Capella Clausura

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Program: #09-41, Air Date: 10/05/09

From the group's mission statement): Cappella CLAUSURA is an ensemble of sopranos, altos, and early music instruments in Boston whose goal is to research and bring to light works written by women from the 8th century to the present day. Our intention is to dispel the notion that there are not now nor have there ever been gifted women composers. While we perform music by all women composers, and champion living composers, we concentrate on repertoire by women in the cloister, or in clausura, during the Italian baroque period because it was an extraordinary time when women were allowed, by fluke of historical personalities and fashion, to express themselves spiritually and artistically, and most importantly, to be published. History has been blind and deaf to these remarkable works; Cappella Clausura brings vision and voice to them. For more information on this ensemble: www.clausura.org

I. The Complete Vespers of Cozzoloni (Cappella Clausura/Amphion's Lyre/Amelia LeClair, dir.). 

Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602 — c. 1678),was a Benedictine nun, who spent her adult life cloistered in the convent of Santa Radegonda, Milan, where she became abbess and stopped composing. More than a dozen cloistered women published sacred music in seventeenth-century Italy. The Cozzolani were a wealthy Milanese family. She must have received extensive musical training before she entered the convent in 1619, when she was of marriagable age. Her four musical opere were published between 1640 and 1650, which is the date of her Vespers, perhaps her best-known single work. There is also a Paschal Mass. As abbess she defended the nuns' music, which came under attack from Archbishop Alfonso Litta, who wanted to reform the convent by limiting the nuns' practice of music and other contact with the outside world. The archbishop's qualms could not have been reassured by the exstatic report of Filippo Picinelli, in Ateneo dei letterati milanesi (Milan, 1670) who found that "the nuns of Santa Radegonda of Milan are gifted with such rare and exquisite talents in music that they are acknowledged to be the best singers of Italy. They wear the Cassinese habits of St. Benedict, but they seem to any listener to be white and melodious swans, who fill hearts with wonder, and spirit away tongues in their praise. Among these sisters, Donna Chiara Margarita Cozzolani merits the highest praise, Chiara in name but even more so in merit, and Margarita for her unusual and excellent nobility of invention...". Vespers interspersed in the performance are sonatas by Dario Castello (fl. 1620); Giovanni Paolo Cima (c. 1570 – 1622); and Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690).

II. Passionately Unconventional: Madrigals and motets by Nuns of Bologna, Modena, and Ferrara

Vittoria Aleotti (c. 1575 – after 1620),  was an Italian Augustinian nun, a composer and organist. She was born in Ferrara to the prominent architect Giovanni Battista Aleotti, and was mentioned in his will, written in 1631. When she was young, she overheard the music lessons of an older sister, and subsequently amazed her family by her facility on the harpsichord at the age of six. Aleotti was then taught by Alessandro Milleville for two years before being sent to study at the musically renowned Augustinian convent of St. Vito, Ferrara at the age of 14. She later became the prioress of the convent from 1636 to 1639. Aleotti was mentioned in M.A. Guarini's 1621 guide to Ferrara as very knowledgeable about music, and he also mentioned her publications of motets and madrigals. She set a number of madrigals by Giovanni Battista Guarini, which her father later sent to Count del Zaffo, who had them printed in Venice by Giacomo Vincenti in 1593. Another collection of motets was printed by Amadino in 1593, and was the first sacred music by a woman to appear in print. In addition to her composing, she also was organist at the convent, and led a large ensemble of instrumentalists and singers who presented concerts. According to writings by Ercole Bottrigari (a contemporary writer) this was one of the finest ensembles in Italy.

  • Or che la vaga aurora ("Now that lovely dawn riding a fiery chariot appears everywhere")
  • T'amo vita mia ("'I love you, my life,' my dear life tenderly tells me"))
  • Io v'amo vita mia ("'I love you, my life,' oft I have wanted to say")
  • Ch'io non t'ami, cor mio? ("Should I not love you, my heart?")
  • O dolce anima mia ("O sweet soul, is it then true?")
  • Se del tuo corpo oggi (If today I think on your body's tragic image")

Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana (3 July 1590 – 7 May 1662) was an Italian singer, organist, and composer. She entered a Camaldolese convent in Bologna in 1598. Her works were published in Componimenti musicali de motetti concertati a 1 e più voci (Venice, 1623). She was taught by her aunt, Camilla Bombacci, who was the convent organist, and by Ottavio Vernizzi who was the unofficial music master. Vizzana's works are influenced by stile moderno (seconda prattica) music, especially the works of Claudio Monteverdi. Her works are mainly solos or duets with continuo accompaniment.

Domine Deus noster ("O Lord, our Lord, how admirable your name in all the world")

Sulpitia Cesis (b. 1577; fl. 1619) was an Italian composer and lutenist in Modena at the convent of San Agostino. She is known only from her 1619 publication Motetti Spitituale (Modena, Giulian Cassiani), a collection of 23 sacred motets for two to twelve voices. Some of the scores indicate the use of cornetts and trombones, which were not allowed in the convent at this time. She came from a noble family, the daughter of a count. Cesis is mentioned in Giovanni Battista Spaccini's chronicle of life in Modena, as the composer of a motet which was performed at the doors of San Geminiano in 1596 during a religious procession.

 Puer qui natus est nobis ("A child is born to us today")

Composer Info

Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602 — c. 1678), Vittoria Aleotti (c. 1575 – after 1620), Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana (3 July 1590 – 7 May 1662), Sulpitia Cesis (b. 1577; fl. 1619), Dario Castello (fl. 1620),Giovanni Paolo Cima (c. 1570 – 1622), Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690)