“I bring to your attention the miracles of a Cremonese woman called Sofonisba, who has astonished every prince and wise man in all of Europe by means of her paintings, which are all portraits, so like life they seem to conform to nature itself. Many valiant professionals have judged her to have a brush taken from the hand of the divine Titian himself; and now she is deeply appreciated by Philip King of Spain and his wife who lavish the greatest honors on the artist.”
Gian Paolo Lomazzo (Libro de Sogni, 1564) describing the genius of Sofonisba Anguisola in the context of an imagined conversation between Leonardo da Vinci, representing modern painting, and Phidias, the artist from Antiquity.
Anguisola, Bernardino Campi Painting Sofonisba Anguissola, c. 1550
The image we’ve chosen to represent the upcoming Magnificat program featuring music by four women from the 17th century was painted by the extraordinary Sofonisba Anguissola in 1550. An exceptional work that captures the place of women in late Renaissance, the painting is both a self portrait, a portrait of her master teacher, and a compelling allegory of women as defined by men of the period. It aptly symbolizes the barriers to artistic expression faced by women and the fruits of the individual struggle in the face of those barriers.
Anguissola was born in Cremona around 1532, the oldest of seven children, six of whom were daughters. Her father, Amilcare Anguissola, was a member of the Genoese minor nobility and her mother, Bianca Ponzone, was also of an affluent family of noble background. At fourteen, Anguissola started studying with Bernardino Campi, at the Lombard school and later on under Bernardino Gatti. It is clear that her privileged status as a noble woman were a contributing factor to the fact that she had been given an opportunity to become an artist. Read more at Suite101
Although Sofonisba enjoyed much more encouragement and support than the average woman of her day, her social class did not allow her to transcend the constraints of her sex. Without the possibility of studying anatomy or drawing from life (it was considered unacceptable for a lady to view nudes), she could not undertake the complex multi-figure compositions required for large-scale religious or history paintings. Instead, Anguissola created wry and witty portraits of family members and acquaintances.
“Sofonisba’s painting of her teacher, painting her portrait – a story within a story – demonstrates how she negotiated her male-dominated world. Anguissola’s gaze rivets the viewer of the painting, forcing consideration of what appears to be the inscribing of male authority on the body of the female. Campi’s gaze complicates matters, however, since as he paints he, too, looks out of the painting toward what the picture indicates must be his subject, Anguissola. Thus the viewer in front of the painting plays a double role: that of the subject of the painting within the painting, namely Anguissola herself, and of an engaged viewer – watched by both Campi and Anguissola – made complicit in Anguissola’s destabilizing of contemporary social norms.” (Read more at wga.hu)
As the days finally start getting longer, it’s a good time to look back on the remarkable year that Magnificat enjoyed in 2010 – our biggest audiences ever, two appearances at the Berkeley Festival, the release of the first volume of Cozzolani’s complete works and, of course, lots and lots of spectacular music. In the past twelve months Magnificat performed 16 times in venues ranging from Yoshi’s to Grace Cathedral. We performed music by Alessandro Grandi, Claudio Monteverdi, Barbara Strozzi, Antonio Vivaldi, Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, John Blow, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Nicolas LeBegue, Biagio Marini, and Dario Castello.
Our first performances of the year were also the first performances in almost 400 years of the first works designated as “cantatas.” Soprano Laura Heimes was featured in a program that included three cantatas, a madrigal and a sonnet from Alessandro Grandi’s 1620 collection Cantade et Arie, in which the composer used to the term “cantada” to distinguish three settings of strophic poetry for soprano and continuo. Each of the works employs a compositional strategy identified by musicologists as “strophic bass” cantatas, an example of strophic variation with which many composers were experimenting at the time. Sadly, the only copy of Grandi’s historic 1620 collection thought to survive into the 20th century was destroyed in the Second World War, a previously unidentified copy of the print was uncovered recently and, working with musicologists Giulia Giovani and Aurelio Bianco, Magnificat had the honor of presenting some of Grandi’s collection for the first time in centuries.
