College of Music Program Book 2011-2012: Ensemble & Other Performances, Volume 3 Page: 17
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There can be no doubt that the dominant musical culture in Europe during the first part
of the eighteenth century lay in the great artistic centers of Italy, especially Rome,
Venice and Naples. To the long list of outstanding Italian composers must be added the
legions of foreign musicians, German, Austrian, Czech, English, Spanish, even French
who flocked to sunny Italy to soak up this common international currency. All of the
music on tonight's program, at least in its original form, was written in Italy in one of
these great cities, even though two of the composers were, in fact, not only German by
nationality, but were two of the greatest composers of Italian Baroque opera altogether.
George Frideric Handel spent less than four years in Italy as a young man, principally in
Rome, where he wrote this psalm setting Laudate Pueri Dominum. Based on an earlier
work written in Halle, the work experienced its final and much more florid reincarnation
under the influence of the more ornate and virtuosic style which he encountered in Italy
and instantly mastered-and he was only twenty-two at the time.
Alessandro Scarlatti established his international reputation in Naples, principally as a
composer of opera, and is credited as the finest exponent of what came to be known as
the Neapolitan style, clearly exemplified by the leaping unisono violin figures at the
opening of the Missa di Santa Cecilia. This work was written at the end of his career,
however, when he was moving between Naples and Rome. The mass was composed for
the St. Cecilia's Day celebrations in Rome in 1720 and is dedicated to Cardinal
Acquiviva, who commissioned the work. The florid solo passages and frequent solo/
tutti contrasts are prominent characteristics which pervade the mass. A most unusual
feature of the text setting in the Gloria is the choral repetition of the text 'Laudamus te,
benedicimus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te' under the text of the following two
sectiQns of the mass.
Like Handel, Johann Adolph Hasse, in his early twenties, journeyed to Naples to learn
the Italian style directly from the masters. He was, in fact, one of the last pupils of
Alessandro Scarlatti, who died in 1725. One of the true stars of his time, Hasse traveled
constantly throughout Italy, Austria and Germany, his success due in part to his
marriage to one of the most sensational and sought after prima donne of his time, the
legendary Faustina Bordoni. Though today in the shadow of his more famous
countryman, Hasse was a fine composer, as this setting of the Miserere (Psalm 50)
demonstrates. The original version of this work was composed around 1730 for female
chorus, probably for one of the Venetian ospedale (girls' orphanages) with which the
composer had a long standing association (one movement of this version was recently
performed by the TWU Concert Choir in Dallas at the Southwest Region Convention of
the American Choral Directors Association). The later version performed this evening,
for SATB choir, was probably prepared for Dresden (a city dominated by Italian musical
culture, even into the beginning of the nineteenth century) where Hasse held the post of
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University of North Texas. College of Music. College of Music Program Book 2011-2012: Ensemble & Other Performances, Volume 3, book, 2012; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc114725/m1/17/: accessed September 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Music Library.