San Filippo Neri
Alessandro Scarlatti (1660 - 1725) composed his oratorio on the life of Saint Philip Neri in 1705. The subject had died in 1595, a time when music was undergoing a seismic upheaval with polyphony giving way to accompanied melody, and would produce the sacred equivalent of opera. St Philip Neri promoted prayer meetings, or exercises in 'oratories' connected to churches. Music written and performed for such services in these surroundings became known as 'oratorios'. St Philip had several oratorios written about his life, and what was probably the first example of the form appeared in 1678, composed by Giovanni Belli. Scarlatti's is the most impressive and important work on this subject. Set to a libretto by Pietro Ottoboni, who was created 'cardinal protector' by Pope Alexander VIII at the age of just 22. Cardinal Ottoboni had a remarkable skill of identifying the greatest musical talents of the time, and those who worked for him included Alessandro Scarlatti's brother Domenico, Corelli, Pasquini and Handel. This is an important work in the development of the oratorio, and one that the young Handel may have heard during his years in Italy in the early 1700s.