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Volume 12, no. 1:

Zwischen Kirche und Karneval: Biographie, soziales Umfeld und Werk des römischen Kapellmeisters Virgilio Mazzocchi (1597–1646). By Bernhard Schrammek. Musiksoziologie, 9. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2001. [398 pp. ISBN 3761813589. €31.50.]

Reviewed by Noel O’Regan*

1. Background to the Study

2. Methodology and Focus

Reference

1. Background to the Study

1.1 In recent years it has been heartening to see a young generation of German musicologists researching Roman topics at the Musikabteilung of the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Rome. For the seventeenth century these have included Juliane Riepe (SS. Crocefisso and the oratorio), Rainer Heyink (concertato music and music at the German church of S. Maria dell’Anima) and Christian Speck (oratorio librettos). Bernhard Schrammek is another of this generation, and the publication of his doctoral dissertation on Virgilio Mazzocchi is especially welcome as an intelligent and very readable (particularly to non-Germans!) study of a composer and his milieu. While grounded in traditional methodologies of archival work and wort-ton analyses, Schrammek has also attempted to bring in new approaches from cultural history and sociology. His dissertation has already been the recipient of the Premio internazionale latina di studi musicali in 2000.

1.2 Virgilio Mazzocchi was, in most respects, a typical example of the Roman seventeenth-century composer. Born in Civita Castellana in 1597, he followed his brother Domenico to Rome in 1624, rising subsequently through posts as maestro di cappella at the Gesù and the Seminario Romano, and briefly at S. Giovanni in Laterano, before filling the top position for a lay musician as maestro of the Cappella Giulia at St. Peter’s from 1629 to his premature death in 1646. He also worked extensively for the Barberini family during the decade from 1636 to 1645 and wrote a number of operas and other works for that family. Schrammek has catalogued a total of 91 separate works, most of them sacred, and also lists a further 195 known from various inventories, but no longer extant. The bulk of the latter are from a 1694 inventory in the Cappella Giulia where pieces were not listed by name but recorded as antiphons, etc., for particular feasts. There are also a couple of lost operas and other lost dramatic works written for the students of the Seminario Romano. Mazzocchi worked in a wide variety of fields, frequently writing music for ephemeral occasions which has, of its nature, not survived.

2. Methodology and Focus

2.1 In order to provide a context for his subject, Schrammek has carried out an interrogation of the lives of fifty of Mazzocchi’s contemporaries working as musicians and composers in Rome. This is based on the sociological methodologies of Peter Burke and the German music sociologist Christian Kaden, Schrammek’s Doktorvater. Indeed the book has been included in the series Musiksoziologie edited by Kaden (vol. 9). Schrammek himself admits that his fifty chosen men might not necessarily be entirely representative. They constitute more or less the top of the pyramid, those composers who achieved some publication and were in regular employment at Roman institutions. However, to do a proper sociological study would involve digging deeper and looking at the far greater number of singers, organists and instrumentalists making up the rest of the pyramid. My own work in Roman confraternity archives has come up with a list of over 260 names of musicians capable of, and paid for, organizing festal music over the period ca. 1540–1650. Below that again there were hundreds more singers and instrumentalists who were in continual movement among institutions or were doing free-lance work. Schrammek’s questions are fairly basic but do come up with some useful statistics. For example, of his 50 musicians, 17 were born in Rome and a further 21 came from northern Lazio, an area whose musical productivity he compares with the Netherlands in the fifteenth century. There was considerable family involvement with sons, brothers, nephews following the profession. Most had their formation in Rome and remained there to work, showing both the wide-ranging opportunities which the city offered in the post-Tridentine period and the considerable insularity which must have resulted. What also emerges is the frequent movement of these musicians from post to post: the majority held between three and six different positions and a few had as many as ten.

2.2 Since Mazzochi’s work for the Barberini has already received considerable attention from scholars such as Frederick Hammond, Margaret Murata, and Wolfgang Witzenmann, Schrammek concentrates more on his sacred output. In particular he has examined in detail all aspects of liturgical music-making at the Gesù, the Seminario Romano, and at St. Peter’s, as well as analyzing a representative sample of the composer’s works in their performance context. He alternates chapters on documentation with ones focussing on selected pieces. While the analysis deals mainly with surface detail, the inclusion of regular (though unlabelled) musical examples gives us a good picture of Mazzocchi’s music.

2.3 The book draws liberally on primary and secondary source materials and shows an easy familiarity with the work of other scholars in English, German, and Italian. Various key documents are transcribed and translated into German, and there is a fully annotated catalogue of works. For English-speaking readers some of what is here is already available in Hammond and in the work of Graham Dixon and others, but there is also much that is new, and Schrammek’s particular focus on Virgilio Mazzocchi gives the book a unity of purpose and clear structure. The lack of an index betrays its origins as a dissertation and is a definite drawback. The only lapse I spotted was in the dates given for two of the maestri at S. Giovanni in Laterano (Orlando di Lasso should be 1553–4, not 1541–8, and Giovanni Franceso Anerio 1603–5, not 1600–3). The book is very well presented in a paperback edition and is much to be welcomed as a lucid and down-to-earth account of an important Roman composer of the Seicento.

Reference

* Noel O’Regan (N.O'Regan@ed.ac.uk) is Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Edinburgh. His research centers on sacred music in Rome in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and he is currently writing a book on the use of music by Roman lay confraternities during this period.

 

 

 

 

 


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