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Harmonia Early Music

Music for the Jesuits, pt. 1

Harmonia looks at some of the composers associated with the rich musical legacy of the Jesuits. Plus, a new release from lutenist Sylvain Bergeron.

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During the mid-1530’s, a group of Catholic students from the University of Paris came together to be directed in prayer and meditation.  They were led by Inigo Lopez the Loyola.  Within a few years, these young men were ordained as priests and received papal approval for the founding of what is recognized today as the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits.  Their leader came to be known as Ignatius of Loyola.

In the year 1622, Pope Gregory XV canonized two original members of the order.  Saints Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier were honored in numerous ways.  To mark the occasion, composer Johannes Kapsperger wrote a five act opera placing both saints as central figures.  The opera, “Apotheosis sive consecration SS. Ignatii et Fancisci Xaverii” is Kapsperger’s only surviving opera, and is recorded on the 2002 album ” The Jesuit Opera” by Ensemble Abendmusik (James David Christie, dir.).

Composers throughout Europe were employed by the Jesuits during the 17th Century.  In France Marc-Antoine Charpentier held title “maître de musique” during the 1780s at the Jesuit Church of St. Louis in Paris.

The Jesuits had a strong missionary presence in the New World, especially in South America.  Domenico Zipoli, a Jesuit priest himself, was sent to Paraguay in order to write and direct music.  His compositions were so popular that copies are found today all over the Americas.

Our new release of the week comes to us from the ATMA label.  Lutenist Sylvain Bergeron devotes an entire recording to the Balcarres Lute Book, a collection of original music and arrangements for the lute.

Here’s a video of the French ensemble Le Parlement de Musique (Martin Gester, dir.) performing an excerpt from Charpentier’s “Te Deum,” H. 146:


The music heard in this episode was performed by The Sixteen, The Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge, Studio de Musique of Montreal, and Ex Cathedra.

Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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