Venice

   The capital city of the "Most Serene Republic" came to prominence in sacred music in the 16th century, later than most other Italian city-states, but then developed spectacularly into the second most important musical center in Europe after Rome. In the 15th century, laude might be heard in the confraternities known as scuole {}grandi, and there was occasional ceremonial music at St. Mark’s, the doge’s private chapel (a basilica from 1520). Ottaviano Petrucci (1466–1539) published the first printed collection of polyphony in 1501, and in the 16th century Venice became Europe’s leading publisher of music. In 1527, the procurators of St. Mark’s appointed Adrian Willaert as maestro di cappella (to 1562), beginning a long series of illustrious maestri including Gioseffo Zarlino (1517–1590, {}maestro from 1564–1590), who attracted an outstanding staff including Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli. Subsequent maestri include Claudio Monteverdi (1613–1943), and Antonio Lotti (1733– 1740). The zenith in sacred music was the Zarlino-Monteverdi period when St. Mark’s could have at its disposal a choir of 30 and an instrumental ensemble of 20. With such large ensembles and two organs, St. Mark’s made such a specialty of colorful music for cori spezzati that, even without originating in Venice, polychoral music became virtually synonymous with the "Venetian style" of church music and influenced composers as late and as far flung as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel.
   A peculiarly Venetian venue for sacred music were the four {}ospedali of the Incurabili, Mendicanti, Derelitti, and Pietà. Orphanages that housed mostly illegitimate girls, they trained their inmates in singing, organ playing, and, by the late 17th century, string playing; they were renowned all over Europe for the quality of their music. Sacred concertos, oratorios, and instrumental concertos by Francesco Gasparini (1668–1727) and Antonio Vivaldi survive from the Pietà.
   With the opening of Europe’s first commercial opera house at San Cassian in 1637, the city’s best musical talent increasingly preferred working in the theater to composing for the church.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.

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