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EARLY CHRISTIANS

 

CIRCA 220

The Romans were superstitious of death, believing corpses could somehow contaminate the living. They buried their dead outside the city walls in long subterranean passages.  Early Christians were literally and metaphorically forced to worship underground, alongside Jews, Mithraic cults and other non-pagans.  

Roman centurions would send slaves down into the Catacombs to hunt the heretics. Penalties were extremely high, often fatal and almost always brutal. Nevertheless, people carried on singing their faith underground. Towards the end of the Roman rule, religious tolerance began to be practiced.

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THE BENEDICTINES

Around 330, at the beginning of the Byzantine era, when King Constantine made Constantinople the capital of culture and political power, Saint Benedict started his monastery in Subiaco. Meditating in a cave and mortifying himself, rolling in rose bushes when he got horny,  he set the rules for monastic life - "ora et labora" - prayer and work. He was dedicated to education and taught his monks to read and write and, thanks to this discipline, we have some of the oldest transcribed chants preserved today. Written on vellum in crushed lapis lazuli and liquid gold, the chants are written in a Latin hieroglyph. As there was no standard for the time, the key to reading the hieroglyphs has been handed down in an oral tradition for over a thousand years.   Don Mariano, a 100 year old monk is one of two people in the world, who can read the code.  These are transcriptions of the hymns chanted by the original Benedictine monks. These documents predate Islam, reaching back into the times of the Roman Empire when Christianity was just being allowed to be practiced. Interestingly, they represent some of  the first annotation of music. It is precisely the practice of writing music that promoted the spread 0- and reproducibility of Western music.

 

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Early Christianity was characterized by brotherhood and shared experience.  Priests of the early churches would lead the congregation dancing to music; they would break bread and drink wine with their "brothers".  Unlike the very similar Mithraic cults, Christianity allowed both women and men to worship, sing, dance and break bread together.  This inclusiveness may well account for Christianity's success over Mithraism.

 

Once Christianity took hold, a struggle for power ensued, resulting in the brutal excesses of the Inquisition. Thousands of innocents were tortured and killed for not following the rigid rules.

 

 

Despite the Inquisition and the predominant philosophies of theology over the individual, the 15th century gave birth to the Renaissance; a period of exceptional works of art, architecture and music.  By the 16th century two geniuses dominated this period: Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Da Vinci was a polymath genius - he came up with blueprints for a flying machine (Rome airport is named after him) the bicycle, the contact lense as well as extraordinary works of art and architecture. in 1503, he painted the Mona Lisa. Michelangelo was one of the architects of St Peters and, in 1508, the designer of the Sistine Chapel. His designs for the cupola of St Peters heralded a revolution in music, allowing an almost stereophonic sound to rise above the congregation, creating a sort of musical alchemy.
 

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Back in Rome in 1553, Pope Paul III decided to enlist Michelangelo to paint the atar piece for the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo did not consider himself a painter; he was an architect and sculptor and did not want to do it. The Pope's Master of Ceremonies, Biagio da Cesena, pulled rank and Michelangelo, much to his chagrin, found himself designing the painting.

Biagio took it upon himself to tell Michelangelo how to draw the human body - not nude! - which Michelangelo took exception to. He cast Biagio as Minos, the judge of Hell in Dante's Inferno and depicted him in the lowest ranks of hell being constricted to death for all eternity whilst a snake ate his genitals. When Biagio spluttered his indignation to the Pope, the Pope blithely replied that he had no authority in hell and thus could not do anything about it!

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Giovanni Palestrina 1525-1594 

 

Palestrina is the titan of both sacred and classical music.  A rebel, used the acoustics of the newly constructed St Peters to revolutionise music for centuries to come. A trailblazer, he was the first "Italian" polyphonist, the inventor of counterpoint (two melodies played in conjunction with another.) He loved music and he wanted it big! Bold! Beautiful! Dramatic! at a time when there was only a sober form of chanting (with no musical accompaniment) in church. One of the most played musicians of all time, we have scored a coup and found an unpublished and unrecorded manuscript of his that has been kept in the Popes’ personal collections for half a millennium.

 

As a child, Palestrina was sent to market, to sell his farm produce.  He would sing his wares and was “discovered” by the passing kappelmeister of a Roman basilica, at the age of twelve. This was a huge deal, as boys of the choir were clothed, fed and educated by the Church. Being a chorister allowed him to study music. As he rose through the ranks to become the master of the Cappella Giulia at St Peter’s, he was  particularly interested in the music of Guillaume Dufay, a Dutch polyphonist (some of whose unrecorded, unpublished music we have also discovered). 

