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Cappella Clausura | Love Songs of a Renaissance Teenager

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Love Songs of a Renaissance Teenager

by Cappella Clausura

In 1593, a 14 year old girl published 18 exquisite and sensual madrigals, love songs in four parts. Then she disappeared into the local convent and was never heard from again.
Genre: Classical: Early Music
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Hor Che La Vaga Aurora
2:14 $0.99
2. O Dolc'eterno Amore
1:38 $0.99
3. Io V'amo Vita Mia
2:42 $0.99
4. Dicesti, Anima Mia
1:31 $0.99
5. Cor Mio, Perché / Io Piango
3:39 $0.99
6. T'amo Mia Vita
2:05 $0.99
7. Al Turbar Dei Bei Lumi
1:36 $0.99
8. Io, Dal Sofferto Fuoco Arido
2:01 $0.99
9. O Dolc'anima Mia
2:04 $0.99
10. Lasso, Quand'io Credei
2:25 $0.99
11. O Quante Volte in Van Cor Mio
1:30 $0.99
12. Amor Mio, Perché Piangi?
2:18 $0.99
13. Mentre L'ardite Labbia / Ahi Che Per Altro
3:32 $0.99
14. Per Voi, Lasso, Conviene
2:04 $0.99
15. Ahi Che S'avventi in Me
1:56 $0.99
16. Ch'io Non T'ami, Cor Mio?
2:16 $0.99
17. Baciai Per Aver Vita
1:36 $0.99
18. Se Del Tuo Corpo / Pero Signor
3:14 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Vittoria Aleotti (c.1575 – 1646)
Vittoria Aleotti was born in Ferrara, the second daughter of Giovanni Battista Aleotti, a prominent architect at the Court of Duke Alfonso d’Este II. In his letter of dedication to Vittoria’s book of madrigals, Giovanni states that while the eldest of his five daughters was studying music with Alessandro Milleville, his second daughter, Vittoria, then a girl of four, was always present and observing, and, after a year, nature had “so loosened her hands that she began to play the harpsichord to the astonishment of her parents, and also that of the teacher himself.” Milleville began to teach this gifted child and commended her to further study with his own teacher, Ercole Pasquini, a leading Italian composer and organist. After two years, it was suggested to send Vittoria to live and study at the Convent of San Vito in Ferrara, famous for its musical training and performance. After several years there, at the age of fourteen, Vittoria decided to take vows as a nun at San Vito and to devote herself to religious life. Meanwhile, on seeing the progress she was making in music theory, her father obtained some madrigal texts of the court poet Giovanni Battista Guarini for Vittoria to set to music. When Count del Zaffo of Venice visited during Holy week of 1593, he was shown some of the madrigals, and was so impressed that he decided to have them published. When Vittoria was approached about publication, she said she no longer cared about worldly things and left it her father to follow through as he saw fit.
Ghirlanda de madrigali a quattro voci, di Vittoria Aleotti, was published in Venice by Giacomo Vincenti, MDXCIII. After the publication of her madrigals, Vittoria Aleotti was never heard from again.
In the same year that the Ghirlanda de madrigali were brought out, Amadino published the first sacred book of music by a woman composer to appear in print, Sacrae cantiones quinque, septem, octo, & decem vocibus decantande, by a nun named Raffaella Aleotti, of the San Vito convent. This Raffaella, called “l’Argenta”, became renowne for her skill in playing the organ, harpsichord, trom- bone and other wind instruments, and for being Maestra of the ensemble of twenty- three nuns. She was Prioress at the convent for several years until her death.
In his treatise L’Artusi overo delle imperfettioni della modena musica, Italian theo- rist and composer Giovanni Maria Artusi, describes a performance of a concerto at San Vito given in November 1598 before Margaret of Austria, who was accompa- nied by her cousin Archduke Albert on the way to her marriage with King Philip III of Spain. On that occasion, they heard a concerto of instruments consisting of cornetts, trombones, violins, viola bastarda, double harps, lutes, cornamuses, flutes, and harpsichords performed with “such smoothness and sweetness of harmony that it really was as though it were Mount Parnassus, and Paradise itself had opened, and not something human.” A later account of this same performance, published in 1621 and written by Marc’Antonio Guarini, nephew of the poet Giovanni Battista Guarini, identifies several members of the concerto:
"Among the said nuns were excellent composers, the smoothest voices, and instrumentalists of rare quality, such as Catabene de’ Catabeni and Cassandra Pigna, good tenors; Alfonsa Trotti with a singular bass voice; and the aston- ishing Claudia Manfredi and Bartolomea Sorianti, very delicate sopranos; Raffaella de’Magnifici and another Catabene, excellent players of the Cor- netto, also playing every other sort of instrument. Olimpia Leoni, at present still living, plays with great agility a tenor viola, and sings contralto with great aptitude and excellent voice. And the most outstanding of all, and without equal in playing the organ, is Raffaella Aleotti, called l’Argenta, who is also expert in music theory; she has published various highly regarded motets and madrigals".
Given the circumstantial evidence, supported by a reading of her father’s will and the baptismal records of his five daughters, we may assume that Vittoria Aleotti, the second daughter of Giovanni, took vows as a nun in 1589 at the age of fourteen, and at that time adopted the name Raffaella.