In April, we went from a modern premiere to perhaps the best known work from the 17th Century, Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, celebrating the 400th anniversary of this watershed publication with three performances, including one at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. “With Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers, Magnificat is approaching music that is generally familiar to our audience — many of whom have even sung the piece — and each of the musicians involved can list multiple performances of the work on their resumes,” noted Artistic Director Warren Stewart. “Yet turning to Monteverdi’s familiar music together is no less a revelation than any premiere, especially in the company of musical friends that bring such a breadth of experience with them to the performances.” Magnificat was joined for these performances by the early wind ensemble The Whole Noyse.
In addition to our own 2009-2010 season, Magnificat also appeared twice at the Berkeley Early Music Festival in June. On June 11, we presented a program that featured nine motets by Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, eight of which we had just recorded in completion of our project to record her complete works. Volume I of the two volume set for formally released ina CD release party at Yoshi’s on June 7, though the actual delivery of the CDs was delayed due to printing issues. We have now begun the post production process for Volume II, which is now planned for release at our concerts in March 2011.
Magnificat also participated in the Festival Finale concert on June 13, a concert that featured all the mainstage ensembles from the Festival in a “Vespers from Monteverdi to Vivaldi.” It was an honor to join ARTEK, AVE, Archetti, the Marion Verbruggen Trio, Music’s Recreation and ¡Sacabuche! in Monteverdi’s hymn Ave maris stella and Vivaldi’s g minor Magnificat under the direction of Magnificat’s Artistic Director Warren Stewart. In addition, Magnificat performed Barabara Strozzi’s motet “O Maria” and the Dixit Dominue from Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers.
Our 2010-2011 season opened in October with a production of John Blow’s Venus and Adonis. Again, these performances were something of a first – these were the first performances of Blow’s revised version of the work. Soprano Catherine Webster sung the part of Venus; countertenor José Lemos sang the role of Cupid; and bass Peter Becker was Adonis. Magnificat was joined in these performances by members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, who made a cameo appearance as the little cupids. The edition for our performance was generously provided by The Purcell Society and Stainer and Bell.
On the weekend of December 17-19, Magnificat performed Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit for three near-capacity crowds in Menlo Park, Berkeley and San Francisco. The program also included Charpentier’s Dialogus inter angelos et pastores and arrangements of many of the French noëls used by the composer in his delightful mass setting.
Of course we still have two programs remaining in the 2010-2011 season. On the weekend of February 4-6, a program featuring soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani exploring the music of four remarkable women of the 17th Century: Francesca Caccini, Barbara Strozzi, Isabella Leonarda and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre. The season will conclude March 18-20 with a staged production of Orazio Vecchi’s madrigal comedy L’Amfiparnaso in collaboration with commedia actors from the Dell’Arte Company.
Thanks to all the musicians appeared in Magnificat concerts during 2010 – Elizabeth Anker, Annette Bauer, Peter Becker, Meg Bragle, Louise Carslake, Daria D’Andrea, Hugh Davies, Rob Diggins, John Dornenburg, Jillon Stoppels Dupree, Paul Elliott, Ruth Escher, Steve Escher, Jeff Fields, Katherine Heater, Richard Van Hessel, Daniel Hutchings, Jennifer Lane, Christopher LeCluyse, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, José Lemos, Anthony Martin, Clifton Massey, Matthias Maute, Carla Moore, Herb Myers, Jennifer Paulino, Elisabeth Reed, Ernie Rideout, Robert Stafford, Sandy Stadtfeld, David Tayler, Brian Thorsett, Kiri Tollaksen, Hanneke van Proosdij, Jolianne von Einem, Catherine Webster, and David Wilson.
Many thanks as well to Magnificat’s Board of Directors: Nicholas Elsishans, John Golenski, Dorothy Manly, Michael Patterson, Michael Barger, Mickey Butts, Richard Fabian, Michael King and Chuck Thiel; our irreplaceable concert and stage team of Margriet Downing and Julianna Wetherwax; creative director Nika Korniyenko and recording magician Boby Borisov. Most of all thank you to all those that have supported us with donations, CD and ticket purchases and all the good will on Twitter and Facebook. We look forward to sharing beautiful music with all of you in the new year!