 

 His achievements are all the more impressive given his personal life. He was forced to become a priest to become the Master of the Pope's choir, but he also married with four kids.

 

During the plague that ravaged Rome, his life was marred by tragedy. He lost, in quick succession, his brother, his wife and two sons to the plague and almost lost his own life. Devastated, weakened and depleted, struggling to look after his surviving children, he poured his soul into his music, bequeathing us with some of the best polyphonic music ever written.

 

He later married a rich widow (whilst still a priest!) who became in effect, his benefactor and therefore allowed him to carry on composing until he died. He was a massive influence on Bach, Mendehlson and Allegri. He changed the course of sacred music.

 

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Around this time, the Counter Reformation was in full swing - alarmed by the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther, the Catholic Church responded by introspection as well as Inquisition. One mystic reformer was Teresa d 'Avila. She came from a noble family and was a gregarious woman, who famously rounded on critics of her sometimes lavish tastes "when I fast, I fast; when I eat partridge I feast on partridge"  Teresa wrote ecstatically about her love of God. Her passionate writings, written during a period that she was proselytizing alongside John of the Cross, a priest young enough to be her son, raised eyebrows. She wrote about a dream or vision she had had about an angelic visitation

 

"I saw in the angel’s hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it.’

The Church, alarmed by her passion, forbade her to see John of the Cross anymore.  She became both ill and silent, with periods of extreme self mortification and fasting.

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ALESSANDRO SCARLATTI 1600-1725

We have a sublime mass by Scarlatti which has never been recorded.

 

Scarlatti was a prolific musician, courted by the most prestigious benefactors in the world: Queen Christina of Sweden, Francesco de Medici, Cardinal Ottoboni as well as the Viceroy of Naples,  amongst others. He was one of the most feted musicians of his time. He wrote hundreds of compositions during his life, of which only few survive… or so it was thought until now. 

 

Scarlatti was a genius.  At 18, he was writing music for the Queen of Sweden as well as Italian benefactors.  But access to the highly prestigious  Conservatorio  di Napoli was competitive and closed to him and his brother, until, it was rumoured, two of his sisters seduced a couple of influential directors at the Conservatorio.  

 

Once admitted, Scarlatti was a productive genius. He composed continuously, not least to pay for his ever-growing family. He and  his wife eventually would have 10 children, tragically losing five of them to early deaths.  He channeled the pain of holding their tiny, dead bodies into musical prayers. Of those who survived, three became household names and his son, Domenico even eclipsed his father in fame. Meanwhile, Alessandro Scarlatti composed prolifically throughout his life, but sadly spent years waiting for payment and eventually died in debt, many of his debtors refused to pay up, despite his widow living in penury.

Josef Haydn 1732-1809

 

Haydn is one of the most played musicians  in the world, achieving international fame during his lifetime. We have unearthed a mass that has never been heard before, from a period where he is thought to have stopped writing masses.


 

One of the most important musicians of his generation; friend of Mozart;  teacher to Beethoven, Haydn had a once the fortune to have a lifelong tenure as kappelmeister in a small town in Austria but the misfortune of being one of the most popular musicians of his age, effectively relegated to an obscure town. This, however, made him extremely creative and innovative in his style. 

 

Haydn was a child prodigy whose very normal parents, living in an Austrian backwater, knew he would never become a musician if he stayed with them.  They sent him off to a relative who managed to secure him an audition as a chorister in the local Cathedral. Full of high jinks, he snipped off one of his fellow chorister’s curls and was sent packing.  This meant he had to start earning a living.  He started composing and soon his music filled the salons of Europe.  He fell in love with a woman whom he could not marry, but married her sister instead. A woefully unhappy marriage meant they both took lovers but carried on making each other miserable.  He did his utmost to travel; was feted in London and Vienna.

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In, 1571 when he worked in St Peter's Capella Giulia, he lost, in quick succession, his brother, wife and two sons to the plague. Devastated, he poured his soul into his music.

