Isabella Leonarda is one of four women composers whose music Magnificat will explore in our concerts on the weekend of February 4-6 that will feature soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani.
In 1724, the imminent theorist and collector music Sébastian de Brossard wrote in praise of the works of Isabella Leonarda that “all of the works of this illustrious and incomparable composer are so beautiful, so gracious, so brilliant and at the same time so knowledgeable and so wise, that my great regret is in not having them all.”
Isabella was born into a noble family of Novara in Piedmont in 1620. Little is known of Isabella’s musical education, though it has been suggested that she may have studied with Gasparo Casati, maestro di cappella at the Novara Cathedral from 1635-1641. Two of Isabella’s works were included by the composer in a collection of sacred concerti published in 1641.
Isabella entered the convent of Saint Ursula in Novarra in 1636 and remained there for the rest of her long life. A document from 1658 identifies Isabella as music instructor at the convent as well as “mother and clerk for her congregation.” By 1676 she had attained the rank of mother superior and by 1693, mother vicar.
Easily the most prolific woman composer of the century, she published twenty collections of music, containing over 200 compositions that feature examples of nearly every sacred genre. In 1693, she became the first woman to publish instrumental sonatas.
In 2003, Magnificat presented a program devoted to Isabella’s music for Vespers. Her setting of the psalm Laetatus sum is sung soprano Catherine Webster in the following live recording from those concerts.
Isabella’s instrumental works, which appeared in 1693, are apparently the earliest published sonatas by a woman. The collection consists of eleven trio sonatas and one sonata for solo violin and continuo. In our concerts, Rob Diggins will perform one of her most harmonically adventurous works, the Sonata duodecima, an extended work in seven sections. This live recording comes from the same concert in 2003.
Suzanne Cusick has graciously provided the following essay on Francesca Caccini and La Liberazione di Ruggiero. The essay is an adaptation of remarks made on February 3, 2006 at Smith College on the occasion of a performance of La Liberazione directed by Drew Minter. The essay benefits from Professor Cusick’s lifelong research into this remarkable woman and much of the material became part of her extraordinary monograph published earlier this summer: Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court: Music and the Circulation of Power (2009, University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-13212-9).
Francesca Caccini was born in mid-September 1587, the first-born child of two singers then on salary to produce chamber and theatre music for the Medici court–Lucia Gagnolandi, and Giulio Caccini (who was himself the second son of an ambitious wood dealer from Pisa). By 1587 Giulio was already one of the best-known singers and singing teachers of his generation, and the one professional singer known to have regularly participated in the conversations at courtier Giovanni de’Bardi’s Fiesole villa (known as La Camerata) that are supposed to have led to the two most stunning musical innovations of the 17th-century–the invention of a new kind of solo song, and the closely-related invention of new ways of setting plays to music that led directly to the emergence of opera as a genre.
At 13 Francesca sang in the first more-or-less publicly performed opera, L’Euridice, joining her sister Settimia, her step-mother Margerita, and various other pupils of her father to sing the female and the choral parts of the show that had been assigned to Giulio’s composition. At 17, she so impressed the King of France, Henri IV, with the literary sensitivity of her singing in French that the King asked to have her as a musical servant to his household. In the winter before she turned 20 she composed her first theatrical work for the Medici court–a kind of mock sword fight preceded by musico-dramatic dialogue called a barriera. The show’s success seems to have led directly to her hiring by the Medici court as a musica (an all-round musical servant) two months after her 20th birthday; in keeping with local custom, she was married to another musical servant the same week she appeared on the court’s payroll (although, contrary to the prevailing custom, her dowry was paid by her father, not by the court).