Here’s a sample of photographs from 2010. Lots more can be viewed on our Flickr page.
Another release – and this time one of the musicians’ favorites. The four voice motet Psallite, superi sets a text for the Assumption (August 15); its refrain frames a series of questions whose answers are taken from a standard Song of Songs verse used on the liturgy of that day in Cozzolani’s Benedictine breviary. The form of this dialogue also derives from the cantilena motets pioneered in Alessandro Grandi’s book of 1619. The scoring (two sopranos, two altos) points directly to the all-women choir of S. Radegonda’s nuns, the ensemble which presumably premiered most of Cozzolani’s music.
Magnificat has performed Psallite superi several times – on our series and on the Carmel Bach Festival series in 2002 and again on the Music Before 1800 series in New York in 2005. This recording features Catherine Webster, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, Meg Bragle and Deborah Rentz-Moore with David Tayler, theorbo and Hanneke van Proosdij, organ. As always the producer was Peter Watchorn and the engineer Joel Gordon.
We will continue releasing digital versions of the remaining tracks over the next few months and hope to have the physical CD available in time for Magnificat’s final concerts of the season in March 2011.
Magnificat’s creative director Nika Korniyenko has posted some photos from Magnificat’s rehearsals for this weekend’s Charpentier performances. Here are a few, the full set can be viewed on our Flickr page. Photos from yesterday’s concert at St. Patrick’s Seminary will be posted later today.
The program for this weekend’s concerts, with text and translations, can be downloaded here (PDF.)
click image to download full program (PDF)
The music on Magnificat’s program this weekend was composed during the decade that Marc-Antoine Charpentier served as maître de musique at the principal Jesuit Church of St Louis in Paris. As a result of his early education, both in France and Rome, and his inclinations as a composer, Charpentier had ideal credentials as a Jesuit composer and benefited from the Jesuits’ liberal, even worldly, approach to the arts and religious education and the decade he spent working for the Jesuits was remarkably productive.
The sumptuously decorated Eglise St. Louis, now called St. Paul-St. Louis, was built on Rue Saint-Antoine in the affluent Marais district. Commissioned by Louis XIII, who ceremoniously laid the first stone in 1627, the church was completed by 1641 and is one of the oldest examples of Jesuit architecture in Paris. The design of L’Eglise St. Louis, directed by Etienne Martellange and Francois Derand, was inspired by the baroque-style Gesu Church in Rome, and, like Charpentier’s music, incorporates elements of both Italian and French styles. Its congregation was wealthy and sophisticated and they no doubt greatly appreciated (and generously supported) the church’s lavish architecture, marble, gold and silver ornament and exquisite paintings. They would have also appreciated Charpentier’s sensuous and expressive music performed by the finest musicians in Paris, including singers from the Opera.
The most distinctive feature of Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit is of course its use of the melodies of traditional French Christmas carols, or noëls. The use of the word noël in reference to the birth of Christ can be traced back even further to the 13th century. The word is related to newness, as in “good news” or “New Year,” and was used in non-Christmas contexts as well. By Charpentier’s time, noël could refer to Christmas Day itself, songs related to Christmas (like those upon which his mass is based), or simply an exuberant cry of rejoicing. Since the fifteenth century noëls have been sung by Frenchmen of all classes to celebrate the Christmas season. Most of the tunes that Charpentier employed in his setting of the mass ordinary were already centuries old and would have been as familiar to his listeners as Silent Night or O Come All Ye Faithful would be to audiences today. Indeed, many of the noëls used by Charpentier are still sung in Francophone countries around the world today.
