“Surely it seems that this Church alone has so ample & so eminent a dignity, that it rises above all the others …”
“Certes il semble que cette Eglise seule ait une dignité si ample & si eminente, qu’elle se esleve au dessus de toutes les autres …”
Nicolas de Bralion, Les curiositez de l’une et de l’autre Rome, 1655-59
Ercole Pasquini was elected organist of the Cappella Giulia in St. Peter’s on 6 October 1597. He showed signs of mental instability, as witness an unsuccessful suicide attempt at Ponte Milvio on 20 October in 1603 recounted in a Roman avviso. Perhaps as a consequence, the following December the Chapter of the basilica voted sc. 25 to Pasquini “for his sustenance, and for his necessities” (“ad sui sustentationem, et pro suis necessitatibus”: Rostirolla 2014, I, 318). Pasquini’s salary for November/December of 1605 was receipted by the Master of the Ospedale dei Pazzi, the Roman insane asylum. Another avviso records a seriocomic incident on 4 May 1606, the feast of the Ascension:
We shall close the sheet with a solemn craziness. The organist of S. Pietro as he is most excellent in his profession, so at times he takes leave of himself, it is quite true that his madness is performed in sanctity; Thursday morning he played at the pope’s entry into S. Pietro [the motet sull’organo], and stopped playing and descended to the pope and started telling him that when His Holiness and the other great cardinals wanted audience of him, he should make them ask and he would give it immediately, and he wished to go further but he was immediately taken away, and the pope, who did not know who he was, remained astonished.
Such aberrations may have been the reason that Pasquini was dismissed by the Chapter on 10 July 1606. However, he was back in the service of the basilica in 1608, when the Chapter again dismissed him on 19 May, “justis de causis.” The Chapter also ordered Tiberio Ricciardelli, the canon prefect of music, “that he [Pasquini] not be suffered to serve further” (“nec amplius ipsum inseruire patiatur”: Cametti 19081, 710). Despite the capitular decree, Pasquini was paid through the end of May 1608. He was replaced from June through October by Alessandro Costantini, who had been organist of Santa Maria in Trastevere in 1602.
On 21 July 1608 the Chapter of the basilica met to vote on the candidates for the vacant post. There two candiates, named in the records as “N., the brother of the singer Fabio [Costantini] of our basilica” and “N. N. [Frescobaldi] from Ferrara.” Costantini was well known to the Chapter as the current locum tenens, but the canons had had no chance to audition Frescobaldi, still in Milan.
At its full strength the Chapter consisted of thirty canons, thirty-six non-voting beneficiati, twenty-six non-voting chierici beneficiati and four cappellani innocentiani (= beneficiati). In the 1620s canons were paid about sc. 65 a month, the beneficiati sc. 33, and the chierici sc. 16. Costantini received ten favorable votes (literally “white beans”), but Frescobaldi was elected with twelve positive votes and two negative (“black”) ones. The dynamics of the election were reconstructed by Claudio Annibaldi:
Costantini received ten positive votes, Frescobaldi twelve positive and two negative ones. This means that the ten canons who voted for Costantini included the two canons who had voted against Frescobaldi plus eight who voted for both competitors. That leaves four canons, and it is evident that they voted only in favor of Frescobaldi.
Enzo Bentivoglio’s agent for the election was a noble Ferrarese canon of the basilica, Count Ottavio Estense Tassoni (ca. 1547- 1609), who had been named a cameriere segreto and Foriere maggiore (the second most important official of the papal household) by Clement VIII in 1598. Estense Tassoni became a Canon of St. Peter’s in 1599 and sagrestano maggiore in 1602. Two of the four favorable voters are identifiable: Estense Tassoni himself and Evangelista Carbonesi, later the godfather of Frescobaldi’s daughter Caterina and the dedicatee of G. F. Anerio’s fifth book of Sacraræ cantiones (Rome: Robletti, 1618: Franchi 2006, 1618/19).
The story of Frescobaldi’s appointment to the Cappella Giulia and his journey from Milan to Rome can be pieced together from some thirty letters presently or formerly in the Bentivoglio Archive in Ferrara. Frescobaldi (or his publisher Phalèse) dated the dedication of the Madrigali as from Antwerp on 13 June 1608, although the composer could no longer have been in Flanders by that date. The distance from Brussels to Milan is about nine hundred miles; even at a rate of thirty miles a day the journey would have taken at least a month, and Frescobaldi’s presence in Milan by late June is documented by two letters to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara dated from the Milanese monastery of Sant’Ambrogio Maggiore on 25 and 26 June 1608 (see Chapter 4 and Appendix II, Documents 1, 2).
A fortnight after Frescobaldi’s election Estense Tassoni wrote from Rome to Enzo in Ferrara, 9 August 1608:
So much the more does my pleasure increase in having favored messer Girolamo Frescobaldi for the post of organist here at S. Pietro since I see that I have done a thing pleasing to Your Most Illustrious Lordship whom by obligation, and by my own disposition I desire to serve on every account. I have already written to [the man] himself in Milan, since he is there, and I am dealing with the Most Reverend Chapter until his reply which reply however it would be necessary to have as an answer for the concerns advised to Alessandro [Costantini], but it will be well, that you press him, at least for the resolution [of the matter].
