The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: YOU MUST HEAR THIS: The “Air in F Major” from the Trumpet Suite by Baroque composer Domenico Zipoli. | June 30, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

I had never heard this work or even heard of the composer, the Baroque Italian composer Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726, below) who traveled to Paraguay to part in what amounts to genocide of the indigenous natives and ended up bringing  European music to South Americans. (See a reader comment for more information.)

domenico zipoli

But there it was, playing on Wisconsin Public Radio during the noontime Midday program.

Some movements featured the glorious playing of the late virtuoso and prolific French trumpeter Maurice Andre.

But the section that really caught my attention for its beauty –- its melodic lines, harmonies and rich string sound — is the Air.

It could be a great piece for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra to perform. Or maybe the Edgewood College Chamber Orchestra. Or maybe the all-string orchestra that The Ear hears will be formed at the UW-Madison School of Music in the fall.

Anyway, at the bottom, in a YouTube video, it is performed by the famed Jean-Francois Paillard Chamber Orchestra, which first brought us the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel.

The Ear hopes you enjoy it too:




  1. Here is a very favorable, early account of the Reductions of Paraguay which is available through Project Guteberg. The author is one R. B. Cunningham Graham and his book is called, “A Vanished Arcadia, Being the Account of the Jesuits in Paraguay 1607 to 1767”. It is unclear what the publication date is. Source:

    The author describes how the Jesuit leader in Paraguay, Father Montoya, dealt with the “superstitions” of the indigenous people in about 1630:

    “Then the good Fathers, with Montoya at their head, hit on a stroke of genius. Taking the opportunity when the seceding Indians were away gathering their crops, they set fire to their houses and carried off the children and the women,[84] back to the mission. The recalcitrants appeared next day at Santa Maria la Mayor, and were received again into the bosom of the Church. Heresy, also, now and then made its appearance, for two rascals, having built two temples upon two hills, transported to them the skeletons of two magicians long since dead, and the fickle people left the churches empty, and went to worship at the magicians’ shrines. But in this season of sorrow and of care, and whilst the churches in the Mission of Encarnacion were left deserted, Montoya once again showed his determination, and put things right. Not being able to cope alone with the heathen, Father Diaz Taño went to Guayrá, and induced Montoya (still the superior of the reductions in that province) to give his aid. He came, and, having armed some of the faithful, at dead of night attacked the temples and razed them to the ground.”

    And this: “In 1631 Montoya and others came in the forests of Guayrá upon the wild Caaguas. These they strove hard to civilize, but, after labouring long, with all their eloquence were able to induce only eighteen to return with them to the Encarnacion. It was `with difficulty that they were able to give them a sufficient knowledge of the mysteries of our faith to be able to bestow the rite of baptism.’ It may be that the Caaguas, not having much to occupy their minds, approached the mysteries of our faith in more receptive attitudes than is attained by those whose minds are full. But, anyhow, Montoya, with true prudence, deferred their baptism till just before their death, for a few months of life outside the forests proved fatal to them all. Faith is a wondrous thing, and able to move most things, even common-sense. One wonders, though, why, when the Jesuits learned from experience that the poor Indians invariably died when exposed to the burning sun upon the plains, they continued in their fatal efforts to inflict baptism on the unoffending people of the woods. If it were necessary, it surely might have taken place in their own homes, and the patients then might have been left to chance, to see how the reception of the holy rite acted upon their lives.”

    And this: “The Jesuits found that to make progress was not easy with these Indians, who willingly enough listened to their preaching, but refused to alter their social habits, to which the Jesuits ascribe the fact that even then their numbers were diminishing. Like most of the Indians of America, they were polygamists, which custom in their race operates differently to polygamy amongst the negroes: for whereas they seem to increase and thrive, the Indians even at the conquest often tended to become extinct. When a headman amongst the Itatines died, a number of his followers jumped down precipices to accompany him upon his journey to a better world. This custom and polygamy gave much trouble to the Jesuits, but their most admirable patience and knowledge of mankind helped them to overcome them by degrees.”

    The Indians raised money for the Jesuit order by being taxed: “Conversion and taxation always went hand-in-hand, and therefore Indians who, unbaptized, brought nothing to the treasury, having received the Gospel truths, were taxed so much a head to show them that from thenceforth they were Christians. Thus, we find that in the Paraguayan missions each Indian paid a dollar every year as a sort of poll-tax, and most of the disputes between the Viceroys of Paraguay and the Jesuits arose from the number of the Indians taxable. The Viceroys always alleged that the population of the missions never increased, on account of the Jesuits returning false numbers to avoid the tax.”