 

He married a rich widow, who was in effect, a benefactor and therefore allowed him to carry on composing until he died. He was a massive influence on Bach, Mendehlson and Allegri

 

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“Miserere”

Few pieces of music hold as much mystique as  “Miserere” by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), a somber vocal composition from the 1630s that was deemed by the Vatican to be so beautiful and powerful that it must never be transcribed nor performed outside of a very specific and very rare service that could only take place in the Sistine Chapel itself. The punishment for violating this decree and unlawfully transcribing or performing the piece: Excommunication.

 

Despite these prohibitions, the composition is known today because a musical spy with an uncanny ear heard it at the Sistine Chapel and, upon returning to his lodgings, proceeded to almost perfectly transcribe it note for note. That spy: A 14-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

 

When the Pope heard what Mozart had done, the young composer was summoned to the Vatican. But rather than facing excommunication, the Pope instead was so impressed by the teenager’s genius recall, that he showered him with praise and even a papal knighthood. 

 

For centuries, all the world knew of “Miserere” came from Mozart’s memorized transcription. That changed in 2016, when the Pope’s choirmaster pulled the original manuscript from the Vatican’s Secret Archives, revealing that Mozart’s version was almost exactly right, with just six wrong notes. It is that original version that we will be presenting on film, to the world for the first time.  

During Shakespeare's time, the Tudor Court had had the benefits of Spanish court music through Catherine of Aragon, the best of French music from Anne Boleyn (who grew up in Paris) and Elizabeth I herself, had recruiited the best of Italian musicians. Shakespeare made use of a variety of music. For comedies the musicians were placed above the stage, for tragedies, below so as to create an eerie effect.

It is thought Shakespeare (pictured) spent many of the plague years in northern Italy, setting Romeo & Juliet in Verona

THE FERRABOSCOS

Domenico Ferrabosco (1513-1574

 

A highly accomplished singer and composer, he was the most important musician of his time and master of the chapel until Pope Paul IV sacked him for being married and therefore not celibate. He moved his family to Paris and enjoyed the patronage of the king of France. We have some unrecorded manuscripts of his

 

 There is also unrecorded music by

His most talented son Alfonso (1543-1588) left for Elizabeth I’s court, one of the only Italians in Tudor Britain, hostile to Catholics. He brought the madrigal music form to England, which was popularized by Shakespeare. The Inquisition in Rome did not approve of his ties with England and it was widely believed he was a spy for Elizabeth I. He was charged with crimes in Italy as well as with murder in England.  He left England in 1578 refusing to return, despite Elizabeth I’s entreaties to return.  She forbade his son, Alfonso the Younger , who was born in Greenwich to an Engliswoman, to join his parents in Italy. Under James I, Alfonso the Younger was employed for a princely sum to teach the young prince, Henry . ​He also wrote music for “masques” masked plays for the court, providing music to the plays of Ben Johnson. His three sons also were court musicians and his daughters married musicians.

 

Unrecorded Music of The Younger survives to this day

 

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“The Lost Bellini”

To unearth a long-lost Bellini composition is the musical equivalent of discovering a long-lost Picasso painting. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.

Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) was one of the most famous composers who ever lived, a legend known almost equally for his seering bel canto operas as his string of broken-hearted lovers. 

 

Before his death at age 33, Bellini wrote numerous operas and masses that are still performed around the world. He also pursued a woman for years, only to reject her when her parents finally relented and agreed to a marriage. At which point he found a married lover. This new woman’s husband discovered Bellini’s love letters and cast her out. When she told Bellini they were finally free to be together, he rejected her as well, claiming he was too busy making music.
 

Vatican researcher Vanessa Bolton met a priest who had uncovered dozens of manuscripts from greats such as Verdi, Rossini, and Donizetti. He also informed her that he had a Bellini composition. 

 

“Where?” she asked him. 

 

“Under my bed,” he glibly replied.

 

Believing he did not want to reveal its true location, she let the matter drop. But as Vanessa got to know the priest, she asked him again where the long-lost Bellini was kept.

 

“Under my bed,” he repeated. “I have had it there for 20 years.”.

 

“Can I see it?” Vanessa asked. 

 

The priest’s reply: “Of course not. Women aren’t allowed in our rooms.”

 

“Well can you bring it to me?” she asked.

 

And that is how we came across a long-lost Bellini.

 

What Bellini sounds like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik6zDikio9M

CARLO GESUALDO (1566-1613)

We have unearthed the sublime music of a murderous psychopath who, even with his hands dripping with the blood of another man’s liver, was forgiven is evils so he could continue writing sacred music. 

