Vincenzo Albrici (1631−1690)

Vincenzo Albrici was born in Rome on 26 June 1631 and died in Prague on 8 August 1690. Albrici was a composer and organist who came to Stockholm in 1652 as the musical director of a group of Italian singers and musicians recruited into the court of Queen Christina. On leaving Sweden, he pursued a career in northern Europe, which included the post of chief conductor of the Dresden court orchestra. He mainly composed spiritual vocal music of a style modern for his time, with singable melodic structures and clarity of composition.

Life and work

Vincenzo Albrici was born in Rome on 26 June 1631 to Domenico Albrici, who at the time was an alto singer in Capella Giulia in St Peter’s Church and from 1636 in Orvieto Cathedral. In 1641, Vincenzo enrolled at the Collegium Germanicum et Hungaricum in Rome as a boy soprano and pupil of Giacomo Carissimi. In 1646 he was employed as an organist by the college, and then from 1649 to 1651 by the Jesuits’ mother church, Chiesa del Gesù, where he served under Bonifacio Graziani.

In December 1652, Albrici travelled to Stockholm as a member of the Italian vocal and instrumental ensemble that had been recruited to the court of Queen Christina. The group comprised six castrati, a number of intact singers, musicians and a celebrated instrument builder, Girolamo Zenti. Albrici was the ensemble’s musical director and is designated in contemporary documents as the Italian hovkapellmästare (chief conductor of the royal court orchestra). As far as we can tell, the Italians were in attendance at court to perform Roman church music for Queen Christina; their recruitment had been effected through the Jesuit headquarters in Rome and is to be seen in the context of Christina’s plans to abdicate, convert to Catholicism and move to Rome. The ensemble also performed ‘Italian comedies’ for the Queen, possibly reworkings of so-called Jesuit dramas based on religious or moral themes. During Christina’s reign in Uppsala, from the autumn of 1653 to her abdication in May 1654, the ensemble were her court musicians. With the exception of the young Gustav Düben and a few other musicians who had also travelled to Uppsala to work together with the Italians, the Germano-Swedish court orchestra stayed in Stockholm. It was a musico-cultural exchange that would make a profound and lasting impact on Swedish court music, which during Düben’s time was shaped by Roman tastes and by the experiences and lessons gained from the collaboration.

While in Sweden Albrici composed a number of works, including the vocal concerto Fader wår (based on the Lord’s prayer), the first more advanced polyphonic work to Swedish words. Several other compositions, amongst them Laboravi clamans and a number of sinfonias in characteristically Roman style with improvised solo passages, can also be traced with relative certainty to his Stockholm years. The ensemble also brought with it printed or handwritten contemporary Roman music, much of which was kept by Gustav Düben. The material can now be found in the archives of Uppsala University Library, where it makes up the oldest part of the famed Düben collection.

Albrici left Sweden with Queen Christina in the summer of 1654. After a brief stop in Stuttgart, he arrived in Dresden in 1656, where he was made chief conductor at the court of Elector John George II of Saxony − interestingly he too a protestant ruler with Catholic proclivities. Albrici was attached to the Dresden court orchestra until the Elector’s death in 1680, with a few periods of leave in England, Rome and elsewhere. In 1681, he took up the position of organist in St Thomas Church in Leipzig, upon which he converted to Lutheranism. But the next year saw him back with the Catholics and working as an organist in Prague, where he remained until his death in 1690.

Albrici’s music

Albrici composed in a modern Roman style more reminiscent of Bonifacio Graziani, his colleague and superior at Il Gesù, than of his teacher Carissimi. Most of his oeuvre consists of vocal religious music. His melodic and rhythmic patterns are clear, singable and clearly steeped in the Roman aria tradition. This is particularly evident in his Fader wår, where he set the Swedish prose in a periodic, metric aria style. At the same time, he was an enthusiastic contrapuntalist with a firm grasp of voice leading and melodic lines. His harmonic touch is not particularly bold, but modern insofar as it is clearly tonal, at least in phrases and passages, and he often achieves expressive effects through the use of compelling voicing and melodic contrasts (e.g. in Cogita o homo). He uses uncommon transposition levels for his time, corresponding to keys such as A major, E-flat major and B minor. He was also one of the first to compose pure concerti with aria, a form that is usually regarded by genre scholars as an early forerunner of the German church cantata. Certain German elements informed his work during his time in Dresden, such as the use of consertante instruments in his vocal concertos.

His works enjoyed widespread popularity in northern Europe and garnered a great deal of respect. Albrici has to be considered the most internationally prominent composer active in Sweden, perhaps until Joseph Martin Kraus. Much of his music has been lost, with the largest extant archive being the Düben collection in Uppsala. Interestingly, most of these manuscripts do not date from Albrici’s time in Sweden, but were acquired by Düben through his contacts in Lübeck, Hamburg and Saxony.

