VBSHOWCASE

WOMEN OF
THE BAROQUE

VBSHOWCASE SERIES ONE

Six performances of vocal works by female Baroque composers, all performed by women.

Filming, Recording & Video Editing: Ben Tomlin Productions
Photos: The Photography Shed

#1 JULIE PINEL

Chantez, dansez jeunes bergères

Julie Pinel (1710 – unknown) came from a family of court musicians and was a composer and harpsichord teacher, writing both the text and music to at least one opera (very unfortunately now lost). The only music of hers that survives is a collection of arias from 1637. We’re sorry not to have more to tell you about her life but are happy to give voice to her talent in this, our first VBShowcase video! 

Soprano Hilary Cronin (winner of the 2021 International Handel Singing Competition) is accompanied by Asako Ogawa on the harpsichord and Jenny Bullock on a viol, a string instrument adored by the French during this period.

Chantez, dansez, jeunes bergères,
A l’ombre de ces frais ormeaux,
Unissez vos danses légères
Au doux son de nos chalumeaux
Que l’amour qui regne en nos âmes
Nous inspire de nouveaux sons.

Célébrons l’ardeur de nos flâmes
Par le plus aimables chansons.

Sing and dance, young shepherdesses
In the shade of these fresh young elm trees,
Join your graceful dances
With the sweet sound of your pipes.
Let love which reigns in our souls
Inspire us to new sounds.

Let us celebrate the heat of our ardour
With the most pleasant songs.

#2 FRANCESCA CACCINI

Ch'amor sia nudo

Francesca Caccini (1587 – after 1641) was the first female composer to publish an opera but of her sixteen staged works, sadly only La liberazione di Ruggiero (1625) survives. Francesca followed in the footsteps of her famous father, Giulio Caccini, forging a hugely successful career in her own right. This culminated in Francesca being the highest paid musician at the Medici court from 1614 under the patronage of Grand Duchess Christina of Lorraine, showing the extent of her musical virtuosity as a performer, teacher and composer. Francesca’s compositions, like those of her contemporaries Monteverdi and Peri, contributed to the musical transition from the renaissance style to the stile moderno, the new baroque style.

Soprano Angela Hicks is accompanied by Kristiina Watt on the baroque guitar – a perfect pairing for this intimate vocal piece!

Ch’amor sia nudo, e pur con l’ali al tergo
Stia sotto il cielo e non procuri albergo
È vanità.
Ma che per gli occhi egli dicend’ al petto
Et ivi posi et ivi abbia ricetto
È verità.

E ch’ei sia cieco, e che non mai rimiri
Ove percota, e così l’arco tiri
È vanità.
Ma ch’apra il guardo, e senz’ alcuna benda
E’ pigli mira, e quindi l’arco tenda
È verità.

Che fra mortali, e che fra cor celesti
Leggier sen voli, e non gia mai s’arresti
È vanità.
Ma ch’ove posi un giorno sol le piume
Eternamente abbia di star costume
È verità.

Et io mel so, che s’egli avvien ch’io nieghi,
Cha suoi fier gioghi questo collo io pieghi
È vanità.
Ma s’io dirò, che ‘n amorose tempre,
Et ardo, et arsi, et arderò mai sempre
È verità.

That love is naked, and has wings on his back, too,
He lives under heavens & has no need to seek shelter,
That is vanity.
But that he descends into the breast through the eyes,
And that he alights there, and there finds refuge,
That is the truth.

And that he is blind, and that he never looks
At what he strikes, and so he aims his bow,
That is vanity.
But that he opens his eyes, and without blindfold
Takes aim, and then cocks his bow,
That is the truth.

That among mortals, and among heavenly hearts,
He flies lightly, and never rests,
That is vanity.
But that wherever he rests his feathers even for a day
He has a habit of remaining forever,
That is the truth.

And I know, that if it happens that I should refuse,
To bend my neck to his cruel yoke,
That is vanity.
But if I say, that in amorous tempers,
I burn, and have burned, and will always burn,
That is the truth.

#3 ELISABETTA de GAMBARINI

Behold and Listen​

Elisabetta de Gambarini (1730 – 1765) was born to noble Italian parents who had recently moved to England. She began her professional musical career in the mid 1740s as a singer in Handel’s oratorio productions. Her musical talent shone through and by 1748 her growing popularity and reputation enabled her to successfully promote her own benefit concert in which she performed a number of keyboard compositions on the organ. In the same year she released her first volume of Six Sets of Lessons for the Harpsichord, and became the first female composer in Britain to publish a collection of keyboard music. With an illustrious and lengthy list of subscribers, her second volume quickly followed in the same year. Her music is Italianate in style, rather than the traditional Handelian style more prevalent in England at this time. Her second volume intermixes keyboard pieces with charming vocal pieces, including the vocal piece for this week’s VBShowcase performance. Gambarini published her final volume, XII English & Italian Songs for a German Flute and Thorough Bass in 1750. Sadly, and strangely, little is known about Gambarini after this point. She became publicly active again as a composer and performer in 1760 when she gave several benefit concerts. We know through her letters that she was unsuccessful in gaining a position as a court musician. Shortly after in 1764 she married and it is thought she died in childbirth less than one year later.

