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Review of Suzanne Cusick’s Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court

CacciniCusickBookReba Wissner of Brandeis University has posted a thoughtful review of Suzanne Cusick’s recently published book, Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court: Music and the Circulation of Power (University of Chicago Press, July 2009.) I encourage you to read the full review at Music Book Reviews, but I wanted to quote a couple paragraphs here.

Francesca Caccini was one of the most prolific female composers and performers of the seventeenth century, and recently, musicologists and interdisciplinarians have generated an extensive body of literature on the role of women in early modern Europe, mainly in Italy. Suzanne G. Cusick’s study of the composer eloquently situates itself within that realm. This, Cusick’s first book, has been long awaited. A scholar known for her enlightening and engaging articles on subjects such as feminist perspectives on early music and the use of music as torture in terrorist containment camps, it is high time for a book by this talented scholar. Additionally, hers is the first extended and in-depth study of one of the most influential female Italian musicians of the Baroque. Cusick deliberately avoids the technical language that pervades most musicological scholarship while still conveying her ideas and analysis of Caccini, her role as a female in a predominantly male world, and her compositions. The author’s copious research brings to light a new side of Caccini that has been neglected far too long; she is portrayed not just as the daughter of famed composer Giulio Caccini, but as a composer, performer, and teacher in her own right, no longer studied in the shadow of her father. Cusick’s study illuminates the life of Francesca Caccini, placing her life within the context of family dynamics, societal norms, and economic implications.

Wissner concludes her review with the following summary:

Suzanne Cusick’s groundbreaking study represents an important addition to recent musicological scholarship on the lives of female composers, particularly those of the seventeenth century; a field that only recently has been burgeoning. This book will be of interest to readers interested in music history, cultural studies, and the role of women in early modern Italy. By examining the historical and cultural elements, the author brings new, exciting, invigorating, and much-needed in-depth analysis, and provides a more accurate portrayal of the composer and her works than has been seen before.

I have found this book to be extraordinarily thought provoking as I prepare for Magnificat’s production of La Liberazione di Ruggiero with the Carter Family Marionettes in October.

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