 

Prince Carlo Gesualdo  of Venosa and Count of Conza, was also a legendary composer of madrigals and sacred music known as much for the heartbreaking beauty of his music as his psychopathic personality.

 

One day he found his wife in flagrante delicto with a lover. Overcome with rage, he rallied a posse to burst in on the couple. Not content with merely shooting them at point-blank range, he violently struck a sword through the man’s dying body with such force that it made holes in the floor. In front of the shocked witnesses, he proceeded to slice the man open from his groin to his neck and tear out his liver before using a garotte to decapitate his wife. The volume of blood was so great it soaked through the mattress and seeped through the floorboards below.

 

Despite emerging from the room with bloody hands, a court found him not guilty of murder, and he continued to compose sacred music to be sung in the church—while he tormented a second wife and tortured animals.

 

But this psychopath was also a musical genius, producing experimental compositions that were literally hundreds of years ahead of their time. And his music—which often featured vocal references to his murderous deeds—is now viewed as both an expression of his volent personality, and the guilt he might have felt for his crimes.

 

What it sounds like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=052Yn2_IyUs

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ANTONIO VIVALDI 1678-1741

AND HIS WOMEN

 

Vivaldi is the most fabulous Italian musician. Composer extraordinaire, he was also an exceptionally accomplished violinist. Vivaldi spent many years teaching in an orphange/hospital for unmarried women.  He had several proteges amongst whom Anna Maria della Pieta for whom he wrote some of his finest music.  Anna Maria was dropped through a small hatch at the orphanage as a baby and grew up to be one of Vivaldi’s best composers, rising as high as a woman could go in those days.

 

He composed umpteen works for his lover Anna Giro.  Anna and her sister Lived with Vvaldi for 12 years, causing scandal and furore.  Whilst they denied any impropriety, Anna was known as “The Red Priest’s Anna” for over a century.  Rumour has it that they wrote together, though Vivaldi, who prided himself on the speed of his composing would never admit to it. Nevertheless, he was still composing for her upon his death

 

Two Vivaldis unearthed in 2008. We have intel that there is an unrecorded piece 

 

 JOSEPH BOULOGNE CHEVALIER DE ST GEORGES- 1745-199 -

 

Known as the Black Mozart, this prodigy of a man was not only  a composer, violin virtuoso and conductor but also excelled as a fencer and athlete.  He led a black platoon for the French during the French Revolution, worked with Wilberforce in London to abolish slavery and  traveled the world.  Mozart was said to have been in competition with him and even plagiarized his work - after hearing it once.  He cast Monostatos in his Magic Flute as a black man when people noticed the similarities of their works 

The mid to late 18th century saw Mozart, breaking the rules and revolutionizing music and opera. This era also saw Haydn and Salieri rising to prominence. Inerestingly, Mozart's sister was considered by Mozart himself as the real genius of the family; her father had touted her round the salons of Europe until she became of marriageable age. Mozart wrote music for his sister.

This was the era running up to the French Revolution.Cries for "Egalite, Liberte and Fraternite" sparked off revolution in Paris which lasted several years, amidst famine and a reign of terror as the nobility around Europe piled in to stop the dismantling of society.

 

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GIUSEPPE PITONI 1657-1743

 

We have several pieces of Pitoni

Pitoni was a protege of the musical loving Cardinal Ottoboni, who was benefactor to Handel, both Scarlattis, Corelli and many other eminent musicians, artists and writers of the era. Pitoni was prolific, writing over 3500 pieces of music, but never quite got the recognition he deserved; was forever the also ran, despite the fact that in his day he was considered one of the best musicians in the world.  He had the misfortune of being brilliant during the golden age of Italian music.


 

BENEDETTO MARCELLO 1686-1739 was another great composer and Ottoboni protegee.  So precious to Ottoboni was he, that Cardinal Ottonboni insisted every mass opened with one of his compositions. A friend of Bach and highly celebrated in Vienna London and Rome, Benedetto never forgot his Venetian roots not his friends in the Jewish community there and even composed eight psalms in Hebrew. At a time when sacred music was only written in Latin. These psalms were never recorded

ISABELLA COLBRAN 1785-1845 ,wife of Rossini, was an Opera singer and a “self taught” composer.  She was a diva in her own right and an accomplished composer. We have a piece of her work that’s unrecorded. 