We’re delighted to welcome back one of our 2021 VBF Young Artists, soprano Jasmine Flicker, for this performance. Jasmine is joined by Asako Ogawa on harpsichord, Jenny Bullock on baroque cello and Elspeth Robertson on recorder.

Behold and listen while the Fair
breaths in sweet sounds the yielding Air
And her own Breath fans the fire
which her bright Eyes did first inspire

#4 LUCIA QUINCIANI

Udite lagrimosi spirti d'Averno, udite​

Sadly very little is known about the Italian composer Lucia Quinciani (c.1566 – c.1615). She is thought to have worked in Verona and Venice, based on the positions and location of her teacher. Quinciani was a pupil of the talented Marc’ Antonio Negri, whose second collection of monodies (solo songs) and duets titled Affetti amorosi (1611) included her only published composition. Udite, lagrimosi spirti d’Averno, udite is regarded to be the first published monody by a woman.

The text for Quinciani’s monody is the beginning six lines of Mirtillo’s famous lament from Battista Guarini’s Il Pastor Fido. This poem was very popular with composers at the time, with Monteverdi, Marenzio and Schütz among the composers that set parts of it to music.

This intimate monody is beautifully by mezzo-soprano Karima El Demerdasch and lutenist Kristiina Watt on theorbo.

Udite, lagrimosi spirti d’Averno,
Udite nova sorte di pena e di tormento;
Mirate crudo affetto
In sembiante pietoso;
La mia donna crudel più de l’Inferno.

Hear, ye tortur’d spirits of Avernus,
Hear of a new kind of pain and torment;
Behold cruel sentiment
In the guise of pity;
My lady, more cruel than hell.

#5 LADY MARY DERING

When first I saw fair Doris' eyes​

Lady Mary Dering (1629-1704) was the very first female composer in England to have her work published! Sadly three short songs were the only ones to survive. She was baptised in Croydon on 3 September 1629 and sent to Mrs Salmon’s school in Hackney. She married her cousin, but it was without her father’s consent and so quickly annulled. Her subsequent arranged marriage to Sir Edward Dering turned out much better, and together they produced seventeen children! Dering outlived her husband by twenty years, dying in February 1704; she also outlived her eldest son Sir Edward Dering, 3rd Baronet.

She studied music with Henry Lawes, the leading English songwriter of the mid 17th Century. Lawes dedicated his Second book of airs to her, declaring that she was “so good a Composer, that few of any sex have arriv’d to such perfection.”

We’re delighted to have a second performance from soprano Angela Hicks and lutenist Kristiina Watt on the theorbo.

When first I saw fair Doris’ eyes,
Cheering like rising day our plains,
Not envying others wealthier flocks,
I thought myself the happiest swain.

More blessed yet when my rude ear,
Heard her harmonious numbers flow
No more a swain, I felt the joys
Only victorious Princes know

Since which allowed on thy free lip,
To story out my hopes and love.
Immortal grown I held aloft,
The mansion of dethroned Jove.

But when rul’d by my kinder stars,
Thy nameless treasures crown my pain.
Jove and his empty joys despised,
I Shepherd turn’d on earth again

Gods, take your own vain alters now,
I choose a happy fate with her below.

#6 CHIARA MARGARITA COZZOLANI

Laudate Dominum omnes gentes​

Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602-1676/8) was born to wealthy parents and her musical education is thought to have been conducted through one of two choirs that performed for local families and dignitaries. At the age of 18 she became a nun and entered the Benedictine monastery of Santa Radegonda in Milan. Her skill as a composer and performer was well-known in the area, making the monastery one of the principal musical attractions of the city. 

Sadly some of Cozzolani’s works were lost in the Second World War, but of the works that remain, it is clear that she was an extremely talented composer, composing secular works as well as spiritual ones. Her compositions were all vocal, but ranged from to full blown vespers. What is so impressive about her works, given that her entire adult life was spent in a monastery, is the deep knowledge and understanding they show of the contemporary musical scene.

In the latter part of her life, Cozzolani composed less frequently due to her roles as the Prioiress and the Abbess. Thankfully for us, due to the publications of Cozzolani in her lifetime, her compositions were known outside of her life in the monastery, and therefore have survived (mostly) for us to enjoy today!

We’re delighted to welcome back soprano Hilary Croninharpsichordist Asako Ogawa and baroque cellist Jenny Bullock, who are joined by violinists Christiane Eidsten Dahl and Emma Lake.

Laudate Dominum omnes gentes
Laudate eum omnes populi.
Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia euis
et veritas Domini manet in aeternum.
Gloria Patri, gloria Filio,
et Spiritui Sancto gloria
sicut erat in principo et nunc et semper
et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Praise the Lord, all you nations.
Praise him, all you people.
For confirmed upon us is his mercy.
And the truth of the Lord remains forever.
Glory to the Father, glory to the Son
And glory to the holy spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now and always shall be
world without end. Amen.