Ottavio Estense Tassoni in Rome to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara, 20 August 1608:
For the post of organist here at San Pietro in the person of messer Girolamo there is now no longer any difficulty at all, since I am sure that he has accepted the appointment, since to make the affair certain, I had a decree made in Chapter that when he wished to come he must be accepted immediately; however I have not yet seen the Signori Canons after this notice, but on the first occasion that I have to go to San Pietro I will inform them of it. In the meantime it will be well for him to remain there, until he is rested, because wishing to make him come now would be to put him in danger of his life.
(Estense Tassoni is presumably referring to the danger of malaria in the summer heat.)
By 20 August Frescobaldi had left Milan on his way south, as Camillo Della Torre wrote Enzo:
I return to Your Most Illustrious Lordship the enclosure for Frescobaldi that you sent me with your letter of [August] 4, since this time he has left, from what they say where he was lodged, although he made no sign whatsoever to me. If I had been advised of the arrival of Your Most Illustrious Lordship I would have served you as is fitting to my duty, but I knew nothing except the same day that you left, which Count Ferrante Simoneta told me: therefore let Your Most Illustrious Lordship forgive me, and keep me as your servant… 
In fact, when Della Torre wrote, Frescobaldi was already in Ferrara, staying at Palazzo Bentivoglio.
At this point Bernardo Bizzoni, who served as a Bentivoglio agent in Rome, enters the negotiations. The traveling companion of the maecenas Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani, Bizzoni has been described as “a true artistic agent to whom great lords like the Grand Duke of Tuscany addressed themselves, thanks to his familiarity with artists and musicians” (Fabris 1986, 71). As we have seen, Bizzoni served as a liason between the aging Luzzaschi and the melomane Cardinal Peretti Montalto, with the cardinal’s musicians Ippolita Recupita and her husband Cesare Marotta. In August 1607 Bizzoni was sending Enzo Bentivoglio music by another member of Montalto’s entourage, Ippolito Machiavelli (1568-1619). In 1607-08 Bizzoni assisted Enzo and his half-brother Marchese Ippolito in conveying some of the remaining Estense art works from Cesare d’Este to the new papal nephew, Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1577-1633).
A letter from Bizzoni of 20 August 1608, the the same day as the letter of Della Torre quoted above, begins with the receipt of a letter of 13 August from Frescobaldi confirming a lost letter written by Enzo on the same date, presumably about Frescobaldi’s appointment at St. Peter’s and his continuing service with Enzo. Bizzoni wrote tactfully, suggesting that Girolamo write a letter thanking the Chapter of the basilica, to be presented by Estense Tassoni, and that he proceed to Rome without waiting for Enzo. Bizzoni did not write separately to Frescobaldi, who was lodged with Enzo in Ferrara, but he did enclose a note from Francesco Borghese. Bernardo Bizzoni in Rome to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara, 20 August 1608:
Messer Gerolamo writes on the 13 of the present month on the same day, and substance that Your Most Illustrious Lordship writes also to me. To him, both from me, and from others was given the first notice in Milan, and the letters registered to the friars of Sant’Ambrogio of the said city; there he received them, and I would like therefore to have Gerolamo write the said friars that they send him my letter for several reasons. I rejoice with him that with this occasion he is also to continue his service with Your Most Illustrious house, and particularly with the person and under the protection of Your Most Illustrious Lordship. The election of the person of Gerolamo made by the Chapter is established and confirmed, and reduced to perfection without doubt and any difficulty. I would well approve, because here the opinion is that Your Most Illustrious Lordship is not going to be here until the end of October, that (if however Your Most Illustrious Lordship does not insist on having him travel with Your Most illustrious person) he set out for here immediately: that it seems well that he be present, but not until he is truly and surely refreshed. And in the meantime, I believe that it would not be a bad idea to write a letter of thanks to the Most Illustrious Canons and Chapter of S. Pietro, and to send the said letter to the Most Illustrious Count Ottavio Tassoni to present it in Chapter, if however Your Most Illustrious Lordship judges it well, and thus to abound in caution.
May Your Most Illustrious Lordship do me the kindness of informing me if you wish to attend the wedding in Florence. Also do me the favor of reading the present [letter] to Geronimo, to whom I am not writing since it is [too] late, and give him immediately the above-mentioned enclosure, which comes to me from the Most Excellent Signore Francesco Borghese. And to end, bowing to you, I beg for you from the Lord a swift and happy arrival here…
“[T]he wedding in Florence” probably refers to the marriage celebrations of Prince Cosimo de’ Medici with the Archduchess Maria Maddalena of Austria (18 October-3 November 1608), which might have interested the impresario Enzo as a court spectacle.
Since Enzo postponed his own departure for Rome several times—he finally set out from Ferrara only on 19 November (Fabris 1986, 71)—it seemed better to Estense Tassoni for Frescobaldi to go on alone.
Ottavio Estense Tassoni in Rome to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara, 4 October 1608:
Of Frescobaldi, of whom Your Most Illustrious Lordship writes me, I confess [I have] nothing more to say, except what I communicated to him himself, that while he must come here by the 14th of the present month, being able to remain [there] until then; but while it might be convenient [to remain] longer, I would say that it were well that he come alone [now] for the satisfaction of these Signori Canons …
However, Frescobaldi missed the suggested deadline.
