Document Type


Publication Date


First Advisor

James D. Christie




Fiori Musicali of Italian baroque composer Girolamo Frescoabldi represents one of the most important and exquisite works of its time. Today, the means for performing such music as it might have been in 17th century Italy is neither well known nor practiced. This project sought to discern the methods for preparing this music in a historically accurate fashion for a final performance of Messa della Madonna in its originally intended liturgical context. Research began with ten days of study in Italy under Francesco Cera, renowned organist and expert in the repertoire. I gathered information from lessons and practice on period instruments in the Rome and Latium regions, visits to churches where Frescobaldi taught and played, and archival work in the Biblioteca Catanese. Study continued in the U.S. with examination of manuscripts and treatises and visits to historical model instruments. Much of the researched centered on discerning how to organize the movements within a mass in today’s post-Vatican II church. I conducted a search for the Gregorian chants of the mass that Frescobaldi would have known in his time. With regard to the organ versets, it becomes clear that many of these pieces would be played on a 16-foot registration or all’ottava alta (the higher octave of the instrument), producing ample contrast between the different pieces. These discoveries yielded an engaging, informed, and contextually appropriate performance. I will doubtlessly utilize the work of this project in my further studies.


This project is focused on historically informed performance. The primary file is a compilation of recordings of works played first on a 16th century Italian organ, then repeated on the 1985 Taylor and Boody organ in St. Joseph's Memorial Chapel at the College of the Holy Cross. The works are recorded in the following order:

  • Toccata Avanti la Messa - Rieti
  • Toccata Avanti la Messa - Holy Cross
  • Toccata e Ricercar - Holy Cross
  • Gustate
  • Levazione - S. Barbara
  • Levazione - Holy Cross
  • Bergamasca - Rieti
  • Bergamasca - Holy Cross
  • Inno di chiusura - Holy Cross

A individual recording of each work is available as a supplemental file.

The music of Messa della Madonna was performed at a Mass celebrated August 2, 2014 in St. Joseph Memorial Chapel at the College of the Holy Cross. The Mass was co-sponsored by the Worcester chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Toccata avanti la messa - Rieti.wav (13491 kB)

Toccata avanti la messa - Holy Cross.wav (14285 kB)

Toccata e ricercar - Holy Cross.wav (54659 kB)

Gustate.wav (8062 kB)

Levazione - S. Barbara.wav (29500 kB)

Levazione - Holy Cross.wav (37284 kB)

Bergamasca - Rieti.wav (57308 kB)

Bergamasca - Holy Cross.wav (54579 kB)

Inno di chiusura improvvisato - Holy Cross.wav (15115 kB)

Poster.pptx (2653 kB)

Order of Worship.docx (53 kB)
Notes for a presentation of Messa della Madonna

Files over 10MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "Save as..."