Biography

Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726) was an Italian Baroque composer. As a Jesuit he volunteered to work in the Reductions of Paraguay where his musical expertise did much to develop the natural musical talents of the Guaranis. He is remembered as the most accomplished musician among Jesuit missionaries.

Born on 17th October 1688 in Prato, Florence, his early years were spent as a member of the famous Cathedral choir of Prato. In 1707, and with the patronage of Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, he was a pupil of the organist Giovani Maria Casini in Florence. In 1712 he studied under Alessandro Scarlatti in Naples, then Bologna, and finally in Rome under Bernardo Pasquini. Two of his oratorios date from this early period: San Antonio di Padova (1712) and Santa Caterina, virgine e martire (1714). In 1715 he was made the organist of the Church of the Gesù, in Rome, a prestigious post. The following year he composed his best known work: Sonate d’intavolatura per organo e cimbalo.

For reasons that are not clear, in 1716 Zipoli was in Seville, where he joined the Society of Jesus with the desire to be sent to the Reductions of Paraguay in Spanish Colonial America. Still a novice, he left Spain with a group of fifty-three missionaries, who reached Buenos Aires on the 13th July 1717. He completed his studies in Cordoba (1717-1724) though, for the lack of an available bishop, he could not be ordained a priest. All through these few years he was already Kapellmeister, a post encompassing the various tasks of organist, choir master, and composer. Soon his works came to be known from Paraguay to Peru, whose viceroy wrote to Cordoba soliciting Zipoli’s compositions. Struck by tuberculosis Zipoli died in the Jesuit house of Cordoba (in what is now Argentina), on the 2nd January 1726. His ashes are preserved in an urn placed in the ancient Jesuit church of Santa Catalina, in the mountains of the Province of Córdoba (Argentina).

Zipoli continues to be well known today for his keyboard music. His Italian compositions have always been known, but recently some of his South American church music was discovered in Chiquitos, Bolivia: two Masses, two psalm settings, three Office hymns, a Te Deum laudamus, and other pieces. A Mass copied in Potosí, Bolivia in 1784, and preserved in Sucre, Bolivia, seems a local compilation based on the other two Masses. His dramatic music, including two complete oratorios and portions of a third one, is mostly gone. Three sections of the ‘Mission opera’ San Ignacio de Loyola - compiled by Martin Schmid in Chiquitos many years after Zipoli’s death, and preserved almost complete in local sources - have been attributed to Zipoli.

For decades, his music continued to be highly regarded by his Jesuit colleagues, decisively influencing later composers.

Edited by Grosseteste on 27 Mar 2012, 09:03

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