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I went to High Mass today for the first time since the choir got back from their summer hols.  Apart from the Offeratory Motet, which was by Monteverdi, most of the musick was the Missa Nos Autem Gloriari Oportet of Francesco Soriano (1548-1621), an Italian Renaissance composer I’d never heard of.  For my own benefit, and perhaps for yours, I repost here what Wikipedia has to say about him:

Francesco Soriano…..was one of the most skilled members of the Roman School in the first generation after Palestrina.

Soriano was born at Soriano, near Viterbo. He studied at the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome with several people including Palestrina, became a priest in the 1570s and by 1580 was maestro di cappella at S. Luigi dei Francesi, also in Rome. In 1581 he moved to Mantua, taking a position at the Gonzaga court there; but in 1586 he moved back to Rome where he spent the rest of his life working as choirmaster at three separate churches, including the Julian Chapel at St. Peter’s. He retired in 1620.

Soriano worked with Felice Anerio to revise the Roman Gradual in accordance with the needs of the Counter-Reformation; this work was left incomplete by Palestrina.

Stylistically, Soriano’s music is much like Palestrina’s, but shows some influence from the progressive trends prevalent around the turn of the century. He adopted the polychoral style, while retaining the smooth polyphonic treatment of Palestrina, and he had a liking for homophonic textures, which generally made it easier to understand sung text.

He wrote masses, motets (some for eight voices), psalms (one collection, published in Venice in 1616, is for 12 voices and basso continuo), settings of the Passion according to each of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Marian antiphons, and several books of madrigals. His Passion settings are significant predecessors of the more famous settings from the Baroque era, for instance those by J.S. Bach; they are set in a restrained but dramatic style, with some attempt at characterization. In some ways they are a predecessor of the oratorio, mixing solo voice, chorus, and non-acted character roles, but in a style more related to Palestrina than to anything Baroque.

I don’t really have anything intelligent to say about Soriano’s musick myself other than that it reenforces my cherished belief  –  or at least fervent hope – that the Renaissance and Baroque styles come closer to the choirs of the Cherubim and Seraphim than any other period of musickal development, but I thought you might be interested in this information.

(Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.  I plugged in the image above in part because I couldn’t find one of Soriano and in part to mark the day.  I might add that in addition to the musickal offering we received (which I won’t even call a “treat” because it is simply par for the course in my parish), we also got a humdingah of a homily from Father McA about people who think the Cross and all it conotes should be airbrushed out of life and worship because it doesn’t fit in with the cute n’ cuddly Happy World image of Our Lord in vogue these days.)


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