Voyage into the Historical Music Institutions of Bologna

by Maria Chiara Mazzi

San Petronio, the music chapel.

In this issue, we are initiating a journey into the historical music institutions of Bologna, those that have been in existence for a few centuries and that are still activeImages of old organsOld illustration of the outside of San Petronio today and constitute a point of reference in the music life of the city.
We have chosen to plan our itinerary in chronological order and to begin, therefore, from the oldest institution up to the more recent ones. According to this principle, inevitably, the first institution we must talk about is the Chapel of San Petronio.
Between the fifthteen and the sixteenth centuries many chapels, music areas adapted to the liturgical service, were established in the main churches of Bologna. Certainly, however, the most important chapel was that of San Petronio, officially established on October 4, 1436 by Pope Eugene IV, and immediately becoming a point of reference for music culture not only in the city, but in all Italy, Bologna being the second city of the Papal State.
Thanks to the presence of a strong group of singers and instrumentalists and that of two wonderful opposite organs (on the left the one of Baldassarre Malamini dating back to 1596 and to the right the oldest large organ in the world still functioning today, built in 1471 by Lorenzo da Prato, both recently restored and normally used), the music produced in the Basilica was immediately distinguished because of the double choir structure where singers positioned themselves on the balcony in two separate and opposite areas.
In the late seventeenth century, great masters active in San Petronio (like Colonna, Torelli, Perti and Carretti among others) elaborated the form of soloist concerts.Old illustration of the chapel of San Petronio
Compositions prepared in San Petronio were also characterized by the steady use of the trombone, an instrument used by the same virtuosos of the Concerto Palatino. Mozart, who followed the functions for the celebrations of Saint Patrono during his stay in Bologna at the beginning of the 70s in the eighteenth century, gave a precise account on the use of these instruments and the magnificence of the ceremonies.
Following a crisis at the end of the eighteenth century, when financial scarcity brought on the dissolution of the two vocal and instrumental groups, the chapel came back to its full institutional function in the second half of the nineteenth century under the guidance of important Italian musicologists and musicians like Gaspari, Mancinelli and Martucci who aggregated around thirty musicians paid for a whole year and whose duty was to accompany the music apparatus during about forty liturgical celebrations. After ups and downs, the Chapel was declared archiepiscopal in 1996 (following a restoration in 1984), it is today busy on many occasions and circumstances, namely the celebrations of October 4. It is also used for important music recordings and concerts which present the works of unknown masters of the past. Considered a very important music archive full of masterpieces that largely still need to be rediscovered and executed again, this institution still holds in its future "an important past".