Ottavio Estense Tassoni at Rome to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara, 18 October 1608:
The delay of five or six days beyond what was established is of little importance and Frescobaldi can without doubt await Your Most Illustrious Lordship, but if you were to delay much longer, I would say that it were well for you to set him on his way, so that these Signori [Canons] had no reason for regret … 
Frescobaldi’s arrival in Rome at the end of October is described by Bizzoni, with whom he lodged (rather than in Enzo’s rented residence, Cardinal Aquaviva’s smallish Palazzo Capranica near Sant’Andrea della Valle). Bizzoni first defended himself against Enzo’s reproaches, transmitted by Frescobaldi.
Bernardo Bizzoni in Rome to Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara, 5 November 1608:
Our Messer Geronimo Frescobaldi has revealed to me Your Most Illustrious Lordship’s complaint against me, that I did not keep my word to come to Florence; to justify myself I say that I did not promise absolutely to come, but only showed an inclination and a desire; second, I say that I got as far as Siena, whence it behoved me to turn back for a reason that I will tell Your Most Illustrious Lordship in person…
But there was more important news:
… and the evening of the Vigil of All Saints’ I was back in Rome where with great pleasure and happiness I found in my house our Frescobaldi, safe, healthy, and contented, who arrived here on the 29th of last month and on the Vigil of All Saints’ took possession of the Organ of St. Peter’s, having also played the two following feasts with great satisfaction and applause from the Canons and other virtuosi of the profession. I wished to give Your Most Illustrious Lordship an account of it as soon as possible to be able to serve you … And praying the Lord for a happy and fortunate journey, I bow to you.
The traditional account of Girolamo’s debut is that of Antonio Libanori in Ferrara d’oro imbrunito (1665-74): “When the news had spread of this wonderful, and marvelous Musician, & miraculous Organist, they say that the first time he had more than thirty thousand Listeners, and the very oldest, and most celebrated Organists were astonished, and not a few touched with jealousy.”
Every detail of this oft-quoted statement is inaccurate. Bizzone’s description shows that whatever crowd was present owed less to the debut of a new organist than to the celebration of an important feast, the first vespers (31 October) and mass and second vespers (1 November) of All Saints: “the Vigil of all Saints he took possession of the organ of St. Peter’s having also played the two following celebrations…” An eyewitness who described the same ceremonies, the benefitiato Andrea Amici, did not even mention the organ: “… Vespers was sung in Choir as usual, and at the Magnificat the altars of the Most Holy Sacrament, of the Apostles, and the Confession of the Choir were incensed, at the end the singers sang the Motet Et omnes Angeli …” The organ in question was not one of the two imposing stationary instruments of the basilica, but a smaller portable instrument, acquired in 1605. Further, the full strength of the Cappella Giulia was not present on All Saints’, since some of the singers were engaged at the Pantheon for the celebration of the thousandth anniversary of the building’s dedication as a Christian church.
Amici’s account of the same ceremony as it was performed the previous year reveals the limited scope of the organist’s participation:
the [second] vespers of All Saints were sung at the altar of Sts. Simon and Jude [the temporary Cappella del Coro, which could have accommodated a few hundred worshippers at most] as the first vespers had also been, and when the vespers was finished the singers sang a motet while the celebrant and his ministers set off for the sacristy … and having laid aside their white copes they took their mantles, and the canon the black cope [for the first vespers of All Souls’] … the celebrant returned with his acolytes and assistants to the choir, that is to the said altar of Sts. Simon and Jude, where all the priests were, and because the motet was finished the organ played.
Frescobaldi’s publications, beginning in 1615 with his first book of Toccate and the Recercari et canzoni, describe him as “Organista di S. Pietro di Roma.” In fact, he was attached to only one of the two musical organizations that performed in the basilica. The first of these, the Cappella Pontificia (Cappella di Nostro Signore, Cappella Sistina), was in effect the pope’s private musica, which sang whenever the pope himself was present at a function, whether in the basilica or elsewhere. (Unlike today, where the normal celebration is a massive ceremony inside St. Peter’s or outside on the sagrato, in the seventeenth century the pope did not often preside and even more rarely celebrated in public.) The Cappella Pontificia consisted of some twenty-eight active singers and a varying number of giubilati or pensioners, all adult males, with falsettists—later castrati—for the higher parts. In public, the cappella performed without instruments, even the organ.
The Cappella Giulia (so called from its foundation by Julius II della Rovere), on the other hand, was tied not to the person of the pope but to the daily services of the basilica and the churches under its jurisdiction. (The only contribution made by the Cappella Giulia when the pope presided in St. Peter’s was to sing a motet, Tu es Petrus, in the organ loft [sull’organo] “when the pope passes” during the festive noise-making, the strepito, on his way from his palace into the basilica.) The Cappella Giulia, not the Cappella Pontificia, also sang the response Libera me after the Chapter of the basilica had accompanied the body of a deceased pope from the Sistine Chapel to lie in state in the Cappella Gregoriana.
