Great Italian and French Composers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 239 pages of information about Great Italian and French Composers.
preeminence is ever allowed to disturb and weaken the ideal atmosphere of the whole work.  However Palestrina’s successors have aimed to imitate his effects, they have, with the exception of Cherubini, failed for the most part; for every peculiar genus of art is the result of innate genuine inspiration, and the spontaneous growth of the age which produces it.  As a parent of musical form he was the protagonist of Italian music, both sacred and secular, and left an admirable model, which even the new school of opera so soon to rise found it necessary to follow in the construction of harmony.  The splendid and often licentious music of the theatre built its most worthy effects on the work of the pious composer, who lived, labored, and died in an atmosphere of almost anchorite sanctity.

The great disciples of his school, Nannini and Allegri, continued his work, and the splendid “Miserere” of the latter was regarded as such an inestimable treasure that no copy of it was allowed to go out of the Sistine chapel, till the infant prodigy, Wolfgang Mozart, wrote it out from the memory of a single hearing.



Music, as speaking the language of feeling, emotion, and passion, found its first full expansion in the operatic form.  There had been attempts to represent drama with chorus, founded on the ancient Greek drama, but it was soon discovered that dialogue and monologue could not be embodied in choral forms without involving an utter absurdity.  The spirit of the renaissance had freed poetry, statuary, and painting, from the monopolizing elaims of the church.  Music, which had become a well equipped and developed science, could not long rest in a similar servitude.  Though it is not the aim of the author to discuss operatic history, a brief survey of the progress of opera from its birth cannot be omitted.

The oldest of the entertainments which ripened into Italian opera belongs to the last years of the fifteenth century, and was the work of the brilliant Politian, known as one of the revivalists of Greek learning attached to the court of Cosmo de’ Medici and his son Lorenzo.  This was the musical drama of “Orfeo.”  The story was written in Latin, and sung in music principally choral, though a few solo phrases were given to the principal characters.  It was performed at Rome with great magnificence, and Vasari tells us that Peruzzi, the decorator of the papal theatre, painted such scenery for it that even the great Titian was so struck with the vraisemblance of the work that he was not satisfied until he had touched the canvas to be sure of its not being in relief.  We may fancy indeed that the scenery was one great attraction of the representation.  In spite of spasmodic encouragement by the more liberally minded pontiffs, the general weight of church influence was against the new musical tendency, and the most skilled composers were at first afraid to devote their talents to further its growth.

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