Lars Berglund © 2015
Trans. Neil Betteridge


Berglund, Lars och Maria Schildt: ‘Italian Music at the Swedish Royal Court of Queen Christina’, in publication.
Berglund, Lars: ‘The Roman Connection. Dissemination and Reception of Roman Music in the North’, in: E. Kjellberg (ed.), The Dissemination of Music in Seventeenth-Century Europe. Celebrating the Düben Collection. Proceedings from the International Conference at Uppsala University 2006, Bern: Peter Lang, 2010, pp. 193−218.
Culley, Thomas D.: Jesuits and Music: A Study of the Musicians connected with the German College in Rome during the 17th Century and of their Activities in Northern Europe, Rome: ‪Jesuit Historical Institute, 1970.
Frandsen, Mary E.: ‘Albrici, Peranda, und die Ursprünge der Concerto-Aria-Kantate in Dresden’, Schütz-Jahrbuch, vol. 18, 1996, pp. 123−139.
Frandsen, Mary E.: The Sacred Concerto in Dresden, ca. 1660−1680, diss., University of Rochester, 1996.
−−−: Crossing Confessional Boundaries: the Patronage of Italian Music in Seventeeth-Century Dresden, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
−−−: ‘Musical Internationalism and Italianità in Dresden’, in: C. Herr et al. (eds), Italian Opera in Central Europe 1614−1780, vol. 2, Italianità: Image and Practice, Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2008, pp. 115−139.
Leech, Peter: Music and Musicians in the Stuart Catholic Courts, 1660−1718, diss., Anglia Ruskin University, 2004.
Moberg, Carl-Allan: ‘Vincenzo Albrici (1631−1696): eine biographische Skizze mit besonderer Berücksichtigung seiner schwedischen Zeit’, in: A.A. Abert & W. Pfannkuch (eds), Festschrift Friedrich Blume, Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1963, pp. 235−246.
Webber, Geoffrey: ‘Italian Music at the Court of Queen Christina: Christ Church, Oxford, Mus. MS 377 and the Visit of Vincenzo Albrici’s Italian Ensemble, 1652−54’, in: Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 75, 1993, pp. 47–53.

Summary list of works

Works associated with Sweden: sinfonias, Fader wår, Laboravi clamans.

Collected works

For a complete list of sources and more modern editions, see Mary E. Frandsen 2006, pp. 457–466.

Instrumental music
Sinfonia a 2 (D minor), 2 vl., b.c.
Sinfonia a 5 (C major), 2 vl., lute, teorb, spinett, b.c.
Sinfonia a 5 (A major), 2 vl., lute, teorb, spinett, b.c. [only the teorb part is preserved].
Sinfonia a 6 (D minor), 3 vl., 2 vla, vlne, b.c. (teorb, chitarra, spinetta, org).
Sonata a 5 (C major), 2 vl., 2 trp., fag., b.c.

Vocal music
Amo te, laudo te, SS, 2 zinks, fag., b.c.
Aurora lucis emicat, SATB, SATB, strings, b.c.
Ave regina, STB, b.c.
Benedicte Domine Jesu Christe, SSB, 2 zinks/vl., b.c.
Christus resurgens, STB, b.c.
Cogita o homo, SATB, 2 vl., b.c.
Dixit Dominus, SSATB, 2 vl., b.c.
Domine Deus exercituum Rex, SATB, strings, 2 zinks, 3 trb., b.c.
Ecce plangendo, ATB, 2 vl., b.c.
Ego sum resurrection, STB, b.c.
Factum est praelium, SSATB, SSATB, strings, 2 zinks, 2 trb., 4 trp., timp., b.c.
Fader wår, SSATB, 2 vl., b.c.
Gelosia non vuol ch’io scopra [canzonetta], S, b.c.
Haec quae ter triplici, STB, b.c.
Hymnum jucunditatis, SS, 2 vl., b.c.
In convertendo Dominus, SSATB, SSATB, 2 vl., b.c.
In te Domine speravi, A, 2 vl., b.c.
Jesu dulcis memoria, SAB, 3 vla, b.c.
Jesu nostra redemptio, SATB, 2 vl, b.c.
Laboravi clamans, SSATB, 2 vl., b.c.
Laetatus sum in his, SSATTB, strings, b.c.
Laudate pueri Dominum, SATB, SATB, 2 strings, 2 trb., fag., b.c.
Laudate pueri Dominum, SSB, b.c.
Mihi autem bonum est, T, 2 vl., b.c.
Misericordias Domini, ATB, 2 vl., b.c.
Mortales audite, SS, 2 vl., b.c.
O admirabile commercium, SATB, 2 vl., b.c.
O amantissime sponse, SSB, 2 vl., b.c.
O bone Jesu charitas, SA, 3 vl., b.c.
O cor meum, SS, 2 vla, b.c.
O cor meum, SS, 2 vl., b.c.
O Jesu Alpha et Omega, SAB, 2 vl., b.c.
O quam terribilis est domus tua, SS, b.c.
Omnia quae fecit Deus, S/T, 2 vl., b.c.
Omnis caris foenum, SATB, zink, vil., trb., fag., b.c. [exists in various instrumentations].
Quam suave est adorare, SATB, 2 vl., b.c.
Quantus amor Jesu, A, 2 vl., b.c.
Quis est mundus, ATB, 2 vl., b.c.
Reges Tharsis et insulae, SSATB, SSATB, strings, fag., 4 trp., 3 trb., timp., b.c.
Regina caeli, SATB, 2 vl., 3 trb, b.c.
Si bona suscepimus, SSAATTBB, strings, fag., 2 zinks, 3 trb., b.c.
Sive vivimus, sive morimur, SAB, 2 vl., b.c.
Si vivo mi Jesu, SST, 3 vl., b.c.
Spargite flores SAT, strings, b.c.
Sperate in Deo, SSB, 2 vl., trb., b.c.
Te Deum laudamus, SSATB, SSATB, strings, 4 trp., timp., b.c.
Tu es cor meum, SSB, 2 vl., b.c.
Ubi est charitas, SAB, 2 vl., b.c.
Venite cantemus, SSS, 3 vl., b.c.
Venite filii audite me, ATB, 2 vl., b.c.
Venite omnes gentes, SSB, 2 vl., b.c.

Works by Vincenzo Albrici

There are no works by the composer registered