Perosi, Don Lorenzo



The most prominent Italian church composer of the day. Born at Tortona, where his father, Giuseppe, was chapelmaster at the Cathedral. His family are musical, his father being not only an excellent organist and maestro but a composer of enough repute to be honored by a decoration from the Pope. Lorenzo began to study the piano at six years of age. In 1888 he received a diploma from the Musical Lyceum at Rome. After studying under Saladino at the Milan Conservatory he entered the Monastery of Monte Casino. There he showed such marked talent that the monks and his father persuaded him to go to Ratisbon to finish his education at the sacred music school of Franz Haberl. In 1897 he went to Venice to become chapelmaster of St. Mark's, and was ordained a priest. He is a rapid and prolific composer, and it was not long after conceiving the idea of picturing Christ's life in twelve oratorios, that his first large work, the sacred trilogy, The Passion of Christ, was given before the Italian Congress for Sacred Music at Milan in 1897. The three parts are The Last Supper, The Sermon on the Mount, and The Death of the Redeemer, and the work excited great enthusiasm. In 1898 The Transfiguration of Christ was sung in Venice; and The Raising of Lazarus was presented in the same city. The Resurrection of Christ was introduced at Rome, and so much attention did these works elicit that Pope Pius XII. made Perosi honorary master of the Papal Choir. In 1899 another oratorio, The Birth of The Redeemer, was given for the first time, and later that year he was called to Rome to become deputy master of the Sistine Chapel. In 1902 he became head master of the Papal Chapel. He has brought about a great change in the chapel, setting 'it upon a modern basis. Among his oratorios are Moses; The Last Judgment; The Massacre of the Innocents; Anima; and Transitus Animae. He has also written a sacred drama', Leo the Great; and many masses; besides two orchestral suites, Rome, and Venice. His music combines modern methods with old principles, and shows a blending of the styles of Palestrina, Bach and Wagner. His works are greatly admired in Italy, and many of the oratorios have been sung in Vienna, Paris, London, America and elsewhere, but critics disagree as to their real worth.