Sacred Music in the Oratorio of Saint Filippo Neri
Music as a “fisherman of souls”The pieces included on this recording (laude, canzonette, and spiritual reworking of secular pieces), belong to collections which differ among themselves both in time and in style, and are yet each undoubtedly representative of the vast sacred repertoire in use by the confraternities , in particolar the Philippine oratory of S. Maria in Vallicella in Rome between the 16th and 17th centuries. They are thus part of that lively spiritual and musical movement founded in that city by St. Philip Neri, whose origins are in some ways connected to the lauda itself. We do not know exactly when singing was inserted into the spiritual exercise as a breack from the monotony of the prayers and religious conversations. It is, however, certain that the lauda tradition, which had never completely died out, represented to St. philip a perfecltly harmonious element with the spirit of his “candid” policies. Accordino to some dedications addressed to him, “…in attracting creatures to Jesus, Philip also turned to music for help, he saw it as a “fisherman of souls”. And again: “in order to obtain that much moreeasily his desired intent, and to draw, with sweet deception, sinners to the exercises, he introduced music, devising that things both common and devout be sung, in order to gain that much more spiritual profit. ” It proved to be a felicitous invention: after practically sneakinginto the oratory exercises through the back door, the lauda quickly became the principal attraction and assumed a dcisive role. The flourishingof this genre, in fact, occurred in a crucial moment not only in the history of the Church (fully in the throes of the Counter Reformation), but also in the change of musical language. In the field of sacred music , the lauda, placet alongside the more ancient genres of monophonic Gregorian chant on the one hand and the polyphonic masses and motets on the other, took on a dominant role because it best satisfied the new needs of musical expression. Compared to the modality of chant and the technical and stylistic difficulties presented by poliphony (also considered guitly of impeding the intelligibilità of the text), this musical form offered a tonal structure which to a certain extent acted as a precursor to monody.