The Cozzolani Project

Notes for Cozzolani Concerti Sacri (1642)

June 1st, 2013 Comments off

In dedicating her new book of motets – Latin-texted compositions to be sung in and out of liturgy – to the Tuscan prince Mathias de’ Medici (1613-67) on Mathias’ name-day (the feast of his patron saint), 25 February 1642, the Benedictine nun composer Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602-c. 1677) expressed her homage thus:

The favor that your Serene Highness did for me by raising these my musical compositions from their native low state to the height of your praise [“basso” and “alto” are musical puns] … leaves me no other power to which to dedicate them other than to your protection … I offer you notes bright [“chiare”, i.e. “open” note-values like whole-notes, but with a play on the composer’s name] and dark [i.e. the “blackened” eighth- and sixteenth-notes] … and the blacker they are, the faster they run to make themselves tributes … to your name.

Mathias would have heard some of the twenty motets and perhaps the Mass Ordinary included in Cozzolani’s book during his stay in Milan in February 1641, which would have included visits to hear the famed singing nuns of Cozzolani’s convent, Santa Radegonda. The prince was well known as a patron of singers across Italy with a special inter- est in the touring companies that would bring early Venetian opera to a wide range of cities and courts as the pioneering work of Lorenzo Bianconi and Thomas Walker has shown.

From Cozzolani’s point of view, her book also represented a step forward. Her now-lost op. 1 had been published by a local printer in Milan in 1640, but the new book was entrusted to the high-quality music printer Alessandro Vincenti in Venice which ensured a wide circulation for the motets. Indeed, one of them, the duet O dulcis Iesu, was reprinted in a motet anthology of 1649 from Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland) compiled by a Lutheran organist and another, the solo Concinant linguae, is found in a later French manuscript with an attribution to Giacomo Carissimi. Read more…

Cozzolani Concerti Sacri to be released in June

May 28th, 2013 Comments off

Magnificat and Musica Omnia are pleased to announce the release of Concerti Sacri, the second volume of the complete works of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani. The digital tracks are already available for download at music.cozzolani.com and the physical CDs will be released at the Boston Early Music Festival in June. This double CD set marks the completion of Magnificat’s project to record all of Cozzolani’s works that survive complete. Volume I, Salmi a Otto Voci, was released in June 2010. The cover artwork is an oil painting on gold leaf by Magnificat creative director Nika Korniyenko.

The recording is dedicated to the memory of Judith Nelson. While Judy’s voice is not heard on these recordings, her spirit – the honesty of her artisrty and the warmth and sincerity of her musicianship  – is present throughout. It was Judy who introduced me to Donna Chiara and the performance of O quam bonus es with her in 1997 was the catalyst for all the love and energy we’ve shared with Cozzolani in the years that followed, for which we are all deeply grateful.

Sixteen of the tracks on Concerti Sacri have been available digitally for over a year, while nine tracks are available now for the first time. For those who have purchased the digital recording without the new tracks, or for those who would like to hear only the new tracks they are available independently here. As always those pre-ordering the CD will receive the digital tracks as well as the CD. Read more…

New Cozzolani Project Track – Alma Redemptoris Mater

February 17th, 2011 Comments off

Cozzolani included a setting of each of the four Marian Antiphons in her 1642 collection, Concerti sacri. Alma redemptoris Mater is published for soprano and bass and for Magnificat’s performance the bass part has been transposed up an octave. Magnificat’s recording features soprano Catherine Webster and mezzo-soprano Deborah Rentz-Moore with David Tayler, theorbo and Hanneke van Proosidj, organ.

The antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater is attributed to Herman Contractus (1013-1054), a monk who lived in Reichenau near Lake Constance. Its mention in The Prioress’ Tale in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, testifies to its popularity in England before Henry VIII. Contractus used phrases taken from the writings of St. Fulgentius, St. Epiphanius, and St. Irenaeus. At one time Alma Redemptoris Mater was briefly used as an antiphon for the hour of Sext for the feast of the Assumption, but in 1350 Pope Clement established the seasonal order of singing the four Marian antiphons at Compline and it has been sung since then during the period from the first Sunday in Advent until the Feast of the Purification.