The Cappella Giulia functioned under the immediate supervision of the Chapter of St. Peter’s in the person of an elected canonico prefetto della musica and the ultimate authority of the cardinal Archpriest of the basilica. At Frescobaldi’s appointment in 1608 the Archpriest was the infirm Cardinal Giovanni Evangelista Pallotta (d. 1620), for whom the melomane Cardinal Montalto served as Pro-Archpriest 1598-1609.
The composition of the Cappella Giulia in 1608 still followed Sixtus V’s bull of 1589: four basses, four tenors, four contraltos (all adult males), and six boy sopranos, replaced in 1619 by castrati or falsettists (Rostirolla 2014, I, 315); a maestro di cappella; an organist, elected by the Chapter of the basilica; and an organ technician. The Cappella Giulia was thus the largest cappella in Rome after the Cappella Pontificia. The maestro di cappella received fifteen scudi a month; the adult singers of the Cappella were paid seven scudi monthly, and the organist received six scudi; choral chaplains received sc. 4 a month.
When Frescobaldi entered the Cappella the maestro was Francesco Soriano (maestro 1603-20, d. 1621). A pupil of Palestrina, Soriano was former maestro of Santa Maria Maggiore and San Giovanni in Laterano and a member of the Congregation of Santa Cecilia. The most important figure of Roman music in the Palestrina succession, Soriano was on close terms with Paul V and his brothers, including Francesco Borghese, the dedicatee of Frescobaldi’s Fantasie.
Frescobaldi’s association with St. Peter’s lasted for the rest of his life. During those thirty-five years the building that we know today largely came into existence. In 1605 the newly elected pope, Paul V Borghese, had decided to pull down the remainder of the Constantinian basilica—nave, Cappella del Coro, atrium, and the benediction loggia—which was separated from the new basilica by an elaborately adorned muro divisorio (fig. 5.1). By 1607 work had begun on the present long nave, a ceremonial addition not part of Michelangelo’s original Greek cross plan. At Frescobaldi’s arrival in 1608 a modern observer would have recognized only the east end or tribune of the church, the four great piers, and the dome. The apse lacked the monumental statues in the niches of the piers, the papal tombs, a permanent high altar, Bernini’s baldacchino and the Confessio, and the Cathedra Petri. A painting depicting St. Peter’s as the scene of of The Expulsion of Heliodorus shows that as late as the 1620s the nave of the church was undecorated, the floor was still brick, the piers were faced in plain white stucco, and the side aisles had dark granite columns and plain stucco vaults (fig. 5.2, Lees-Milne 1967). (Bernini’s polychrome marble veneer was only added for the Holy Year of 1650.)
Frescobaldi performed his musical duties in the midst of a construction site, a scene of dust, noise, and confusion. At the height of this activity in 1611, over eight hundred workers were employed, sometimes working through the night by torchlight (fig. 5.3: St. Peters, the cantiere of the façade ca. 1611). The chapel for the use of the Chapter of the basilica (Cappella del Coro) in the Constantinian nave was left standing until 1609, when it was replaced by the temporary canons’ chapel surrounding the altar of Sts. Simon and Jude in the north (left) transept. The canons’ chapel was protected from the elements only by a canvas cover; damage from wind, rain, dirt, and damp was constantly being repaired. As late as March of 1615 the mass and vespers of St. Gregory the Great were moved from his tomb in the Cappella Clementina to the Cappella del Coro owing to the dust from the demolition of the muro divisorio (fig. 5.4: Plan of new St. Peter’s).
The surviving evidence for Frescobaldi’s tenure as organist of the Cappella Giulia is largely of two sorts. The financial records of the Cappella give, year by year, Frescobaldi’s signed receipts or those of his agents for his monthly salary of six (from 1634 eight) scudi and the salaries of the other members of the Cappella, plus payments for such items as renting, moving, and tuning organs, copying music, erecting and dismantling platforms for the musicians, and fees to extra singers and instrumentalists for special occasions (fig. 5.5). The other main source for Frescobaldi’s activity comprises two diari ceremoniali for the years 1602-20 and 1621-40 in the Archivio Capitolare di San Pietro. These were kept by Andrea Amici (d. 1642), a chierico benefitiato of the basilica raised to the rank of benefitiato in October of 1628. They detail the daily liturgical life of the basilica, with frequent references to the participation of the organ in services.
As Noel O’Reagan has pointed out, “San Pietro was a collegiate church with a very active liturgical life of its own, independent of its role as papal teatro.” The Cappella Giulia performed daily at the offices—matins and lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, compline—and the mass. Of the offices—services of readings and prayers—vespers was the most important; as in the case of All Saints, the celebration of any important feast comprised first vespers the evening before and mass and second vespers on the day itself. In addition to the offices, two sung masses and a number of votive masses were performed daily (even during Lent the ferial mass was sung in polyphony). The offices and sung masses were performed by the clergy of the basilica, with the Cappella Giulia providing more elaborate music for the major offices and at least one sung mass a day. The Cappella was expected to be present at mass and vespers of the dead on the first of each month and at a procession of the Sacrament after mass on the first Sunday of each month. The schedule of the Cappella included not only performance of the mass, offices, and votive observances in St. Peter’s, but also celebrations in other churches under the jurisdiction of the Chapter.
