Magnificat and Women Composers of the 17th Century
In a run-up to their concerts in celebration of women composers from the 17th Century, the Magnificat Baroque Ensemble has published essays on the lives and music of Francesca Caccini, Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Isabella Leonarda, and Barbara Strozzi.
The four women represented on Magnificat’s program this weekend were each exceptionally gifted musicians who benefitted from being born into families that offered some combination of musical tradition, affluence, influence or aristocratic patronage that allowed them the chance to develop their talents.
The different paths each of their lives took reflect changes in society that allowed the first flowering of music by women in Western history: the availability of private music education outside of ecclesiastical institutions, the emergence of careers for women singers at court and on the stage, the rise of polyphonic music in convents, and the growth of the music publishing industry.
Nevertheless, the opportunities available for women to pursue musical careers remained very limited making the individual achievements of each of these women remarkable. But their music is compelling not merely because of it was written at a time characterized by restrictive attitudes towards the public artistic expression of women, but because of its inherent genius. These were four extraordinary musicians and they bequeathed to us refined and powerful compositions of the highest caliber.
Written by director Warren Stewart and musicologist Suzanne Cusick, the four essays are well-worth exploring.
Magnificat Baroque Ensemble Website
(Photo: Courtesy of the Ensemble)