According to a biographical sketch penned between 1627 and 1630 by a man who had then known her as a court colleague for 15 years, Cristoforo Bronzini, the adult Francesca was an industrious, talkative woman who compensated by talent, charm, cheerfulness and gracious manners for the fact that, in his words, “she had not been well endowed by nature”. Francesca had been alone among her father Giulio’s 10 children in receiving something close to a humanist education. This “girl of the sharpest intelligence”, as Bronzini called her, was taught Latin, some Greek, rhetoric, grammar, and languages well enough that she was remembered for writing, as a 12-year-old, a commentary on books 3 and 4 of the Aeneid, and for her adult ability to improvise songs to poetry in Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, German, and several Italian dialects. Constantly eager to learn new things, Francesca seems to have been especially interested in mathematics–arithmetic, geometry and astrology–in the occult sciences, and in philosophy, which, Bronzini says, “she would have studied further had she been able, like Astenia and some others, to wear boy’s clothing to attend the public schools”. Her musical studies, he tells us, were at first a minor part of her education, pursued as a pastime, and “to please her father”.
By the time she impressed the King of France, she was known as much for her skills on the harp, harpsichord, lute, theorbo and guitar as for her singing, and she was said to be able to play any stringed instrument well. Sometime before she was 20, Tuscan Granduchess Christine de Lorraine noticed her talent, and arranged for her to study counterpoint, to marry a handsome, impoverished, respectable tenor on the court’s staff, Giovanni Battista Signorini, and to be hired as a musician of the Granducal court.
In the 20 years that followed, Francesca Caccini performed regularly for the private pleasure of the Medici family–that is, for two Grand Dukes, and for their wives, children, cousins, nephews, nieces, and guests. Annually, during the last three days of Holy Week, Florentine melophiles could be sure of hearing her publicly, when she participated in the poly-choral performances of “the Offices”, singing from the balcony, and behind the grate where the ruling family themselves sat–as if her voice, mixing with those of her own family and pupils, sang in the place of the rulers’. Witnesses to her performances reported that:
“…whenever it suited her, this same woman …could by her singing and playing kindle astonishment and boldness in the breasts of her listeners, so that they would agree to any undertaking, no matter how burdensome…with the soft sound of her playing and the sweetness of her song she invited every breast (even if opposed to chaste intentions) to pure self-containment and integrity…as matched her own…”
In addition, Francesca composed hundreds of songs and duets in the new style her father claimed to have invented, all but 36 of them lost; she taught the daughters of Medici servants or of Florentine professionals who aspired to musical positions at court, paid for her work either by the court or by the girls’ parents, and she taught music to the Medici children, to the daughters of their favorite government ministers, and perhaps to the daughter of Galileo (in whose home conversazione she is known to have participated); and, often collaborating with colleagues Marco da Gagliano and Jacopo Peri, she composed some of the music for at least 17 court-based entertainments–balli, comedies for Carnival, mascherate, sacred operas–many of them shows authored by and little shows put on by and for the households of the two Medici Grand Duchesses (that is, their dame and donne, their children, and such professionals as were needed to serve as ‘ringers’ or onstage coaches–these last were usually Caccini herself, along with some of her artisan-class pupils).
The show that Magnificat will present October 16-18, La liberazione di Ruggiero, is the only one of these to survive nearly intact (excerpts from several others exist). When she got the gig to compose it (probably working from a barely-sketched libretto and scenic plan), Francesca was the highest paid musician at the Medici court, an intimate of the royal’s domestic spaces (though always a servant in their eyes), and a person whose special gifts to the court were her ability as a composer to make her patrons “laugh from the heart” and her ability, as both a singer and musician, “to make her listeners do whatever she wanted…”
By the time Caccini’s first husband died in late December 1626, she had borne him only one child, Margerita, born 14 years after her parents married. Left only with the property her own dowry had bought, the household goods her husband’s will specified had all been purchased with her salary, and a nice collection of jewels given to her by those who admired her performances, she arranged immediately to remarry.