The tunes themselves most often had an existence independent of their Christmas lyrics and with very few exceptions collections of noëls (typically called Bibles des Noëls) contained only the texts with an indication to sing the words to a tune (or timbre) often identified by their commonly known secular titles. Not until Christophe Ballard’s Chant des Noëls, published in Paris in 1703, do we find a complete collection of noëls with words and music – in this case as continuo songs or airs.
The noël tunes are noted for their simplicity, their often dance-like rhythm and above all the bucolic nature of their texts. Most concern themselves with the response of the shepherd’s and townspeople after receiving the news of Christ’s birth from the angel and their subsequent celebration and rejoicing as they hurry off to the manger. The characters in the noëls are distinctly French and the lyrics include frequent references to food and wine – some things never change! By the end of the 17th century, many French composers had embraced these rustic tunes and settings for organ and various instrumental ensembles were published from the 1680s onward. Charpentier’s use of the tunes in a “parody” technique in his mass was most likely the first, though several others followed, most notably Sebastien de Brossard in 1700.
Charpentier uses ten noël melodies as the basis for specific section of the Mass, for example, Joseph est bien Marie serves as the subject matter of the first Kyrie, Or, nous dites Marie for the Christe and Une jeune pucelle for the second Kyrie. In addition to the ten noël melodies that Charpentier incorporates in the mass ordinary, he also suggests that after the Credo an instrumental setting of Laissez paistre vos bestes be performed at the Offertory – and he provides just such a setting elsewhere in his notebooks. The composer also calls upon the organist to perform two noëls, Joseph est bien marie after the first Kyrie and Une jeune pucelle after the second. We have also added a third organ setting, A la venue de Noel, before the Credo.
Charpentier’s use of the noël tunes fits well with the Jesuit approach of ‘enculturation,’ the blending of indigenous cultural traditions in the service of God and the celebration of the sacraments. It is especially fitting that these popular noëls were incorporated into a mass explicitly intended for Christmas Eve – precisely on this unique night when God takes on human form, when the sacred can combine with the secular.
The Mass provides the basic structure of the program, but in the place of the Liturgy of the Word between the Gloria and Credo we will perform the oratorio (or histoire sacreé) Dialogus inter angelos et pastores Judæ, which sets the Christmas Eve narrative of angels and shepherds, which paraphrases the Gospel text for Midnight Mass. Charpentier wrote at least six settings of the Christmas narratives, which to some extent share both music and text. It has thus far proven impossible to determine the year or the circumstances for which the Dialogus inter angelos et pastores Judæ was composed, but based its placement in Charpentier’s notebooks and evidence of the paper stock it was certainly composed and presumably performed during his tenure at the Jesuit church. It closely resembles In nativitatem Domini Canticum, H. 416, sharing structure, text, and a considerable amount of music, though the keys and instrumentation differ.
The Dialogus opens with a grand prelude that lead’s to a somber tenor recitative and a “Chorus of the Righteous” that describes a state of anticipation, awaiting the birth of Christ. A bass air in the form of a rondeau follows and the section concludes with a chorus calling for redemption, joyful and full of hope. The second part opens with an instrumental depiction of night built on interwoven fugal textures. The composer effects a striking contrast by following the Night music with a “Shepherd’s Awakening,” followed by the appearance of the angel, addressing the shepherds in a blinding light. The Heavenly Host joins, singing to the glory of god and after a march of the shepherds, all fall adoringly before the newborn infant. The oratorio concludes with a chorus, in which the shepherd’s marvel at their experience.
We will open our program with an arrangement of five noël melodies, in lieu of an Introit, that incorporates several settings by Charpentier and other French composers of the time. The Introit des Noëls begins with perhaps the oldest of the melodies, often designated as “The First Noel”, A la venue de Noel, adorned with a flute duet by Jean-Jacques Rippert published in 1725 and then a polyphonic setting adapted from the Credo of Sebastien de Brossard’s Missa quinti toni pro nocte Die festi natalis Domini of 1700. One verse of Une jeune pucelle is followed by an instrumental arrangement of the noel by Charpentier. Next is an organ setting of the noel Ou s’en vont ces gais bergers by Nicolas LeBegue, one of the organists of the Sun King and a colleague of Charpentier. A verse of Or, nous dites Marie is framed by a trio sonata arrangement of the noël by Michel Richard De Lalande from his Symphonies des Noels. Finally we perform two verses of Tous les bourgeois de Châtres together with Charpentier’s instrumental setting.
