Cecilian Movement

   Name for various efforts, beginning in the late 18th century, especially in Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and later in the United States, to recover the ancient traditions of Roman Catholic church music for modern liturgical use. It was in part a reaction to operatic and other secular techniques used in sacred composition from the early 17th century on, but a more specific stimulus was a 1749 edict of Pope Benedict XIV, Annus qui, that summarized many of the controversies regarding liturgical music and, while expressing a preference for unaccompanied chant, excluded neither polyphony nor diverse instrumental accompaniment categorically. In response, Caecilien-Bündnisse ("Cecilian groups") attempted in Germany to promote a cappella choral singing through the study and revival of Giovanni da Palestrina’s music and chant and through new compositions based on those traditions. In 1869, Franz Xaver Witt founded the Allgemeiner Deutscher Cäcilien-Verein ("General German Cecilian Society") for the purpose of providing practical resources to parishes large and small. This group was recognized by Pope Pius IX in 1870 and was imitated in many European and American nations. The movement never reconciled the con-flict between composing in an anachronistic stile antico and the 19thcentury ideals of artistic innovation, and efforts to publish usable new works brought forth a great number of mediocrities. With its zeal fading in the early 20th century, the movement’s longest lasting effects may have been in founding educational publications for liturgical music and in promoting good choirs and congregational singing.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.

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