Details of ceremonial and music were determined by the ranking of a feast. These were, in descending order: double first class; double second class; major double; minor double; semidouble; simple double; common; commemoration (Franchi 2006,1650/3). A manuscript Cærimoniale for the basilica states for vespers: “On Sundays, and other usual doubles, there is even some distinction to be made, both in the decoration of the altar, and in the singing and the sound of the organ […]. On Sundays let the organ begin to play after the last psalm, in doubles after the first.” These protocols were further complicated by the octaves (a week of commemoration) of important feasts. In January of 1624 Amici complained:
Today … of the musical cappella, although the office was a semidouble of the Sunday within the octave [of the Epiphany], nonetheless they had the organ play at the end of all the psalms, it being customary on semidoubles to play it only at the end of the last psalm, as especially is noted in the year 1620 on the said Sunday in the octave of Epiphany which has also been noted by many as an error since the antiphon was not sung either before or after the psalms.
According to the solemnity of the occasion, the music could range from plainchant, unaccompanied or accompanied by the organ, through improvised polyphony (falsobordone and contrapunto alla mente), to composed polyphony (canto figurato) accompanied by the organ and other instruments. Plainchant, which could be sung both by the choir and in its simpler forms by the clergy of the church, was the bedrock of musical performance in the basilica. However, according to sixteenth-century editions it was performed rhythmically with differentiated long and short note-values, far from the flowing rhythms of modern post-Solesmes chant performance.
On ferias (non comuni) only part of the choir performed, led by a chorister directing chant instead of the maestro di cappella. On Sundays and feasts (comuni) the whole choir sang at mass, most of them also at vespers. Where a feast and an important feria coincided both masses were sung, as on 25 March of 1616, when the feast of the Annunciation clashed with a feria in Lent: “after terce the mass of the Madonna was sung in choir by the canons in polyphony, and the organ was played and after none the benefitiati sang the mass of the feria in music.” On 31 May 1618, when the feast of Saint Petronilla coincided with the octave of the Ascension, “the mass was sung all of the Ascension … and the organ was also played, notwithstanding it was a common.” On Christmas Eve of 1618 the Kyrie was performed “in music with organ interpolations, as on solemn feasts.”
Music with large vocal forces and instruments characterised the two special feasts of the basilica: the commemoration of the Princes of the Apostles Peter and Paul on 29 June, and the anniversary of the Dedication of the Constantinian basilica in 326 CE, celebrated on November 18. On Peter and Paul the pope presided only at first vespers and matins/mass, which were therefore sung by the Cappella Pontificia; second vespers were left to the Archpriest of the basilica and thus to the Cappella Giulia. Part of the observance was the presentation of a white horse (the chinea)—usually by a member of the Colonna family as Constables of Naples—and a silver vase with 7,000 scudi in gold as an homage of the King of Spain for the kingdom of Naples. The pope did not appear at all for the Dedication, all of whose celebrations were therefore sung by the Cappella Giulia.
For both feasts the singers of the Cappella Giulia were augmented by hired musicians, headed by singers from the Cappella Pontificia, who received a higher stipend than the other straordinari. The singers were divided into multiple choirs placed on special platforms (palchi: they could range from 2.7 meters square (S. Maria Maggiore) to 4.9m. square (St. Peter’s) and were about 3 m. high: fig. 5.6). Frescobaldi accompanied the first choir on the basilica’s portative organ; the other choirs were accompanied by hired organists on small organs rented for the occasion, plus one organetto that the basilica’s organ technician was contractually obliged to lend free of charge. Among Girolamo’s colleagues at the organs over the years we find his predecessors Alessandro Costantini and G. B. Ricci, as well as Giovanni Francesco Anerio, Pietro Eredia, G. B. Ferrini, Franceschino Mutij, G. G. Porro, Pellegrino Scacchi, and Prospero Santini. The trombones hired from Castel Sant’Angelo probably doubled the bass line of each choir, while wind players from the Campidoglio, a violin, two cornetts, and unspecified instruments doubled other vocal parts or played obbligati. Similar forces were employed for occasional celebrations, notably the canonization of Santa Francesca Romana on 29 May 1608 and the eagerly-awaited canonization of Carlo Borromeo on 11 November 1610.
Frescobaldi played for the Dedication in 1608 and for Peter and Paul and the Dedications of 1609-25. The 1614 Dedication was celebrated with “una bellissima musica” for three and four choirs (Rostirolla 2004, 443). In 1615 the Benedicamus domino was sung by two sopranos “while the organ responded at length.”
Two improvised musical genres based on chant were employed by both the Cappella Pontificia and the Cappella Giulia: falsobordone and contrappunto alla mente. These may be conceptualized respectively as structural (vertical) and ornamental (horizontal) realizations of chant. Falsobordone comprised the chanting of liturgical texts, generally psalms, to repeated chordal harmonic formulas. In improvised falsobordone the cantus firmus was sung in equal long notes, usually in the top voice, accompanied by the other three voices, resulting in a series of first inversion harmonies. In composed falsobordone single lines were sometimes richly ornamented by soloists. Falsobordone was a Roman practice especially characteristic of the virtuoso singers of the Cappella Pontificia, as witness the publications of its members Giovanni Luca Conforti (Salmi passaggiati: Venice: Gardano, 1607) and Francesco Severi (Salmi passaggiati: Rome: Borbone, 1615: Franchi 2006, 1615/11). But it was scorned as “a great shame” by the musicians of St. Mark’s in Venice, the most advanced Italian center of liturgical composition.
