The Catholic University of America

Music and the Sacred in Seventeenth-Century Rome: Motet, Oratorio, Opera

Dr. Andrew H. Weaver

Rome boasted one of the richest, most vibrant musical centers in seventeenth-century Europe. Unlike many city-states, where musical patronage was confined primarily to a single central court, Rome was home to a variety of musical establishments: the Papal court was of course the most famous, but no less lavish were the chapels of the prominent Cardinals vying to be the next Pope, as well as those of prominent religious orders, especially the Jesuits and the Oratorians.
 
This seminar shall examine three important genres of music cultivated in seventeenth-century Rome, all of which partake of the sacred in different ways: the Latin motet, the Italian and Latin oratorio, and the Italian opera on a religious theme. We will place each genre into the rich religious, political, and cultural context of Rome, focusing on the first half of the seventeenth century. Much emphasis will be placed on context, with detailed examinations of the noble and ecclesiastical patrons of music and the functions that the genres served for the patrons, but just as much attention will also be given to close musical analyses of specific works. Our analyses will encompass a variety of issues and analytical techniques—such as text choice, text–music relationship, harmonic symbolism, formal–structural analysis, and rhetorical expression of the affects—all with the aim of elucidating musical meaning and understanding how the compositions would have spoken to seventeenth-century listeners.
 
 
Throughout the semester, each student shall also engage closely with a printed primary source (in facsimile), dealing with such issues as transcription, text and music editing, and performance issues, as well as putting the source into its context and teasing larger meaning out of it.
 
 
Classes shall be conducted primarily as discussion, with frequent student presentations and short papers. Students shall have weekly reading and analytical assignments, in addition to assignments relating to their primary source. There will also be a final independent research paper; this may be related to the primary source, but it could also be another topic entirely, of the student’s choosing.