The Cozzolani Project is pleased to announce the release of our first new track from Volume II of the complete works of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, the Christmas motet Ecce annuntio vobis featuring soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani. After some delays, we have know begun the process of completing the post-production of the remaining motets that were recorded last summer.
The Christmas motet Ecce annuntio vobis was published in the collection Concerti Sacri in 1642. It is one of 16 solo motets by Cozzolani and one of only four that have survived complete. The text is a paraphrase of the angelic announcement of the birth of Christ found in Luke 2:10-14.
Jennifer has appeared regularly with Magnificat since her debut as “Gelosia” in Marco Marrazoli’s Il Capriccio in 1997. She will be featured in Magnificat’s concerts on the weekend of February 4-6, 2011 in a program of music by four remarkable women composers of the Baroque: Francesca Caccini, Barbara Strozzi, Isabella Leonarda, and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre.
Jennifer is joined on this recording by David Tayler, theorbo and Hanneke van Proosdij, organ.
On Friday December 17, San Francisco radio station KALW will broadcast a program devoted to music by women composers of the 17th century anticipating Magnificat’s performance February 4-6 of music by four remarkable women composers. Those concerts will feature soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani, whose recordings will feature prominently in the Voicebox program as well.
Over the past decade Magnificat has taken a special interest in music written by women during the Baroque such as Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, Isabella Leonarda, Barbara Strozzi and Francesca Caccini. Warren Stewart, the artistic director of Magnificat, joins VoiceBox host Chloe Veltman for a discussion about how these composers practiced their art in the face of cultural restrictions on the creative expression of women and produced eloquent masterpieces.
The program includes performances of Cozzolani’s Magnificat Primo and Laudate Dominum; Barbara Strozzi’s O Maria, Isabella Leonarda’s setting of Lætatus sum; and two excerpts from Francesca Caccini’s opera La Liberazione di Ruggiero. Voicebox airs from 10:00-11:00 pm and will be available in streaming audio through KALW’s music player for a week after the broadcast on December 10.
Title page of LeBegue's Troisieme livre d'orgue
Among the many fine musicians with whom Charpentier was in contact in Paris was the celebrated organist and harpsichordist Nicolas LeBegue. Twelve years Charpentier’s senior, LeBegue was born in humble circumstances in the provincial town of Laon, where he most likely received his primary education in music from his uncle (and namesake.) He is first mentioned in 1661 in a payment document that describes him as “fameux organiste de Paris” implying that he had already established some reknown in his adopted city by that time.
In 1664, LeBegue was engaged as organist at the church of St. Merri, a position he retained for the remainder of his life. His first publication, the Pièces d’orgue, appeared in 1676 and in 1678 he was named organist to the King, a position he shared with three other notable musicians – Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers, Jacques-Denis Thomelin, and Jean-Baptiste Buterne – with each taking on duties for a quarter of the year (LeBegue was the “Autumn” organist.)
In the Mecure gallant in 1682, Jean Donneau de Visé describes several days of festivities at court (during which it rained incessantly apparently) that featured the Dauphin’s Music under the direction of Charpentier as well as Lebegue’s performance of a grand “Symphony Mass.”
Lebegue published five collections of keyboard music, three for organ and two for harpsichord. His Troisième livre d’orgue (1685) includes settings of nine noels, two of which will be played on Magnificat’s upcoming concerts by Jillon Stoppels Dupree. While organists of course performed and improvised upon the noel tunes for generations, Lebegue was the first to publish such arrangements and many composers followed suit with similar collections.
Innovative and prolific as a composer, LeBegue was also influential as a teacher, his students including François d’Agincourt, Gabriel Garnier, Jean-Nicolas Geoffroy, Gilles Jullien and, most notably, the sublime Nicolas de Grigny. He was also an expert on organ-building and frequently travelled throughout France advising on building and repairs.
