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Alaleona, Domenico [Ottavio Felice Gaspare Maria]locked

  • John C.G. Waterhouse

(b Montegiorgio, Ascoli Piceno, Nov 16, 1881; d Montegiorgio, Dec 28, 1928). Italian musicologist, conductor and composer. He studied the piano, organ and composition at the Liceo Musicale di S Cecilia, Rome, where he gained his diploma in 1906 and was from 1912 professor of aesthetics and music history. He also graduated in 1907 from Rome University with a thesis on the Italian oratorio, subsequently expanded into an important book. His scholarly writings – notably those on Italian laudi spirituali and on Carissimi – in general helped to lay the foundations of modern Italian musicology. As a conductor he specialized in choral music, and in 1926 he founded the Madrigalisti Romani. He also fought hard for the improvement of Italian music education. His most ambitious composition, the opera Mirra, is eclectic and uneven, but shows technical enterprise – not least in the brief use of a specially constructed ‘pentaphonic harmonium’, in which the octave was divided into five equal parts (cf Indonesian slendro). Various kinds of equal divisions of the octave, and even entire 12-note chords are among the possibilities discussed in two much cited theoretical articles he published in the Rivista musicale italiana in 1911. Only rarely, it seems, did such speculations lead him to write wholly satisfactory music, but his harmonic novelties are sometimes poetic and his musicological researches helped to give a pleasantly archaic tinge to some of his vocal works.


(selective list)

for fuller list see Tampieri (1980)


Attollito portas, op.4, solo vv, chorus, orch, 1906

Mirra (op, after V. Alfieri), 1908–12, Rome, Costanzi, 31 March 1920

Il cantico di Frate Sole, chorus, org, 1926, orchd 1928

Requiem, chorus, org, 1927

many songs, incl. at least 21 settings of G. Pascoli


La città fiorita, op.12, pf, 1918

2 canzoni italiane, op.15, str, hps, cel, timp, 1917

Sinfonietta italiana prima ‘mondana’ (4 canzoni italiane), op.37, pf version, 1910, later orchd; Sinfonietta italiana ‘spirituale’ (4 laudi italiane), op.38, small orch, after 1910

6 canzoni italiane, op.3, str qt, 1922

Principal publisher: Ricordi


  • Studi su la storia dell'oratorio musicale in Italia (Turin, 1908; 2/1945 as Storia dell'oratorio musicale in Italia)
  • ‘Le laudi spirituali italiane nei secoli XVI e XVII’, RMI, 16 (1909), 1–54
  • ‘I moderni orizzonti della tecnica musicale: teoria della divisione dell'ottava in parti uguali’, RMI, 18 (1911), 382–420
  • ‘L'armonia modernissima: le tonalità neutre e l'arte di stupore’, RMI, 18 (1911), 769–838
  • ‘Il rinascimento musicale italiano e Giacomo Carissimi’, Nuova antologia, 255 (1914), 662–75
  • Corso di cultura per musicisti (Rome, 1915); subsequent edns as Il libro d'oro del musicista (Milan, 5/1944/R)

More than a hundred other articles and pamphlets


  • MGG2 (J.C.G. Waterhouse)
  • A. de Angelis: L'Italia musicale d'oggi: dizionario dei musicisti (Rome, 1918, 3/1928)
  • E.G. Rovira: ‘In attesa della Mirra di Domenico Alaleona’, Musica, 14/2 (Rome, 1920), 1–2
  • ‘Il cantico di Frate Sole del maestro D. Alaleona’, Almanacco delle missioni francescani 1928 (Rome, 1928), 3
  • G. Cardi: Domenico Alaleona: musicista e musicologo (Ascoli Piceno, 1957)
  • J.C.G. Waterhouse: The Emergence of Modern Italian Music (up to 1940) (diss., U. of Oxford, 1968), 181–3, 584–5
  • H.E. Smithers: ‘Classics of Musical Literature: Domenico Alaleona's Studi su la storia dell'oratorio musicale in Italia’, Notes, 31 (1974), 751–8
  • D. Tampieri, ed.: Aspetti e presenze del Novecento musicale: scritti e ricerche dedicate a Domenico Alaleona (1881–1928) (Montegiorgio, 1980) [incl. fuller writings list and bibliography]
  • R. Zanetti: La musica italiana nel Novecento (Busto Arsizio [Varese], 1985), 89–93
  • M. Suozzo: ‘La dodecafonia di Domenico Alaleona’, Musica senza aggettivi: studi per Fedele d'Amico, ed. A. Ziino (Florence, 1991), 603–23
  • G. Sanguinetti: ‘L'“armonia modernissima”: la ricerca teorica nell'Italia del primo Novecento’, RIM, 30 (1995), 170–211, esp. 189–96
Dizionario biografico degli italiani (Rome, 1960-)
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
Rivista italiana di musicologia
Rivista musicale italiana