Domenico Zipoli Revisited

Giovanni Arledler, SJ

 Giovanni Arledler, SJ / Culture / 23 May 2019

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Until 50 years ago, the name of Domenico Zipoli (Prato, 1688 – Córdoba, 1726) was associated with an Elevation and a Pastorale often found in organ anthologies, some Suites for harpsichord and a handful of biographical notes that were often largely incorrect.[1] Now, however, this musician from the Italian city of Prato is considered the most renowned among Jesuit musicians and the main artist among the composers of the Reducciones in Paraguay. We have an abundance of information on his life and his musical scores thanks to a recent monograph that places him in his context and recognizes his spirituality and his liturgical and pastoral intentions.

From music to religious ideals

Sergio Militello, who teaches the theology of Music at the Gregorian University in Rome, presents Zipoli to us in a precise chronological order, which we will follow closely for the sake of the reader.[2] His synthesis obtained a foreword from Pope Francis, who, among other things, writes: “It is the portrait of a young missionary who, through the gift of music cultivated with passion and enthusiasm, achieved a wonderful work of evangelization that is still remembered today.”[3]

Born into a farming family on October 17, 1688, Domenico completed his normal and musical studies following the customs of the times, in the choir, first at the cathedral in his city, Prato, and then in nearby Florence (1707-08). In just a few years he completed his formation and began to compose sacred music, for example, the oratorio Sarah in Egypt, in collaboration with the greatest composers of his time. The Grand Duke of Tuscany sent him to Alessandro Scarlatti in Rome and Naples toward the end of 1708, but Domenico, still little more than 20 years old, and probably gifted with a meek and religious spirit, was content with his aspiration to become a good choirmaster and had no ambition to rival the great European composers.

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