    The Jesuits used the indigenous people as soldiers to advance their own ends: “On many occasions armies of Indians from the Jesuit missions rendered important services to the crown of Spain: not only against the Portuguese, but against English corsairs, and in rebellions, as in the case of Cardenas; or as when, in the year 1680, Philip V. wrote to the Governor of Buenos Ayres to garrison the port with a contingent of Indians from the Jesuit reductions; in 1681, when the French attacked the port with a squadron of four-and-twenty ships; and at the first siege of the Colonia, in 1678, when three thousand Indians marched to the attack, accompanied by their Jesuit pastors, but under the command of Spanish officers.[130]”

    Life in the reductions: “The greatest difficulty which the Jesuits had to face was the natural indolence of their neophytes. Quite unaccustomed as they were to regular work of any kind, the ordinary European system, as practised in the Spanish settlements, promptly reduced them to despair, and often killed them off in hundreds. Therefore the Jesuits instituted the semi-communal system of agriculture and of public works with which their name will be associated for ever in America.”

    Comment by fflambeau — July 2, 2015 @ 8:51 am

  2. The Catholic Encyclopedia, which one might expect, to be most favorable to the Jesuit role in the “reductions” has some fascinating comments about them.

    Like this:

    “The economic machinery of the Reductions could be kept in motion, and the Indians, naturally averse to work and thoughtless, brought up to systematic labour only by a well-regulated direction and control.”
    {note that the same kind of remarks were made about slaves and blacks in The Peculiar Institution}.

    And this: “As a matter of fact, the Jesuits used every effort to educate the Indians up to autonomy. Their efforts were frustrated by the deep-rooted indolence of the race.”

    And this:
    Loyalty to the king and enthusiasm for his cause and person were instilled deeply by the fathers in the hearts of the Reduction Indians, Philip V himself declaring in his famous decree of 28 December, 1743 that in his entire colonial possessions in America he had no more faithful subjects. On all patronal feasts the royal standard was borne to the church with great ceremony, and the alferez real, who carried it, received with regal honours at the church door. Thereupon the banner was planted on the plaza, with a picture of the king, and the entire militia with their officers renewed their oath of homage before it in a solemn manner amid shouts of: “Mburu bicha guazu: toi cobengatu ñande Tey marangatu: toi cobengatu ñande Rey N.” (Long live our King, the great Caciquel! Long live our good King; long live our King N.). Indians took pride in calling themselves “Soldiers of the King.”

    And this:
    “Usually a healthy race, the Guaraní (the indigenous people) had absolutely no power of resistance to certain contagious diseases, such as measles and smallpox. Repeated severe epidemics of these diseases, such as occurred in 1618, 1619, 1635, 1636, 1692, 1718, 1733, 1739, and 1764, decimated the population of the Reductions in a frightful manner. Thus in the one year 1735 measles brought death to 18,773 persons, and in 1737 smallpox claimed more than 30,000 victims. In 1733 12,933 children died of smallpox.” Of course, guess who brought those infectious diseases with them?

    Under discipline and penal measures this: “It was necessary to accustom the Indians to Christian morals and love of work by mildness linked with severity.”

    And this: “The early marriages (boys were obliged to marry at 17, girls at 15), strict discipline, and surveillance fostered chastity among the natives, which aided the natural increase of the race, ordinarily not very fruitful (the average number of children in was four). Careful control and strict segregation of all objectionable elements did the rest. “Such innocence prevails among these people,” Bishop Faxardo wrote, 20 May 1720, from Buenos Aires to Philip V, “who are composed exclusively of Indians naturally inclined to all kinds of vices, that I believe no mortal sin is ever committed there, the vigilance of the shepherds foreseeing and preventing even the slightest fault.”

