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Encyclopedia > Perosi


Monsignor Lorenzo Perosi was without question the most important composer of sacred music during the turn of the last century, and one of the greatest Catholic composers of all time. A composer is a person who writes music. ... Religious music (also sacred music) is music performed or composed for religious use or through religious influence. ...

He was born in Tortona, Italy, on 10 December 1872. His first teacher was his father, Giuseppe Perosi (1849-1908), who was the Maestro di Cappella of the Tortona Cathedral. Perosi then enrolled in the Milan Conservatory (studying with Michele Saladino). From there, he had a very important period of study with Franz Xaver Haberl in Regensburg (Ratisbon), at the Kirchmusikschule which Haberl had founded in 1874. Besides being a noted musicologist, Haberl was editor of the complete works of Palestrina. In 1894 Perosi went to the abbey of Solesmes to study with the celebrated Gregorianists Dom Mocquerau and Dom Pothier. The Renaissance polyphony he learned from Haberl, and the Gregorian chant he studied in Solesmes -- these were the two pilars upon which the entire oeuvre of Perosi rested. For the medieval scholar Tortona, see Marziano da Tortona Tortona is a comune of Piedmont, in the Province of Alessandria, Italy. ... Location within Italy Piazza della Scala Milan (Italian: Milano; Milanese dialect: Milán) is the main city in northern Italy, and is located in the plains of Lombardy, the most populated and developed of Italian regions. ... Franz Xaver Haberl (1840-1910) was a German musicologist, friend of Liszt and Singenberger, cleric, and student of Proske. ... Palestrina (ancient Praeneste) was and is a very ancient city of Latium (modern Lazio) 23 miles (37 km) east of Rome, and was reached by the Via Praenestina (see below). ...

Perosi's first post was at age 18 (1890), when he served as organist and "maestro of the novices" at the abbey of Montecassino. From November, 1892, to August, 1894, he was Maestro di Cappella at Imola. From there he obtained a much more important post, that of Maestro of the Cappella Marciana at San Marco in Venice. The restored Abbey Monte Cassino is a rocky hill about eighty miles (130 km) south of Rome, Italy, a mile to the west of the town of Cassino (the Roman Cassinum having been on the hill) and about 1700 ft (520 m) altitude. ... Imola (1991 pop. ... San Marco is one of the six sestieri of Venice, lying in the heart of the city. ... Location within Italy Venice (Italian Venezia), the city of canals, is the capital of the region of Veneto and of the province of Venice, 45°26′ N 12°19′ E, population 271,663 (census estimate 2004-01-01). ...

This Venetian appointment resulted from the deep friendship between Perosi and Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto, then Patriarca di Venezia. Sarto was a profound music-lover who was disturbed by the roughly hundred years (c.1800-1900) that Gregorian Chant was absent from the Catholic liturgy. A more "operatic," entertaining style of music prevailed, attracting congregants much as the folk groups with guitars draw congregations in America today. Therefore, it was only natural Perosi found in Sarto not only a devoted friend and a great kindred spirit, but also a staunch sponsor. Pope Pius X (1903-1914), pictured in 1904, wearing the 1834 Triple Tiara of Pope Gregory XVI Saint Pius X, né Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, (2 June 1835 - 20 August 1914) was Pope from 1903 to 1914, succeeding Pope Leo XIII. He was the first pope since the Counter-Reformation Pope...

In 1895, Perosi became a priest. (He was ordained by Cardinal Sarto himself, which must have given both men tremendous joy.) I should mention that St. Luigi Orione was, like Perosi, born in Tortona in 1872. The three men -- Orione, Perosi, and Sarto -- were all dear friends and mutual inspirers. Luigi Orione was born in Pontecurone, diocese of Tortona, on 23 June 1872. ...

In 1898, Cardinal Sarto used his influence to get Perosi the prestigious post and Maestro della Cappella Sistina, or Director of the Sistine Choir. Five years later. Sarto's patronage paid off in an even more monumental way. Cardinal Sarto was ordained Pope Pius X. Music was such a priority for Pius that no sooner was he coronated on 9 August 1903 that on 22 November of the same year he unveiled the Motu Proprio (of which Perosi, naturally, was a major consultant). The 1903 Motu Proprio on sacred music nothing short of a papal declaration that Gregorian Chant must be immediately reinstated in all Catholic churches around the world. The century of "operatic" church music was officially over. (Incidentally, so was the era of castrati. Pius decreed that only "whole men" would be allowed to be priests or singers in the Church.) Although it is known that the Church, from her earliest days, employed music in her cult, it was not until the time of her emergence from the catacombs that she began freely to display her beauty and splendour in sacred song. ... Pope Saint Pius X, born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto (2 June 1835 – 20 August 1914), was Pope from 1903 to 1914, succeeding Pope Leo XIII. He was the first pope since the Counter-Reformation Pope St. ... Gregorian chant is also known as plainchant or plainsong, and is a form of monophonic, unaccompanied singing, which was developed in the Catholic church, mainly during the period 800-1000. ... A castrato is a male soprano, mezzo_soprano, or alto voice produced by castration of the singer before puberty. ...

Pius soon modified Perosi's title as "Maestro Perpetuo della Cappella Sistina." The composer held this designation till his death over 50 years later, in spite of interregnums in his directorship which will be discussed shortly.