The Ghirlanda de Madrigali
In the letter of dedication to Ghirlanda de Madrigali of Vittoria Aleotti (to use her secular name), her father stated that he had asked the poet Giovanni Battista Guarini to provide some of the texts. Guarini was noted for his pastoral drama Il pastor fido (pub. 1590), an important source of madrigal texts set by many noted madrigalists including Luca Marenzio and Claudio Monteverdi. A number of Guarini’s poems had been in circulation, but it was not until 1598 that an attempt was made to collect and publish them. Only four of the poems in this collection were set by Vittoria: “T’amo mia vita”, “Ch’io non t’ami cor mio”, “O dolc’anima mia”, and “Baciai per aver vita”. In addition, some of the anonymous texts appearing for the first time in Ghirlanda may also have been written by Guarini. Only one other poet has been identified, Annibale Pocaterra, a minor Ferrarese poet whose poems were published in 1611 including ”Io v’amo vita mia”. The concluding work is a madrigale spirituale, a setting of the sonnet “Se del tuo corpo hoggi le stampa horrenda”. As is customary in setting a sonnet, it is divided into two parts, the first part a setting of the ottava (rhyme scheme abba, abba), and the second of the sestina (cde, cde).
At age fourteen, Vittoria/Raffaella was already a skilled and expressive composer. She takes full advantage of the textural possibilities within the limitations of four voices portraying, in particular, the contrasting affections in the longer lines. Each line of text, or half line, is given its own musical characterization relating to the various affections of the text. Her treatment of melody and dissonance, with few exceptions, is reflective of the older ideals of sixteenth-century counterpoint. One of these exceptions is encountered in the madrigal “Io v’amo vita mia” on the words “ch’i miei martire” (but of my sufferings). Reduced to a three voice texture, the top voice moves continually upward stepwise on the weak beat to form a suspension to the two lower voices moving upward in thirds on the strong beat, creating the highest tension on the word “martire” (suffering). This expressive technique is fully exploited in Ercole Pasquini’s Durezze e ligature, a composition for organ. This style of composition, emphasizing the use of dissonance and suspensions for organ, was described by Girolamo Diruta in his Il Transilvano (1593) as being appropri- ate for playing during the elevation of the mass. It was often associated with the disposition from the cross. It was a style that was fully exploited in the seventeenth century, and the earliest examples known are those by Pasquini. Vittoria obviously picked up on this technique from her teacher. Vittoria’s approach toward rhythm and harmony, like Pasquini’s, anticipates much that will become standard practice in the next century.
- Adapted, with gracious permission, from the writings of W. Richard
Shindle, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Kent State University
and C. Ann Carruthers, Ph.D., Asst. Professor of Music (ret.) , Kent State University