    And this: “The Reductions of Paraguay are justly called a model of a theocratic commonwealth. Religion ruled the entire public and private life. The entire community attended Holy Mass and the evening devotions daily. Prayers and religious songs accompanied and encompassed work and recreation alike. Religious instruction was given daily for the children…”

    Distribution of Labour and Manner of Control:

    “The economic machinery of the Reductions could be kept in motion, and the Indians, naturally averse to work and thoughtless, brought up to systematic labour only by a well-regulated direction and control. Even the children were taught to work, and day by day some of them were occupied in the workshops and spinning-rooms under special overseers, while others were led out into the fields and plantations, to the joyous strains of music, following a statue of St. Isidore carried before them, and employed there for a few hours.The women were obliged, in addition to the performance of their household duties, to spin a certain amount weekly for the use of the community, to help during the sowing and harvesting of cotton and the like.”

    Why the “reductions” were in isolated areas: “The plan of the Jesuits of forming, with rude tribes of nomads, large commonwealth, separate from the Spanish colonies, and far in the interior of a country but little explored placed before them the difficult problem of making the commonwealth economically independent and self-sustaining. If the Indians were obliged, day by day, to gather their means of sustenance in the forest and on the plain, they would never have heen lifted out of their nomad life and would have remained half-heathens.”

    Just one big happy family!

    All quotations from The Catholic Encyclopedia at

    Comment by fflambeau — July 2, 2015 @ 7:18 am

  3. The above comments about the Jesuit reductions in Paraguay display scant knowledge about the reductions and what they meant in their historical context. The Jesuits were providing a safe refuge to native peoples who were otherwise being enslaved or killed by ruthless Spanish colonials. In their own time they were considered a radically liberal social experiment, and the real colonial bad guys did their best, and eventually succeeded, in having them suppressed. The Jesuits (unlike European Americans until the mid-twentieth century) did not attempt to wipe out native languages or cultures, although they did expect those who voluntarily went to live in their settlements to adopt Catholic Christianity; they were missionaries, after all. In their minds, they were bringing a saving truth to people, much as Peace Corps volunteers bring the techniques and values of modernity to far-flung peoples, believing that they are thereby improving their lives. Judging religious people three hundred years ago by the bien-pensant secular values of the 21st century American bourgeoisie is ridiculous. Zipoli was not only (judging from this excerpt) a fine composer but truly a courageous man who forsook the comforts of late Baroque Italy to go on a perilous journey to the other side of the world, to help oppressed people. The people of Paraguay still honor the Jesuits and their good works.

    Comment by Meyshe — June 30, 2015 @ 10:50 pm

    • Granted the Jesuits may have thought they were doing something good. But the same mentality that you describe could also be applied (and indeed was used) to defend the planters and their plantation system with the “peculiar institution”. You know the image: happy slaves, singing and dancing away, while their masters fed them.

      While it is true that there is not a lot of information about what happened at the ‘reductions’, the name should tell you something about what they were doing. And definitely, the Jesuits used all means possible, including torture, to get the indigenous people to give up their indigenous religions. The Jesuits were very good at torture; they were at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. They also force-ably moved people into their settlements. They made money off of these reductions and the sufferings of the indigenous people foisted upon them.

      I know it is a popular fad to say we cannot judge people 300 years ago by today’s standards and there is some truth in that. But on the other hand, torture; killing; making people give up their indigenous religions “or else”; and forcing people to leave their own villages and homes in favor of a building put up by a Jesuit and doing things under their total control (scholars may differ, but all indicate that the Jesuits instituted a theocracy) were likely considered extremely nasty 300 years ago too.

      Lots of people in Latin America were very happy to see the behinds of the Jesuits, and in fact, they were kicked out of the continent.

      Comment by fflambeau — July 1, 2015 @ 2:21 am

      • The name “reduction,” which was used for Jesuit settlements of native peoples in both N. and S. America, actually comes from their theological belief that they were “leading back” (Latin: re-ducere) peoples to the true faith for which they had been prepared by the “natural religion” that God had granted all peoples of the earth–another very progressive idea in its time. The residents of the settlements were definitely not slaves, and were free to leave, though few would have left their prosperous settlements, where they received education in their own language and learned useful crafts and agricultural techniques, to fall into the hands of slave traders. While the reductions were ruled by the priests, and thus were “theocracies,” they were not more so than the American Puritan communities, the Shakers, and many other religious utopian settlements, not to speak of the many European and Asian regions ruled by Catholic or Protestant clergy, Buddhist priests (e.g., the traditional govt. of Tibet), etc.. In many cases these communities were more humane than our current rule by oligarchs of the dominant savage capitalist ideology, IMHO.

