Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci

Cardinal Bartolucci with one his many choral scores
The death was announced yesterday, November 11, 2013, of Cardinal Dominco Bartolucci, who for 40 years led the Sistine Chapel Choir. He may be unknown to many people, but he actually did more to choral sacred music than anyone else still alive, especially within the Vatican. Born in 1917, he was ordained a priest in 1939, and showed interest in music at a very early age.  After serving as Chapel Master in il Duomo of Florence, at the end of 1942 Bartolucci went to Rome in order to deepen the knowledge of sacred music. Having served as Deputy Master of the St. John Lateran, in 1947 he was appointed Master of the Liberian Choir of St. Mary Major, succeeding Licinio Refice. In 1952, on the advice of Lorenzo Perosi, he was appointed Deputy Master of the Sistine Chapel.
When Perosi died in 1956, Pope Pius XII gave him the position of permanent director of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir. The ensemble of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir upon the death of Perosi was in poor condition. The situation was restored, however, thanks to the commitment of Bartolucci and personal interest of Pope John XXIII. In the forty years of Bartolucci's leadership, the choir balanced the obligation of papal liturgies with tours in various countries throughout the world, including Austria, France, Belgium, the Philippines, Australia, the United States, Turkey, Poland, and Japan. In the years of the Second Vatican Council, Bartolucci, against abandoning Latin, committed himself that the liturgical reform should not take a direction hostile to sacred music. Bartolucci was also dedicated to teaching and composition. He was a child prodigy, having composed his first Mass at age 12; his best known Mass is the "Misa Jubilei," written in the Holy Year 1950. The body of his work already published fills more than forty volumes and includes Masses, motets, madrigals, hymns, symphonic, organ, and chamber music, and above all a series of oratorios for soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Cover of a record of the Sistine Chapel Choir directed by D. Bartolucci
In 1997 Bartolucci was replaced at the helm of the Sistine Chapel by Msgr. Giuseppe Liberto, an event which aroused some controversy in the context of liturgical music, and which was criticized by Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI. Bartolucci was invited back to the Vatican to conduct a concert of choral music in 2006, and was elevated to Cardinal by the same Pope in October 2010. Even the motto he chose as Cardinal shows his love of music, “Psallam Deo Meo” (I will sing to my God.) Bartolucci was 97.

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