Two weeks after her 40th birthday, she married a minor nobleman from Lucca, Tomaso Raffaelli, a man about whom others noted his intense melophilia, the richness of his instrument collection, and his Ganymede-like manner. When Raffaelli died three years later, Francesca had borne him a son. As Raffaelli’s widow and the guardian of his noble son, Francesca enjoyed the lifelong usufruct of his estate and something even more precious–a tenuous but plausible hold on the noble status for which her education but *not* her 20 years of hard work had prepared her. She returned to Florence in 1634, where she again served the Medici women (never singing again in public, but apparently making music and teaching the princesses in their convent home) until her daughter Margherita was settled in life–life as a virtuosa musician in a convent that adjoined the principal Medici palace–in 1640.
In May, 1641, Francesca left Medici service forever, and disappeared from the public record.
Magnificat’s concert on Sunday February 6 will take place at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Clay and Van Ness in San Francisco rather than our usual venue of St. Mark’s Lutheran. While this will be the first Magnificat series concert at St. Luke’s, our affiliate the Jubilate Orchestra has performed several times with the choir and former St. Luke’s music director David Farr was one of Magnificat’s original board members in 1989.
The parish of St. Luke’s was founded in 1868 and was first located in a building at 1625 Pacific Avenue. In 1884, the original wooden church was placed on rollers and moved to the parish’s current location at the corner of Van Ness and Clay. During the next decade, the church was expanded twice, and its membership grew to be the largest Episcopal congregation on the Pacific coast and a new church was built. This magnificent church, designed by Albert Sutton, was constructed of brick covered in rough, blue-grey sandstone. It was consecrated in 1900 and seated close to a thousand people.
Unfortunately, this church was utterly destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. The vestry retained Benjamin Geer McDougall as architect for the beautiful French Gothic sanctuary built in 1910. The worship experience is enhanced by the building’s many stained-glass windows, especially the east window over the altar and those which flank the nave on its north and south sides. The altar window, which depicts the Resurrection, was installed in 1911. The stained-glass windows on the north and south walls of the nave depict the Virgin Mary, various Saints and Biblical scenes. Read more at the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church website.
One of the composers that will be featured on Magnificat’s program for the weekend of February 4-6 2011 is Barbara Strozzi. The following biographical essay is posted at Dr. Candace Magner’s excellent website devoted to Barbara Strozzi. We have cross-posted here with permission of the author.
Barbara Strozzi had the good fortune to be born into a world of creativity, intellectual ferment, and artistic freedom. She made a mark as composer and singer, eventually publishing eight collections of songs – more music in print during her lifetime than even the most famous composers of her day – without the support of the Church or the patronage of a noble house. She is sometimes credited with the genesis of an entire musical genre, the cantata. Her works were included in important collections of song which found their way to the rest of Europe and England. Yet she died in obscurity in Padua in 1677 with little wealth or property.
Born in 1619 in Venice, Barbara was baptized on August 6 at the Santa Sofia parish. At that time, Venice was at its cultural peak, a city of wealth, peace, academic curiosity, and musical innovation. In addition to the luck of time and place, Barbara grew up in a household frequented by the greatest literary and musical minds of the age. The adopted daughter of poet Giulio Strozzi was most likely his natural daughter, recognized or ‘legitimized’ in his will of 1628 as his figliuola elettiva. Her mother Isabella lived in the same household as Giulio and was his principle heir until Barbara should come of age.
Though born in Venice, Giulio, himself the illegitimate and later recognized son of Roberto Strozzi, was nonetheless a member of one of the most powerful families of Florence, second only to the Medici in wealth and influence. That the Strozzi name was recognized far and wide may have assisted Giulio in his ability to mix with many levels of Italian society. He was the founder of several accademie or groups of creative intellectuals, and was an influential member of the Accademia degli Incogniti formed by the writer Giovanni Francesco Loredano in Venice. This group was almost single-handedly responsible for the ‘invention’ and spread of what was to become known as Opera – music and theatre highly intertwined into a new art form which flourished in Venice throughout the 17th century and then expanded throughout the continent. The Incogniti counted among its participants famous authors, poets, philosophers, and musicians, possibly including the great Monteverdi. It was into this milieu that young Barbara was introduced as a singer and composer.
Read Dr. Magner’s full essay at BarbaraStrozzi.com.
“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.
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