Research Project 'Psalm Settings from Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Italy (Venice/Veneto)'

Representative: Thyssen-Stiftung
Duration: 2008–2011

Project description

The fascination of performing the Psalms in musically demanding settings can look back to a long, rich tradition—a fascination which may be traced back to the unique, poetic language of the Psalter as well as the religious, spiritual experiences captured in its body of 150 Psalms. The preferred liturgical context for Psalm settings in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italy was the service of Vespers. This afternoon office received an increasingly sumptuous musical realisation in this period. It seems that Venice in particular had developed a special tradition since the late sixteenth century, which gained significance during the seventeenth century and offered challenging musical settings as well as a combination of the concerto and motet genres. The high quality of the manuscripts held in Italian libraries, and listed in the psalm database, underscores the notion that psalm settings were one of the most central compositional forms in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Venice.

Today, the enormous repertoire of such works and their sound-world is nowhere near having been accessed in its entirety. Yet this is an exceptionally festive body of works, of—at times—overwhelming virtuosity, dramatic intent, and a stunningly diverse und nuanced use of the orchestra.

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Principal investigator

Prof. Dr. Helen Geyer