Contrapunto alla mente was the improvisation of simultaneous upper-voice counterpoints above a bass cantus firmus in equal long notes, the added voices being consonant with the bass but not necessarily with each other—a skill required for membership in the Cappella Giulia and parodied by Adriano Banchieri in the Contraponto bestiale alla mente of the Festino di Giovedì Grasso (1608). Banchieri, referring to the Cappella Pontificia and others, placed the effect of contrappunto alla mente precisely in its infractions of the rules:
Let them sing even a hundred various pitches (so to speak) in consonance above the bass, they are all in accord, & those bad [pitches] plus fifths, octaves, ‘stravaganze,’ and clashes are all graces that render the true effect of contrappunto alla mente.
Organ versets could be inserted (“tramezzati”—“sandwiched”) between sections of both falsobordone and contrapunto.
The mixture of various media such as chant, falsobordone, contrapunto, and organ music in actual performance can be seen in Andrea Amici’s account of the office of terce as sung before a pontifical mass to accompany the complex ceremony of vesting the celebrating bishop, on the feast of the Dedication in 1615:
The hymn was sung by the chaplains in plainchant, the antiphon was intoned by a contralto, the psalm was intoned by the same chaplains, the Gloria patri was chanted in falsobordone, and the organ played at the end of every psalm … when the psalms of terce were finished and the choir had repeated the antiphon in contrapunto… while the organ responded at length…
Other offices like terce, shorter but similar in structure to vespers, were occasionally performed. The mass of Christmas eve was preceded by matins and lauds, beginning with the Invitatory and the canticle Venite exultemus; the psalm-antiphons were sung in contrapunto and repeated at the end by the organ. During Lent, the performance of compline, the last office of the liturgical day, was a popular devotion at St. Peter’s. A double-choir compline setting published in 1630 by Domenico Massenzio (Rome: Masotti: Franchi 2006, 1630/5) was intended specifically for performance in Lent.
One of the most unusual services at which Frescobaldi performed took place on 24 July 1611. After first vespers of St. James at the altar of Sts. Processus and Martinian the congregation witnessed the abjuration of eleven heretics, nine present and two in effigy. The heretics were placed on a special platform, the singers of the Cappella Giulia on another, and the organ played briefly at the end of vespers (fig. 5.7). A lively account of a similar abjuration in 1615 in the Dominican church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva is given in a letter of the disreputable computista Girolamo Fioretti to his employer Enzo Bentivoglio in Ferrara:
There were present at this abjuration twenty-one of the principal cardinals, and there was also Cardinal Borghese, all so roughly handled by the multitude of the people that the Swiss [guards] were not sufficient to defend them from the crowd. There were also in a box with Screens some of the principal Ladies who, I assure Your Most Illustrious Lordship, heard some very beautiful things, because, as I said, in those law-cases there were goings-on of every sort [omnis generis musicorum], and they were read so well, and distinctly, and with such a sonorous voice by a Singer of the Papal Chapel, that not a single word could be misunderstood.
The restrictions on the use of the organ in Advent and Lent (see Chapter 2) were not always observed in St. Peter’s; indeed, the presence of a large congregation seems to have been more of a determining factor than liturgical propriety. (Perhaps this is the source of Libanori’s wild estimate of more than 30,000 listeners for Frescobaldi’s first appearance.) On Friday in Passion Week (the week before Holy Week) in 1614, for example:
Today Compline was sung in music and one part for two choirs and organ accompaniment, although it seems that in this Passiontide the organ should not be played, nonetheless because of the great crowd of people I believe that it can be allowed, and also the antiphon to the Nunc dimittis in contrapunto with the organ for the beat …
A Vatican Cæremoniale noted that in the three pre-Lenten Sundays, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima (now abolished), “… it is not customary to sing with the organ, although the organ is played in alternation.” The organ did not participate at Passion Sunday Vespers of 1615 (5 April), presumably owing to Frescobaldi’s absence in Mantua:
… [vespers] was sung after dinner in the usual place of S. Sixtus Pope, and Martyr with the commemoration of the Sunday, in which the organ was not played, but the first and last Psalms were sung alternatim in falso bordone, and the Hymn and Magnificat one part in music, and the other in plainsong; the antiphons were all performed in contrapunto [ …] and after Vespers Compline was said with the usual nocturn of the Dead.
The organ also did not participate a week later on Palm Sunday since Frescobaldi was still absent.
In 1617 on Friday in Passion Week the pope assisted at Compline with the canons:
… and after we received him we went into choir and there Compline was sung in music, and the organ played almost continuously, although it is Passiontide, and cesset sonus organorum [let the sound of the organs cease], nonetheless because there was a great crowd of people it is tolerated.
