The large-scale musical composition for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra using a sacred or semisacred text is known as an oratorio.

The word oratorio comes from the oratory of a church in Rome where St. Philip Neri instituted musical entertainments in the mid-16th century for the reform of the youth of the city. The principal types of oratorio are the Italian, the German and the English, all three types reached their climax in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach in Germany and George Frideric Handel in England.

Or`a*to"ri*o (?), n. [It., fr. L. oratorius belonging to praying. See Orator, and cf. Oratory.]

1. Mus.

A more or less dramatic text or poem, founded on some Scripture narrative, or great divine event, elaborately set to music, in recitative, arias, grand choruses, etc., to be sung with an orchestral accompaniment, but without action, scenery, or costume, although the oratorio grew out of the Mysteries and the Miracle and Passion plays, which were acted.

There are instances of secular and mythological subjects treated in the form of the oratorios, and called oratorios by their composers; as Haydn's "Seasons," Handel's "Semele," etc.

2.

Performance or rendering of such a composition.

 

© Webster 1913.

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