 

MARIA MALIBRAN DE BERIOT  1808 - 1836 died at 28 but was very famous in her lifetime.  All homes and cafes had her picture. Was a composer, the daughter of the maestro of singing at the Naples conservatory. She herself was a child prodigy, who played several instruments, sang and composed. At six she was giving concerts. She was the original superstar.and    We have an unrecorded piece of hers and are looking for more.YES 

 

MARIA ROSA COCCIA 1759-1833 the rebel - was the first woman to enter the Accademia of Santa Cecilia.  At age 16, she passed the exams to become Maestro di Cappella but was not allowed to be a kappelmeister because of her sex.  She was not meant to even be present when the music she wrote was played.  In defiance of tradition, she attended, composed and even performed her own music.

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FRANCESCA CACCINI- 1587- 1641  

 

Wrote one of the first operas  ever and the first by a woman.  Was a prolific musician and with the patronage of the De Medici, played all over Europe and was one of the most popular musicians of her time. She was the highest paid musician of the De Medici patronage. She hung out with Galielo and had an extraordinary career, particularly for a woman.  Her father, Giulio Caccini was also a highly accomplished tenor, composer and musician. 

 

He was a difficult,  ambitious man. Wanting the de Medici to sponsor his talented daughters, despite the obvious problem that they were female, he chose to curry favour with his benefactor Francesco de Medici, he informed him of his sister in law’s infidelity. Leonora was a vivacious, beautiful fifteen year old when she married, rather unhappily. Pietro de Medici, several years her senior, was mentally unstable and rather cruel. Today we would recognise him as psychotic.  Despite his many mistresses, he was livid at her affair. He strangled her lover and then, furious at her heartbrokenness, lured her to the countryside. As they walked her dog, he attacked her and  strangled her with her dog lead. Whilst he tried to pretend she had died of a heart attack, her screams had been heard by many. Her family invited on being her in her casket and noticed her severely battered body, testament to an almighty fight to the death.  He was never tried for the murder. He and his brother also murdered their own sister and Leonora's best friend, for adultery. Caccini was rewarded for the information. Pietro died before he was 50 and six of his illegitamate children were cared for by the family. 

Francesca Caccini also had a very successful sister, Settima Caccini who was also a composer and a de Medici protege. They both had daughters who also became musicians.

DOMENICO BARTOLUCCI 1917-2013

 

Bartolucci had been a child prodigy and composed his first mass at the age of 12. His best known mass is the Misa Jubilei, written in the Holy Year of 1950. His biggest musical influences were Palestrina and the opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi. Bartolucci’s own three-act opera, Brunelleschi, dedicated to the history and construction of Filippo Brunelleschi’s colossal dome atop Florence’s cathedral, is yet to be performed. We have access to this.

 

Pope Benedict XVI made Bartolucci a cardinal in 2010 in recognition of his contribution to the church in the area of sacred ecclesiastical music. He became the fourth oldest member of the College of Cardinals and because he was over 80 was not eligible to vote in a papal conclave.

 

Bartolucci died in 2013 at the age of 96. After his funeral mass at St Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis described him as ‘an ‘illustrious composer and musician, who exercised his long ministry particularly through sacred music, which is born of faith and expresses faith.’

 

Carlo Coccia 1782-1783 was born in Naples, and studied Giovanni Paisiello, who introduced him to King Joseph Bonaparte for whom he became a private musician. His first opera was a flop and he lost the patronage of Bonaparte when Bonaparte was defeated in 1813 and returned to Paris, before escaping to America. 

Coccia moved to Venice, where he concentrated on opera semiseria, of which Clotilde from 1815, is the best example. Accused of imitating other composers, he was eventually eclipsed by the emerging Rossini, and left for Lisbon, where he remained from 1820 to 1823. He then settled in London in 1824, where he was conductor at His Majesty's Theatre. In 1827, he wrote Maria Stuarda, about Mary Queen of Scots and her charcoal burning supporters, for Giuditta Pasta, which, despite her involvement, was not successful, for political reasons.

Back in Italy, he concentrated on opera seria, in 1833, but by then he had to compete with the likes of Donizetti and Bellini. Carlo Coccia contributed to a portion of Messa per Rossini, specifically the seventh section of II. Sequentia, Lacrimosa Amen.

He became Maitre de chapelle in Novara, in 1837, and director of the Music Conservatory of Turin, where he wrote his last opera in 1841. He died in Novara.

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