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February 2014: The Pontificalia Ambrosianae Ecclesiae

The Pontificalia Ambrosianae Ecclesiae ad vesperas musicali concentui accomodata were commissioned from Vincenzo Pellegrini (Milan Cathedral Choir Master from 1612 to 1630) by the members of the Fabbrica with the aim of creating a collection of polyphonic music according to the Ambrosian Rite that would include his compositions, those of his predecessor Giulio Cesare Gabussi and those of other excellent composers who had worked within the ambit of the Duomo.

The four volumes, divided into pars hyemalis (that is the winter part of the liturgical year running from Christmas Eve up to the Lenten Feriae) and pars aestiva (from the Eve of Pentecost up to the Feast of St. Ambrose), and in turn into books for the first and second choir, were published by Giorgio Rolla, the renowned Milanese printer to whom the Curia entrusted to print its works, and were presented to the Chapter on 11 April 1619.

For the occasion, Pellegrini had valuable music type made in Venice, the cost of which was refunded by the Fabbrica, while the printing type were loaned by the Certosa di Pavia. The work, dedicated to Cardinal Federico Borromeo, earned Pellegrini 150 imperial lira, thus making him the first Choir Master after Franchino Gaffurio to compose music for the Ambrosian Rite and have it printed on behalf of the Fabbrica.

However, Pellegrini did not equal, either in compositional taste or in diligence, his esteemed predecessor Gabussi, under whose direction the Choir had also stood out due to the ability of the selected cantors. He received numerous reprimands from the governing body of the Fabbrica, which in 1625 even considered relieving him of his appointment; the composer nevertheless succeeded in retaining his appointment until 1630 when he died from the plague.