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Women Composers
The Lost Tradition Found

Medieval through Classical, page 1 of 4

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1170) (Germany), a unique and extraordinary woman by any century's measure, wrote books on natural science, theology and medicine and the first morality play set to music. She composed a large collection of religious music, Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum (Symphony of the harmony of celestial revelation). Noble by birth, her resources probably helped her to found her own Order in Germany, and she earned the respect of kings, emperors and churchmen. The title of her collection, "Symphonia," refers, in addition to its more general musical meaning, to the medieval style hurdy-gurdy called a symphonia, used in this performance of 0 Jerusalem. The songs in this collection are in Latin, and, as common with plainsong, were written as a single line of music. This performance includes echoes and drones inspired by Hildegard's melodies and poetry. It is not known how this music may have been performed in Hildegard's time.

Francesca Caccini (1587-between 1628 and 1640): Francesca Caccini's father Giulio, along with Peri, is credited with writing the first opera. Francesca sang and played lute, guitar and harpsichord, all very well, according to Monteverdi. She began composing major entertainments during her late teens. Although Francesca spent most of her life in Florence, she traveled widely, and made her singing debut at the wedding of Maria de Medici to Henri IV, King of France, in 1600. She became a musician for the Medici Court in 1607 and by 1613 was one of the highest paid musicians in Florence. In 1615 she published her first book of monodies, and with it gained respect as a composer. She then began to write large-scale operas, one of which was the first Italian opera to be produced outside Italy when it was performed in Warsaw in 1682. Caccini also wrote madrigals, canzonettas, musical settings for sonnets, variations and sacred works. Her music is very dramatic and uses unprepared dissonance, precisely indicated ornaments and word painting. As a singing teacher Caccini produced a whole school of disciples.

Isabella Leonarda (1620-1704) (Novara, Italy) joined the Collegio Sant'Orsola (the Order later called Ursulines) at the age of 16. Her father was a member of the minor nobility and a Doctor of Law. Two of her brothers were canons of the Novara cathedral, and at least two sisters also were members of the Collegio Sant'Orsola .Her oldest brother inherited the family title and was a civic official in Novara. His descendants still live in the city and the family archives include much information about Isabella, including a representation of her on a family tree shown in the accompanying CD booklet. When she was 20, Leonarda's first published music appeared in a collection by the Maestro de Capella at the Novara cathedral, Gasparo Casati, who may have been her teacher.

Leonarda published 20 volumes of music during her life, of which two have been lost. The surviving volumes contain more than 200 pieces of music. One is entirely instrumental ­11 trio sonatas and a sonata for solo violin and organ continuo. The vocal works include psalms, magnificats, responsories, litanies, four masses, and many works with non-biblical texts (including four in Italian) which are usually labeled motets. The choral music is for soprano (canto), alto, tenor, and bass. All of the music, including the instrumental sonatas, would have been appropriate for liturgical use, but no records survive to tell us for what occasions her music was written or used, or even where it was performed. Leonarda's works are found in widely scattered locations, however, often with parts missing, indicating that they had been used.

In Italy, her music is found in Bergamo, Siena, Bologna, Como, and Pistoia. Her music is also in Benedictine libraries in Einsiedein (Switzerland), Bueron, and Ottbeuren (Germany). Other works are located in national museums in England and the United States, in Munich, and at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. Brossard owned several of her works, which he esteemed highly and which are now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. [Brossard's collection of manuscripts was acquired by Louis XV in 1724, and became the nucleus of the music collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale.] No manuscripts survive, only published music. Perhaps works were composed and published in quick succession, but it is more likely that Leonarda selected music for her published volumes from among her manuscripts.

Barbara Strozzi (b.1619. Last published in 1664) composed some of the most extraordinary music of the 17th century and was considered the best singer and lute player in Venice. She was probably the illegitimate daughter of the poet Giulio Strozzi, who adopted her when she was nine. He saw to it that she received the best musical education and encouraged her to compose, publish and perform. The Strozzi home was the meeting place for groups of highly educated men who met to discuss the arts and sciences, which greatly influenced Barbara's development.

One group in which she was particularly interested was the Accademia degli Unisoni, or the "group of similar thinkers" founded in 1637. Their meetings were devoted to musical performances as well as to academic discourse, and Barbara played an important role as singer, lutenist, composer and collaborator. She commissioned poetry from members of the academy, set it to music, and performed and published it. At the time, there was no consensus that women had souls or belonged to the human race, and because of the role she played in a "man's world," she and the Accademia degli Unisoni gained much notoriety. Strozzi's music is similar to, but more lyrical than that of Cavalli, her teacher, and displays the wide variety of musical forms used in her day: full and partial da capo arias, strophic arias, strophic variations, and multi-sectioned cantatas using both free recitative and arias. Strozzi wrote arias, dramatic cantatas, madrigals and duets. She published eight volumes of works, including more cantatas than any other 17th-century composer.

Anna Amalia, Princess of Prussia (1723-1807) "March" for Regiment "Graf Lottum" from Four Regimental Marches (arr. for string quartet and double bass)

Anna Amalia, Duchess of Saxe-Weimar (1739-1807), the niece of Frederick the Great and daughter of Charles I, married at 16 and was the mother of two sons. She assumed the duties of regent for her underage son upon the early death of her husband. Apparently she ruled the duchy well and still had time to cultivate the arts and study composition and piano. She founded the German theatre in Weimar and is considered the founder of the Weimar museums. A very talented and cultured person, she surrounded herself with musicians and writers. Between 1788 and 1790 she traveled to Italy to study music and the visual arts. While there she met Paisiello who impressed her, as did the Italian vocal style.

Maria Theresia von Paradis (1759-1824): Paradis' father was the Imperial Court Secretary in Vienna, the cultural and political center of the Hapsburg empire. Maria Theresia was named after the Empress, who subsequently paid for her education. She went blind as a child, but because of her talent, had the best music teachers in Vienna, including Salieri for composition and singing. A keyboard virtuoso who was idolized by the public, both Salieri and Mozart wrote concertos for her. In the 1790s, Paradis stopped giving concerts, preferring to devote her time to composing and teaching. She spent the remainder of her life in Vienna where, in 1808, she founded an institution for music education for the handicapped. Since most of her music was not published, very little of it remains. This song was published in a collection of twelve songs from her European tour of 1784-1786.Continue to Romantic So

ngs by European women composers



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