As far as we know, the complete madrigals of Vittoria Aleotti have never before been performed in this country, and the existing recordings contain only a few selections. We thought it was time to make available the whole box of chocolates; these are indeed all madrigals, and all quite delicious, but each has a different cen- ter, and some contain surprises. “Hor che la vaga aurora” (Now that Lovely Dawn appears) is the opening madrigal in Vittoria’s book, and is singular in its subject matter: it’s not about love, but, rather fittingly, about music. Latona’s son is Apol- lo, the god of music, among other things. Greco-Roman mythology also inspires “Io, dal sofferto” (I, of affliction) referencing Cupid, the Cyprian archer, so called because his mother Venus was said to have emerged from the sea at Cyprus. For the most part, the collection plumbs the depths of love’s pains and passions, in the style of the day, oftentimes in bluntly sexual terms, such as “ma, morte sì gradita”, (but,a death so welcome) or “morir ne bramo”, ((I long for death) or “baciando, il cor mi fu rapido, e tolto.”(kissing, my heart was ravished, and taken). The final work in the collection is a madrigale spirituale: in this Aleotti turns her attention to a new lover, a divine one, and “pentita de’ miei mal spesi anni,” (repenting my ill-spent years) she becomes the nun, Raffaella.
Musically speaking, Aleotti employed a full tool box of compositional strategies for her expressive ends. It is my guess that these pieces were indeed studies in her work with Pasquini. She used suspension and dissonance to great effect, to express longing or sadness, or even, as Dr. Shindle points out above, rising tension. Her use of imitation was brief, but frequent, often pairing voices together to make a passing or temporary duet. As was usually the case in the Renaissance, she used homophony sparingly, and primarily for emphasis. Running notes paint all kinds of words, like “fierce flames” or “truth”, but the most exciting moments come when she al- lows one voice to linger as other voices drop out, creating the musical equivalent of a held breath. Throughout the entire work she shows her command of the language as paramount: in preparing this music, our ensemble hardly ever had to work to sing a word with the correct stress in place. Stressed syllables invariably land just right, and more importantly un-stressed syllables are gently placed, or elide easily. If it is a little unsettling to think that she was just fourteen or so when she set these ardent, erotic, and deeply passionate love songs, we need to remember that in her day she would have been married by fourteen, if not destined for the convent.
Dr. Ann Carruthers transcribed these pieces from facsimiles while a doctoral student of Dr. Richard Shindle at Kent State University. Drawing on both her transcrip- tions (published 1994 by The Broude Trust) and the original part books, I created the performing editions that you will hear in this recording, to which I have added the “affetti” I believe are important for communicating these love songs, including tempi and expressive markings as befit each madrigal’s rhetoric.
Vittoria was only the second woman to have printed a volume of music devoted exclusively to her compositions. Madalena Casulana published four madrigals in a diverse collection in 1566, and three volumes of madrigals in 1568, 1570 and 1583. In the 1570’s the court of Ferrara was famous for its concerto delle donne, a trio of professional female singers in the employ of Duke Alfonso. Their acceptance in performance, in lieu of castrati, paved the way for women to be accepted as singers in the privacy of the court. And in keeping with the competition among the courts, this new fashion spread to other duchys. With a foot – or toe – in the door as performers, women were at last moving beyond St. Paul’s dictum that they remain silent, and it was inevitable that soon women like Casulana and Aleotti could enter the public realm as composers. Still, it is nothing short of extraordinary that a young girl of fourteen composed these beautifully-crafted, nuanced, sensuous, and delicious sweets which can still bring us such delight more than four hundred years after their composition.
- Amelia LeClair, founding director, Cappella Clausura



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