        There is an extensive literature on the reductions in S. America, mainly in Spanish but there is some scholarship in English. You could start with the Wiki article which seems well-documented and even-handed. I am not a Jesuit or even a Catholic, but I’ve done extensive historical research on the Jesuit missions, and there is *zero* evidence that non-Christians were ever “tortured” to convert–that was totally against Jesuit instructions (which they obeyed, as good soldiers, very well) and practice. People were coerced in other ways to convert, mainly by receiving economic and social advantage, but they were never physically tortured by Jesuits, although fanatical Protestants, who viewed the Jesuits much as conspiracy-theory anti-Semites viewed Jews, may well have added this to their many libels on the order. They were not “at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition”–simply not true, that was the rival Dominican order, and Ignatius Loyola himself and later Jesuits were often in trouble with the Inquisition and other reactionary forces in the Church due to their more open attitude toward non-Christians as well as for other reasons: see Francisco Bethancourt, “The Inquisition: A Global History” (2009), the definitive synthesis of recent scholarship on this terrible institution. The Jesuits were expelled from South American in the 1760s, shortly before the order was suppressed by the Vatican–the reasons for this were entirely based on European politics and economics, and not the wishes of the Latin American peoples. Those who were ‘happy to see the backs” of the Jesuits were the large landowners and other members of the elite who were then free to oppress and exploit the native “Indian” peoples without restraint. It is interesting that in recent history Jesuits have been among the chief supporters of liberation theology in Latin America, reclaiming their role as supporters of the marginalized.

        Comment by Meyshe — July 1, 2015 @ 12:38 pm

      • Thanks Meyshe but what happened in the “leading back” (and isn’t that in itself a ridiculous assumption when in fact the indigenous people had their own, very different religion?) when the people did not want to be led back?

        That article you reference in Wikipedia seems to undercut many of your positions. This, for instance, “With the use of Indian labour, the reductions became economically successful.” Read: with slave labor, the Jesuits were able to make money (and send it back to Spain and Portugal). Because that is what they did.

        And this (which is pretty much self explanatory): “The Jesuit reductions present a controversial chapter of the evangelisational history of the Americas, and are variously described as jungle utopias or as theocratic regimes of terror.” Note that the defenders of the “peculiar institution” (slavery) made similar kinds of arguments about the joyfulness and happiness of slaves in the plantation system.

        Third, there is this: “The missions also secured the Spanish Crown’s permission, and some arms, to raise militias of Indians to defend the reductions against raids.” The USA used a similar “Hamlet” strategy against the Viet Cong in Vietnam and it didn’t work there either. So here, it seems the indigenous people were the cannon fodder and the militia.

        Fourth: “It is generally accepted by modern historians that the reasons for the contemporary opposition to them (the Jesuits and the reductions) were political, humanitarian, and economic.” Read slavery, abuse, and exploitation.

        Fifth: “The Jesuits marshaled their neophytes to the sound of music, and in procession to the fields, with a saint borne high aloft, the community each day at sunrise took its way. Along the way at stated intervals were shrines of saints where they prayed, and sang hymns between shrines. As the procession advanced it became gradually smaller as groups of Indians dropped off to work the various fields and finally the priest and acolyte with the musicians returned alone” (Graham, 178–9). At noon each group assembled for the Angelus, after which came dinner and a siesta; work was then resumed until evening. After supper came the rosary and sleep.” Sounds like Arbeit Macht Frei, doesn’t it? Lots of concentration camps in WWII also used music and had camp orchestras. The term, “marshaled” tells it all.

        In short, this was not a utopia but the imposition of western values and beliefs (especially Roman Catholicism) upon an indigenous people who had a very different set of religious beliefs; forced conversion of them to the Western ideals; destruction of the nomadic traditions that made up the indigenous peoples; and exploitation of them for economic and social reasons. If you are into imperialism, so be it, but that is what this was.

        All quotations from:

        Comment by fflambeau — July 1, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

  4. “You will take your licking and like it for the audacity of bringing a musical moment that brought a smile to your face to the attention your readers without thoroughly vetting the moral fitness of the composer!”

    There is indeed a major question about the relationship of musicians and composers and the way they participate within the broader society. I believe that question must be asked. Once asked, the questioner is free to answer that question himself, I believe, and to listen or not listen to such a composer/musician.