Despite the relative obscurity of his name today, Perosi was a famous and prominent member of the Giovane Scuola, of which the most important Verista (Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Giordano, and Cilea) were all considered members. An entire chapter is dedicated to Perosi in Romain Rolland's famous volume, Musiciens d'Aujourd'hui, which was translated into many languages. Perosi was deeply admired by the abovenamed Veristi, but also by Toscanini, Gigli, and many other Italian icons. Caruso sang his music, as did Sammarco and innumerable other great singers from that era, and also quite a few from ours (Fiorenza Cossotto, Mirella Freni, and fellow Tortonese Giuseppe Campora). Unlike the other members of the Giovane Scuola, Perosi was the only one to be significantly influenced by pre-Classical repertoire. His so-called "eclectism" was and still is misunderstood by critics. But it was his greatest trait. It was almost with naivete that Perosi wondered to Romain Rolland why it is that composers feel so fettered by time and geography. Why couldn't music be universal, not shackled by the ephemeral trends or fads of a particular country or century? Giacomo Puccini Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (December 22, 1858 – November 29, 1924) is regarded as one of the great operatic composers of the late 19th and early 20th century. ... Pietro Mascagni (Livorno December 7, 1863 - Rome August 2, 1945) is one of the most important Italian opera composers of the turn of the 20th century. ... Ruggiero Leoncavallo (March 8, 1857 - August 9, 1919) was an Italian opera composer. ... Romain Rolland (January 29, 1866 - December 30, 1944) was a French writer. ... Arturo Toscanini (March 25, 1867 - January 16, 1957) was considered by many of his contemporaries — critics, fellow musicians, and the public alike — as the greatest conductor of his era. ... Gigli can refer to: Beniamino Gigli (1890-1957), Italian tenor Gigli, a 2003 movie gigli, a cone- or flower-shaped variety of pasta This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... Enrico Caruso Enrico Caruso (February 25, 1873 – August 2, 1921) was one of the most famous tenors in the history of opera. ... Italian baritone Mario Sammarco (1867-1930) made his debut in Palermo as Valentine in Les Huguenots. ... Fiorenza Cossotto is an Italian mezzo soprano. ... The Italian soprano Mirella Freni (born 27 February 1935) is a famous opera singer much admired for the youthful quality of her voice and her acting skills. ...

In his day, Perosi was best known for his oratorios, large-scale works for chorus, soloists, and orchestra based on Latin texts. The works seem slow-paced and dated today, but the world was galvanized not only by the fusion of Renaissance polyphony, Gregorian chant, and lush, Verismo melodies and orchestrations, but also by Perosi's deep-seated faith in the words which he had set. Polyphony is a musical texture consisting of several independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice (monophony) or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords (homophony). ... Verismo is a style of Italian opera distinguished by often sordid or violent depictions of everyday life (especially life of the lower classes), as opposed to historical or mythological subjects. ...

Perosi's most famous oratorios were La Passione di Cristo (1897), La Trasfigurazione di Cristo, La Risurrezione di Lazzaro, La Risurrezione di Cristo (all three from 1898), Il Natale del Redentore (1899), La Strage degli Innocenti (1900), Il Giudizio Universale (1904), the sublime Transitus Animae (1907; recorded by Fiorenza Cossotto), and many others. Perosi also wrote secular music -- symphonic poems, chamber music, concertos, etc. Fiorenza Cossotto is an Italian mezzo soprano. ...

But Perosi's greatest and most lasting works are his Masses and smaller Mottetti. These intimate works, for choirs of anywhere from 1 to 8 parts, accompanied only by organ, are among the greatest and truest masterpieces of sacred music. Perosi wrote dozens of Masses, some still unpublished, but the greatest are Missa In Honorem Ss. Gervasii et Protassi (1895, AB), Missa "Te Deum Laudamus" (1897, TB or SA), Missa Eucharistica (1897; ATTB), Missa [Prima] Pontificalis (1897, STB), Messa da Requiem (1897, TTB), Missa "Benedicamus Domino" (1899, SATB), the beautiful Missa Cerviana (dedicated to Luigi Cervi; TTB), and the stupendous Missa Secunda Pontificalis (1906; ATB). No composer, of any era, wrote masses with such a combination of tender melancholy, passionate jubilation, Italianate lushness, and -- most importantly -- sincere belief in the text. Music that is a far cry from the vapid Benedictus's of the Viennese Classical school.

In his youth, Perosi wrote many short work for organ. They are inspired and very useful for weekly church use; they deserve to be rediscoverd. An organ is the following: In anatomy, an organ is a group of tissues which perform some function. ...

Though most composers wrote their greatest music at the end of their lives, Perosi's great period ended around 1907, a half-century before his death. Why is that, and why did Perosi's directorship of the Sistine Choir have so many interruptions?

From around World War I till the end of his life, Perosi suffered from from then was called "mental illness" or "mental disturbance." Whatever the type of depression or mental condition it was (and no one conclusively knows), today it would have been proper diagnosed and treated. Certainly the Great War was a factor initially. Perosi just couldn't fathom why a world would go to war; he literally suffered over the question. (In his defense, that very question has been pondered for millennia by healthy minds young and old. It will never be answered.) Ypres, 1917, in the vicinity of the Battle of Passchendaele. ...

However, rather than dwell about the decades of mental illness and (consequently) inferior music, it behooves us to rediscover the great works of Perosi's prime -- which musician/scholars such as Arturo Sacchetti, believe will someday be vindicated as the glorious masterpieces that they truly are.

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