PIRRO CAPACELLI ALBERGATI (1663-1735)
Corona dei pregi di Maria, Op. XIII, Bologna, 1717
Count Pirro Capacelli Albergati (1663-1735) was the descendent of one of the most eminent families of the Bolognese nobility, ambassador, member of the Council of Elders, and gonfalonier of the city of Bologna. Yet his signature on the title page of the collection of monodic cantatas entitled Corona dei pregi di Maria should come as no surprise. Music had for centuries been a well-established and important part of the education of noble youths, alongside rhetoric and dance. Moreover, in this specific case, Pirro Capacelli Albergati possessed exceptional musical talents which were widely acknowledged by his contemporaries and fellow Bolognese citizens. Music played a far from secondary role in Albergati’s life: his compositions include nearly two dozen operas and oratorios and fifteen prints of sacred and instrumental music. A friend and acquaintance of the major musicians active at the time in Bologna (a lively musical center at the turn of the 18th century), Albergati even held the post of maestro di cappella in Puiano in the last years of his life. His compositions perfectly exemplify the major genres in use at the time, especially in Bologna. The extremely important role played by composers here in the field of instrumental music is, for example, reflected and underscored by the publication of his four collections of music for strings. As part of the Papal States, Bologna was not a major center of opera, but sacred chamber music, oratorios and liturgical works were quite widespread and admired. The Corona dei pregi di Maria, Albergati’s thirteenth opus, printed in Bologna in 1717, belongs to a collection of sacred cantatas composed for devotional—or so-called “familial”—use. These works were sacred versions of the very popular secular chamber cantata, from which they borrowed forms and recitatives. In the secular cantata, the classical structure alternating arias and recitatives had by now become firmly established, and the cantatas of this collection do not veer greatly from this rule, even if the order of the musical numbers are rearranged: some end with a recitative and others with an aria, without any particular reason. The choice of ending with a recitative gives the cantata a vaguely archaic feel, since the eighteenth-century cantata—as opposed to that of a century earlier—almost always ends with an arioso movement.