While he is best known as a composer and performer of keyboard music, he also published vocal music including a collection of motets for solo voice and continuo. The first edition of these motets in 1687 atrributed them to “Mr. Noel,” perhaps an indication of the composer’s modesty (though the preface coincidentally includes considerable praise for the artistry of the excellent organist Nicolas LeBegue!) Appearing shortly after the publication containing his settings of noel, it is possible that the choice of pseudonym reflects their popularity. When the volume was re-printed after the composer’s death, all mystery was removed with its ascription to LeBegue.
Woodcut Illustration from a 16th century Bible des Noels
The most distinctive feature of Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit is of course its use of the melodies of traditional French Christmas carols, or noëls. Since the fifteenth century, noëls have been sung by Frenchmen of all classes to celebrate the Christmas season. Most of the tunes that Charpentier employed in his setting of the mass ordinary were already centuries old and would have been as familiar to his listeners as Silent Night or O Come All Ye Faithful would be to audiences today. Indeed, many of the noëls used by Charpentier are still sung in Francophone countries around the world today.
The use of the word noël in reference to the birth of Christ can be traced back even further to the 13th century. The word is related to newness, as in “good news” or “New Year,” and was used in non-Christmas contexts as well. By Charpentier’s time, noël could refer to Christmas Day itself, songs related to Christmas (like those upon which his mass is based), or simply an exuberant cry of rejoicing.
Noel Nouveau, Lyon 1574
The tunes themselves most often had an existence independent of their Christmas lyrics and with very few exceptions collections of noëls (typically called Bibles des Noëls) contained only the texts with an indication to sing the words to a tune (or timbre) often identified by their commonly known secular titles. Not until Christophe Ballard’s Chant des Noëls, published in Paris in 1704, do we find a complete collection of noëls with words and music – in this case as continuo songs or airs.
The noel tunes are noted for their simplicity, their often dance-like rhythm and above all the bucolic nature of their texts. Most concern themselves with the response of the shepherd’s and townspeople after receiving the news of Christ’s birth from the angel and their subsequent celebration and rejoicing as they hurry off to the manger. The characters in the noëls are distinctly French and the lyrics include frequent references to food and wine – some things never change! By the end of the 17th century, many French composers had embraced these rustic tunes and settings for organ and various instrumental ensembles were published from the 1680s onward. Charpentier’s use of the tunes in a “parody” technique in his mass was most likely the first, though several others followed.
The timbres of many of these noëls have appeared in other Magnificat productions, notably in the two opera parodies we produced in 1996 and 1998. Here of course any association with Christmas was absent – they were just universally familiar tunes to which, in those cases, very silly texts were sung. We have also programmed noëls as part of Christmas programs in 1993, 1996, 2002 and 2005. Here is a live recording of the noël Où s’en vont ces gais bergers that includes Charpentier’s instrumental arrangement from a Magnificat performance in December 2005. This noel tune appears in the Gloria of the Messe de Minuit.
Charpentier uses each of the ten melodies as the basis for a defined section of the Mass, for example, Joseph est bien Marie serves as the subject matter of the first Kyrie, Or, nous dites Marie for the Christe and Une jeune pucelle (familiar to modern audience from its use in the 1991 film Tous les Matins de Monde) for the second Kyrie. In addition to the ten noëls that Charpentier uses in the mass ordinary, he also suggests that after the Credo, an instrumental setting of “Laissez paistre vos bestes” be performed at the Offertory – and he provides just such a setting elsewhere in his notebooks.
Charpentier’s use of the noel tunes fits well with the Jesuit approach of ‘enculturation,’ the blending of indigenous cultural traditions in the service of God and the celebration of the sacraments. It is especially fitting that these popular noëls were incorporated into a mass explicitly intended for Christmas Eve – precisely on this unique night when God takes on human form, when the sacred can combine with the secular.
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