noun \ˌr-ə-ˈtr-ē-ˌō, ˌär-\

: a large piece of music for a group of singers and musicians that is usually about a religious subject

plural or·a·to·ri·os

Full Definition of ORATORIO

:  a lengthy choral work usually of a religious nature consisting chiefly of recitatives, arias, and choruses without action or scenery

Origin of ORATORIO

Italian, from the Oratorio di San Filippo Neri (Oratory of St. Philip Neri) in Rome
First Known Use: 1731


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Large-scale musical composition on a sacred subject for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra. The term derives from the oratories, community prayer halls set up by St. Philip Neri in the mid 16th century in a Counter-Reformation attempt to provide locales for religious edification outside the church itself, and the oratorio remained a nonliturgical (and non-Latin) form for moral musical entertainment. The first oratorio, really a religious opera, was written in 1600 by Emilio del Cavaliere, and the oratorio's development closely followed that of opera. Giacomo Carissimi produced an important body of Italian oratorios, and Marc-Antoine Charpentier transferred the oratorio to France in the later 17th century. In Germany the works of Heinrich Schütz anticipate the oratorio-like Passions of Johann Sebastian Bach. The most celebrated oratorio composer was George Frideric Handel; his great English works include the incomparable Messiah (1742). Handel inspired Franz Joseph Haydn's great Creation (1798) and exerted great influence on the 19th-century oratorio, whose composers include Hector Berlioz, Felix Mendelssohn, and Franz Liszt. Though the oratorio thereafter declined, 20th-century oratorio composers included Edward Elgar, Igor Stravinsky, Arthur Honegger, and Krzysztof Penderecki.


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