    That was certainly a major concern in WWII when very famous musicians like A. Rubinstein,Y. Menuhin, Arturo Toscanini, G. Szell, V. Horowitz, I. Stern and others weighed the conduct of some of their peers (like W. Furtwängler), even whole orchestras, and their relationship with the Nazis. H. Menuhin, by himself, was so concerned with this question that he set himself the task of a kind of truth commission on Furtwängler, whom he eventually grew to believe helped resist the Nazis.

    Again, music does not operate in isolation from the larger culture it operates in. If a musician takes part in acts against humanity, gross abuses of human rights or the like or condones them, should audiences and the public not take that into consideration in their listening habits and preferences? Again, the determination is one for the individual to make after ascertaining as much information as he/she can.

    In the case of the “Reductions of Paraguay”, it should be pointed out, there is not a whole lot of historical record or evidence to sift through. It was long ago; there were not many written records to begin with and so on. But it was well known that the Jesuits were suppressing native religions, imposing their Christian beliefs on others, and indeed using torture (the Spanish Inquisition was led by the Jesuits) to get natives to give up their own religious thought, segregating natives in ‘settlements’ and the like throughout South America under a theocratic leadership of the Jesuits, and heavily taxing natives and sending off profits to Europe.

    To call someone traveling there (the composer in question) “courageous” (as the original column did), was therefore outrageous. In fact, many of the “nobility” who traveled to the New World were jobless/penniless in the Old World and/or were adventurers. Thanks Mr. Jacob Stockinger for making the changes in your story and also thanks to Ron McCrae for his thoughts.

    This is not an easy question to deal with and perhaps should be the subject of an entire “post” by Mr. Stockinger. There are numerous examples throughout history of this dilemma, I have given just one with Furtwängler.

    Comment by fflambeau — June 30, 2015 @ 10:15 pm

  5. Well, there you have it again: No good deed goes unpunished! You will take your licking and like it for the audacity of bringing a musical moment that brought a smile to your face to the attention your readers without thoroughly vetting the moral fitness of the composer!

    It is a sweet but solemn air that would make nice film accompaniment — perhaps to a long tracking scene surveying the aftermath of a Spanish massacre in Asuncion. Kidding!

    The movement has moments that seem to quote the “Ebarme Dicht” from the Bach St. Matthew Passion, and not just the pizzicato in the bass. Thanks for introducing me to it.

    Comment by Ron McCrea — June 30, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

  6. Wrong on Zipoli.

    He was a Jesuit who went to Paraguay not for musical reasons but to take part in what have been euphemistically called the “Reductions of Paraguay”. This meant putting the local populace in what amounted to reservations or concentration camps, or if you prefer, ghettos; Christianizing them; and taxing and working them (to death).

    Commemorating Zipoli is like giving a medal to SS leader Reinhard Heydrich, who by the way, was an accomplished violinist from a musical family (his father was the leader of an orchestra).

    Yes, the Air is serene but there are many better pieces of Baroque music and they have not been written by a monster.

    Comment by fflambeau — June 30, 2015 @ 12:35 am

    • “Courageously traveled to Paraguay”? Where did you get that from?

      Comment by fflambeau — June 30, 2015 @ 12:38 am

    • Thank you for your correction. I got the info from some blurb-like source that underplayed the so-called “Reduction.”

      I apologize for the error and will modify the posting.

      But that said, I stand by the music’s beauty. My intent is not to commemorate Zipoli but only to bring a relatively unknown piece of remarkable music to the public.

      Some fine artists of all kinds were miserable, reprehensible or deeply flawed human beings. Apparently, Zipoli was one of them.

      Comment by welltemperedear — June 30, 2015 @ 7:54 am

      • I agree that the music is indeed delightfully serene. Thanks for the changes.

        This is a moral and philosophical dilemma that could prove fodder for many posts here!

        Comment by fflambeau — June 30, 2015 @ 10:29 pm

  7. The All-University String Orchestra has been a fixture in the UW – Madison School of Music for decades – my mother played in it back in the 80’s, and I remember it being in existence when I first started at the SOM in 1974. I find it highly unlikely that the SOM would start another string orchestra when the All-University String Orchestra is in existence.

    Comment by bratschespeilerin — June 30, 2015 @ 12:31 am

    • The long-lived string orchestra you cite is open to all students, including amateurs. The one I am talking about will apparently be formed for music majors and, given a lack of wind players, will replace the UW Chamber Orchestra.

      Comment by welltemperedear — June 30, 2015 @ 7:50 am

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