The bills for moving portative organs and setting up and dismantling platforms for singers and instrumentalists confirm that St. Peter’s, “both before and after its rebuilding, was rarely used as a single liturgical space in the way we think of it nowadays; it was, rather, a series of interlinked chapels and spaces used as appropriate to the season or feast” (O’Regan 1999, 121). The platforms or palchi for the singers were wooden constructions about three meters tall and 2.7/3.4 meters square that could be dismantled for storage (Morelli 1993, 186; O’Regan 1995, 134). The movable organ of the basilica, acquired in 1605 (see Chapter 11), was regularly situated near the altar of Sts. Simon and Jude, the temporary canons’ chapel, but as occasion demanded it was transported to other performing sites: the Cappella Gregoriana (where it was sometimes stored), the tribune, the sacristy, the niches in the piers, and the Chapels of the Sacrament, the Crucifix, and the Column (see. fig. 5.4). The Cappella Clementina, the northwest chapel of Michelangelo’s basilica, was also often used in the 1620s for storing risers, lecterns, and the portable organs of the Cappella Giulia. The instrument was maintained by the organ-builder and tuner Armodio Maccioni from 1611 to 1620, then by Maccione’s nephew Ennio Bonifazi.
Other services employed the two stationary organs of the basilica. The older of these had been commissioned by Alexander VI Borgia in 1496 from Domenico di Lorenzo da Lucca. At the time of Frescobaldi’s installation it was located part-way down the right-hand side of the old nave (fig. 5.8). With the destruction of the nave at the end of August 1609 the old organ was disassembled. Presumably at Frescobaldi’s instigation, it was restored by Maccioni and was moved to a position over the present sacristy door, at the Cappella Clementina in the north transept. On 2 September 1609 the organ was played in a concert for the Persian ambassador: singers in the organ loft (“above the organ”) performed, “first the whole ensemble together and then all the select voices one by one” (“Musici ‘sopra l’organo’ di tutto il concerto insieme et appresso tutte le voci elette ad una per una”). In November 1609 the canons moved to their provisional choir at the altar of Sts. Simon and Jude, protected from the weather by a cloth (diagram in Rice 1997, 49).
The second organ, whose façade by Giacomo Della Porta (1540-1602) is now preserved in the Chapel of the Sacrament (fig. 5.9), was built in 1580 by by Marino and Vincenzo of Sulmona for Gregory XIII and placed above the stair by the Cappella Gregoriana, the chapel on the southwest side of the basilica corresponding to the Clementina (see Chapter 11).
Not all of the repertory of the Cappella Giulia can be identified from its surviving musical collection. The Chapter of the basilica expected its maestri di cappella to produce new works on a regular basis, but a great number of these have disappeared from the archive. Although the Cappella is known to have performed works for as many as twelve choirs, the archive only contains mass- or motet-settings for up to four choirs (usually four-part choirs, but in one case three six-part ensembles). There were, however, recognized procedures for expanding smaller scorings into polychoral ensembles (See Chapter 3). For example, the six choirs of a Dixit Dominus, the first psalm for vespers, by Paolo Agostini may have been doubled to produce the famous twelve-choir setting performed in 1628.
The surviving sacred items in the musical archive of the Cappella Giulia dating from Frescobaldi’s tenure 1608-43 comprise both manuscript and printed sources. The chant repertory is represented in manuscript by graduals, all in large choirbook format, containing chants for the mass propers (including one volume of proper chants especially for saints venerated in the basilica copied in 1603 and 1616); antiphoners of chants for the office propers; and collections of hymns, music for Holy Week, and miscellaneous liturgical items. Printed chant volumes consist of the Graduale in the Editio Medicea of 1614 and Urban VIII’s revised hymns of 1643 for the Breviary (polyphonic settings by Filippo Vitali were published in 1636).
Polyphonic manuscripts include Palestrina’s Magnificats copied in 1581, his hymns (one volume of which was copied in 1582 and in 1619, showing the continuity of Palestrina performance by the Cappella), Lamentations copied in 1600, and masses (1602, 1607). In medium these settings range from simple four-part works such as the hymns, through Magnificats, Lamentations, and masses for five and six voices, to motets and offertories for two and three four-part choirs. Two other manuscripts contain music by maestri of the Cappella Giulia, Vincenzo Ugolini (maestro 1620-26), a processional copied for the Holy Year 1625, and Virgilio Mazzocchi (maestro 1629-46).
The overwhelming majority of printed materials in the archive of the Cappella Giulia are by Palestrina—twenty or so volumes of masses (some of them duplicates). These include G. F. Anerio’s popular edition of 1619 of three masses, including the Missa Papæ Marcelli reduced from six to four voices, and a dozen or so collections of motets, offertories, and hymns. Tomás Luis de Vittoria is represented by volumes of masses and hymns.
Francesco Soriano, maestro of the Cappella 1603-20, was a dominant figure in Roman church music under the highest patronage. In 1609 he published a collection of eight mass ordinaries for four to eight voices (Rome, Robletti), dedicated to Paul V, which challenged Palestrina on his own ground: a canonic mass, a solmisation-mass, parody masses on a Palestrina motet and on his most famous madrigal, “Vestiva i colli” (disguised as “Missa sine titulo”), and a parody of a Palestrina mass based on a Rore motet, culminating in an eight-part double-choir arrangement of the six-voice Missa Papae Marcelli. A collection of one-hundred-ten canons and oblighi on the Marian hymn Ave Maris Stella (Rome: Robletti, 1610) was dedicated to the Duke of Bavaria. Soriano’s Psalmi et Motecta (Venice: Vincenti, 1616), containing settings of mass and office propers for two, three, and four choirs and continuo was offered to Paul V’s nephew, Cardinal Scipione Borghese. In December of 1619 Soriano presented to the Canons and Chapter of the basilica a splendid volume of Passions, Magnificats and other church music (Rome: Soldi, 1619: Franchi 2006, 1619/19), constituting a summation of the composer’s fifteen years of work for the church. Its titlepage bears in color the arms of the cardinal archpriest and each of the thirty canons of the basilica (Rostirolla 2014, fig. 22).
