ORAZIO BENEVOLO (1605 - 1672)
During his lifetime and for many years after his death Orazio Benevolo was considered one of the worthiest successors of Palestrina. He was born on 19 April 1605 in Rome. His father, Master Robert Vénevot, from Chatillon-sur-Seine a pastry-cook, settled in Rome between 1580 and 1590. His son Orazio was admitted on February 1617 to the choir-school of the Church of St Louis of the French, where his first choirmasters were Vincenzo Ugolini, and Lorenzo Ratti.
In 1623 the rectors of St Louis re-organized the musical establishment of the church and closed the choir-school. Benevolo, who was still at the school as "grand enfant", received compensation for good service. As an accomplished organist he quickly found a place as maestro di cappella at Santa Maria in Trastevere, then at the church of the Ospedale del Santo Spirito. In 1638, on the death of Ugolini, who had returned to St Louis, he was invited to succeed his teacher and retained this position until 1644, when he went to Bavaria to direct the ducal chapel. In 1646 he returned to Rome and was appointed to Santa Maria Maggiore, where he remained only a few months before assuming the direction of the Dapella Giulia, the musical establishment of the Basilica of St Peter, a position that he retained until his death on 17 June 1672. The position offered him many opportunities to direct and compose for Rome's grandest ceremonies. When certain pontifical singers were invited to the first High Mass of 1632 it was a Mass for six choirs by Benevolo that was performed. In December 1655 Rome welcomed Queen Christina of Sweden and Pope Alexander VII had a Te Deum sung at St Peters to celebrate the Queens conversion to the Catholic faith. On this occasion it was again to Benevolo that they turned for music for six choirs.
Regrettably, Benevolo did not publish any of his large-scale choral works. Only some smaller motets for two and three voices appeared in collections of music by different composers, published in Rome and in northern Italy. All the same, his reputation for skill in writing polychoral works was such that it lasted several generations and Giuseppe Ottavio Pitoni, one of his successors at the Cappella Giulia and a famous teacher, had the scores of a series of his compositions for two, three four and six choirs restored for his pupils to study as models of the genre. Some of Benevolo's contemporaries, indeed, spoke of him as the Palestrina of their time. Some of these study scores have been preserved and were published from 1950 by the Reverend Lorenzo Feininger, while the rest of his work remains scattered in various libraries.