilio de' Cavalieri; the score for Cavalieri's Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo is the earliest printed score which uses a figured bass. The style is similar to the style of monody being developed in Florence at approximately the same time; indeed there was considerable competition between composers in those two musical centers. The success of Rappresentatione was such that the monodic style became common in much Roman music in the first several decades of the 17th century.

Later composers of the Roman School included Gregorio Allegri, composer of the famous Miserere (c.1630). This piece was guarded closely by the papal chapel; it was considered so beautiful that copies were not allowed to circulate. A favorite story involves the 14-year-old Mozart, who made the first illegal copy by transcribing it from memory after hearing it only twice. Many of the later composers of the Roman School continued to write in the polyphonic style of the 16th century, known then as the stile antico , or the prima pratica, in distinction to the newer styles of monody and concertato writing which defined the beginning of the Baroque era.

Composers

Members of the Roman School, including some who were active in Rome for only part of their careers, are as follows:

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Gregorio Allegri Italian composer

Gregorio Allegri was a Roman Catholic priest and Italian composer of the Roman School and brother of Domenico Allegri; he was also a singer. He was born and died in Rome.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina Italian Renaissance composer

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition. He had a long-lasting influence on the development of church and secular music in Europe, especially on the development of counterpoint, and his work is considered as the culmination of Renaissance polyphony.

Abbate Giuseppe Baini Italian priest, music critic and composer

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Venetian School (music)

In music history, the Venetian School was the body and work of composers working in Venice from about 1550 to around 1610, many working in the Venetian polychoral style. The Venetian polychoral compositions of the late sixteenth century were among the most famous musical works in Europe, and their influence on musical practice in other countries was enormous. The innovations introduced by the Venetian school, along with the contemporary development of monody and opera in Florence, together define the end of the musical Renaissance and the beginning of the musical Baroque.

Emilio de' Cavalieri, or Emilio dei Cavalieri—the spellings "del" and "Cavaliere" are contemporary typographical errors—(c. 1550 – 11 March 1602) was an Italian composer, producer, organist, diplomat, choreographer and dancer at the end of the Renaissance era. His work, along with that of other composers active in Rome, Florence and Venice, was critical in defining the beginning of the musical Baroque era. A member of the Roman School of composers, he was an influential early composer of monody, and wrote what is usually considered to be the first oratorio.

Felice Anerio Italian composer

Felice Anerio was an Italian composer of the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras, and a member of the Roman School of composers. He was the older brother of another important, and somewhat more progressive composer of the same period, Giovanni Francesco Anerio.

Francesco Soriano Italian composer of the Renaissance, born 1548 or 1549, died 29 July 1621

Francesco Soriano was an Italian composer of the Renaissance. He was one of the most skilled members of the Roman School in the first generation after Palestrina.

Antonio Cifra Italian composer

Antonio Cifra was an Italian composer of the Roman School of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. He was one of the significant transitional figures between the Renaissance and Baroque styles, and produced music in both idioms.

Giovanni Maria Nanino Italian composer

Giovanni Maria Nanino was an Italian composer and teacher of the late Renaissance. He was a member of the Roman School of composers, and was the most influential music teacher in Rome in the late 16th century. He was the older brother of composer Giovanni Bernardino Nanino.

Giovanni Bernardino Nanino was an Italian composer, teacher and singing master of the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras, and a leading member of the Roman School of composers. He was the younger brother of the somewhat more influential composer Giovanni Maria Nanino.

Giovanni Francesco Anerio was an Italian composer of the Roman School, of the very late Renaissance and early Baroque eras. He was the younger brother of Felice Anerio. Giovanni's principal importance in music history was his contribution to the early development of the oratorio; he represented the progressive trend within the otherwise conservative Roman School, though he also shared some of the stylistic tendencies of his brother, who was much indebted to Palestrina.

Giovanni Animuccia Italian composer of the Renaissance

Giovanni Animuccia was an Italian composer of the Renaissance who was involved in the heart of Rome's liturgical musical life. He was one of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina's most important predecessors and possibly his mentor. As maestro di capella of St Philip Neri's Oratory and the Capella Giulia at St Peter's, he was composing music at the very center of the Roman Catholic Church, during the turbulent reforms of the Counter-Reformation and as part of the new movements that began to flourish around the middle of the century. His music reflects these changes.

Giulio Caccini Italian composer

Giulio Romolo Caccini, was an Italian composer, teacher, singer, instrumentalist and writer of the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras. He was one of the founders of the genre of opera, and one of the most influential creators of the new Baroque style. He was also the father of the composer Francesca Caccini and the singer Settimia Caccini.

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Ruggiero Giovannelli Italian composer

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<i>Palestrina - Prince of Music</i> 2009 music film by Georg Brintrup

Palestrina - Prince of Music is an Italian/German 2009 music film directed by Georg Brintrup. The subject is the life and music of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (ca.1525-1594), a famous Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music. He is the best-known 16th-century composer of the Roman School. Filmed in March 2009 on locations mainly in and around L'Aquila and Rome, most of the ancient buildings and historical interiors in the city of L'Aquila were destroyed by the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake, only a few days after the end of shooting. Palestrina’s music in the film is directed by Flavio Colusso and the Roman Ensemble Seicentonovecento. The film was also titled The Liberation of Music or Die Befreiung der Musik when released in Germany.