In addition to the manuscript processional by Vincenzo Ugolini, of his printed works the Cappella archive possesses his motets and masses for eight and twelve voices, dedicated to archpriest Scipione Borghese (1622), and eight-part vespers psalms (1628), dedicated to Cardinal Girolamo Colonna. Of Antonio Cifra (c. 1584-1629), maestro at the Lateran 1623-26, maestro of the Holy House of Loreto 1609-29, and assistant conductor in 1626 at the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the archive of the Cappella Giulia preserves his vespers motets (1610), his mass collections of 1619 and 1621, and his two volumes of instrumental Recercari of 1619, which were modeled on those of Frescobaldi. Paolo Agostini, maestro of the Cappella 1626-29, is represented in the Giulia archive by his six books of masses (all Rome: Robletti, 1627) displaying his mastery of counterpoint in strict and learned style.
Newer currents in sacred music are evident in the three volumes of Antiphonae (1613) by Giovanni Francesco Anerio (1567-1630), a supplementary organist at the basilica in 1602, 1608, and 1614-16. The collection, consisting of antiphons and canticles for vespers and compline throughout the year, is remarkable not only for its comprehensiveness but also for its medium: not choral polyphony but the few-voice concerto for two to four solo voices and continuo. Anerio is also represented by his Holy Week Responsories (1606), litanies of the Virgin (1611), and his popular mass for the dead (1630, reprinted 1649 and 1677, also in two manuscript copies). In 1619 he published a reduction of the Palestrina Missa Papæ Marcelli for four voices, perhaps a response to Soriano’s double-choir expansion of the mass a decade earlier.
Of Lorenzo Ratti (c. 1589-1630), assistant conductor in 1620 and 1623-25, the archive of the Cappella contains motets for 2-8 voices (1628), litanies of the Virgin (1630) dedicated to Scipione Borghese, and motets on texts from the Song of Solomon (1632). Domenico Massenzio (1586-1657), tenor in the Cappella 1610-11, was a frequent participant as assistant conductor for Sts. Peter and Paul and/or the Dedication in 1626 (third choir), in 1627-29, 1631-32, 1634, and 1635-40. The Cappella acquired his office of compline (1630) and double-chorus vespers psalms, Magnificat, hymns, and antiphons (1634, dedicated to Canon Felice Contelorio). The archive of the Cappella also contains a unique copy of the1624 vespers psalms and Magnificat à 4 of Stefano Landi (1587-1639), dedicated to his employer and patron, Cardinal Maurizio of Savoy (1593-1657).
One of the most grandiose of the works in the musical collection of the Cappella Giulia is a manuscript mass attributed (doubtfully) to Palestrina based on Palestrina’s motet Tu es Petrus for the feast of Peter and Paul, in which the three alternating and doubling six-part choirs seem to epitomize in music the monumental conception of the San Pietro and the text that the whole building proclaims: “Tu es Petrus, et supra hanc petram edificabo Ecclesiam meam” (“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church”).
Although newer styles and media did infiltrate the repertory of the Cappella Giulia in the second decade of the century, a more conservative attitude was maintained by the other performing organization of the basilica, the Cappella Pontificia. A unique account of their repertory for Sundays and greater feasts in 1616 reveals a selection still built around Palestrina and his contemporaries, and as late as 1683 Monteverdi’s stile osservato mass of 1610 was copied out for the Cappella shorn of its companion concertato vesper-setting.
In addition to the Cappella Giulia, Frescobaldi performed at casual services in other Roman churches. His earliest documented appearance outside the basilica was in 1614, when 20 giuli were paid to “Gerolamo org[anis]ta,” for the feast of St. James (Santiago, 25 July) at the Castilian national church, San Giacomo degli Spagnoli on Piazza Navona. His collaborators included a chorus of twenty-three (probably divided into two choirs) and the composer Paolo Tarditi (c. 1580-1661, organetto), Giovanni Francesco Brissio, lute, and players of the theorbo and cornett.
The publication of Frescobaldi’s “prime fatiche,” the twelve keyboard fantasies dedicated to Francesco Borghese, coincided with their composer’s appointment to the Cappella Giulia. These works, with their rigorous contrapuntal logic and their double organization by modal finales and number of subjects, are the most cerebral of Frescobaldi’s compositions. (Indeed, they seem like a direct refutation of Costanzo Antegnati’s accusation in L’arte organica, published in the same year as the Fantasie, that “certain modish little Organists” despise the serious works of learned composers, “esteeming rather their own improvised fantasies, than those of worthy men made thoughtfully, & with great study.”
On the evidence of Girolamo’s dedication of the Fantasie, it seems to have been his custom to accumulate materials for a publication over a period of time. His next printed collections, the Recercari and the first book of toccatas of 1615, thus may be considered to embody his development in the first seven years of his appointment at St. Peter’s.