Alberico Vitalini – An Embodiment of the Truly Catholic Artist

Aurelio Porfiri

It is unfortunate that 2021 passed without the commemoration of an important Catholic musician, a layman who devoted much of his life to writing music for the liturgy, and to serving the Church and the Holy See in the best way possible.

I am talking about Alberico Vitalini (1921-2006), whom I had the joy of knowing and frequently meeting in the last years of his life, often visiting him in his apartment in Piazza della Città Leonina, very close to Saint Peter’s Square, where he welcomed me with a gracefulness that was one of the characteristics of his personality.

He had composed symphonic-choral works, works for various instruments and a lot of film music. From 1950 to 1987, he was in charge of the musical programs of Vatican Radio, and right there he met with Sister Dolores Aguirre who, at a certain point, commissioned him to compose songs for the liturgy, especially in Italian. Maestro Vitalini wrote an enormous number of pieces for Vatican Radio, which were then recorded and are still broadcast in liturgical programs. Some songs by him are still performed in our liturgies, such as A te nostro Padre, which has entered the repertoire of many Italian parishes. He also harmonized the Christus Vincit that you can hear as the distinctive soundtrack of Vatican Radio.

Musicians are often characterized as being difficult and emotional. I must say that this is true. But in the case of Maestro Vitalini, those who knew him cannot fail to remember the great elegance of the person, his exquisite kindness and the way he knew how to encourage a very young stranger like me, by offering the same respect with which he would have treated a colleague. I never heard him speak ill of his colleagues, and he also demonstrated his profound Catholicism in his life. He had not had an easy life because of some family events, yet he had never lost his nobility as a gentleman, what we all call “a true gentleman.”

I wanted to do more to pay tribute to him and etch his memory in people’s minds, but life often leads us to become distracted and forget important things. I very much hope that there will be those who will be able to grasp his artistic heritage and will take an example from his personality, learning that one can be a great artist without necessarily being completely temperamental.