New Cozzolani Track – Psallite superi

December 23rd, 2010 Comments off

Another release – and this time one of the musicians’ favorites. The four voice motet Psallite, superi sets a text for the Assumption (August 15); its refrain frames a series of questions whose answers are taken from a standard Song of Songs verse used on the liturgy of that day in Cozzolani’s Benedictine breviary. The form of this dialogue also derives from the cantilena motets pioneered in Alessandro Grandi’s book of 1619. The scoring (two sopranos, two altos) points directly to the all-women choir of S. Radegonda’s nuns, the ensemble which presumably premiered most of Cozzolani’s music.

Magnificat has performed Psallite superi several times – on our series and on the Carmel Bach Festival series in 2002 and again on the Music Before 1800 series in New York in 2005. This recording features Catherine Webster, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, Meg Bragle and Deborah Rentz-Moore with David Tayler, theorbo and Hanneke van Proosdij, organ. As always the producer was Peter Watchorn and the engineer Joel Gordon.

We will continue releasing digital versions of the remaining tracks over the next few months and hope to have the physical CD available in time for Magnificat’s final concerts of the season in March 2011.

Cozzolani Project Releases New Track: Ecce annuntio vobis

December 13th, 2010 Comments off

The Cozzolani Project is pleased to announce the release of our first new track from Volume II of the complete works of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, the Christmas motet Ecce annuntio vobis featuring soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani. After some delays, we have know begun the process of completing the post-production of the remaining motets that were recorded last summer.

The Christmas motet Ecce annuntio vobis was published in the collection Concerti Sacri in 1642. It is one of 16 solo motets by Cozzolani and one of only four that have survived complete. The text is a paraphrase of the angelic announcement of the birth of Christ found in Luke 2:10-14.

Jennifer has appeared regularly with Magnificat since her debut as “Gelosia” in Marco Marrazoli’s Il Capriccio in 1997. She will be featured in Magnificat’s concerts on the weekend of February 4-6, 2011 in a program of music by four remarkable women composers of the Baroque: Francesca Caccini, Barbara Strozzi, Isabella Leonarda, and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre.

Jennifer is joined on this recording by David Tayler, theorbo and Hanneke van Proosdij, organ.

The Original Partbooks of Cozzolani’s Salmi a Otto voci

July 12th, 2010 4 comments

The blog has been quiet in the past month as I took some time away in Europe. While there I had one particularly meaningful experience I wanted to share.

The Civico Museo Bibliografico Musicale in Bologna is like mecca for scholars of 17th century music. It houses the collection of the renowned 18th century composer, teacher and scholar Giovanni Battista Martini, known as ‘Padre Martini’. Most of his massive collection of music prints (estimated by Dr. Burney at over 17,000 volumes) was donated to the Civico Museo on his death.

Of special interest to me was of course the original partbooks of Cozzolani’s 1650 collection Salmi a Otto Voci Concertati, a complete recording of which Magnificat recently released. While I have become intimately familiar with facsimiles of these partbooks, I have never had the opportunity to actually handle them, but thanks to the kind assistance of librarian Alfredo Vitolo, I was able to do so.

I was struck anew by the small format of 17th century prints – paper was expensive! As the photo shows the stack of nine partbooks was very compact indeed. The photo of the title page of the Canto Primo partbook shows the red lettering lost in scans and microfilms.

While at the Civico Meseo I also had the opportunity to examine first prints of publications by Isabella Leonarda and Barbara Strozzi as well as Orazio Vecchi’s L’Amfiparnaso – all music that Magnificat will perform in the coming season.

I also viewed the sole surviving partbook from Cozzolani’s collection of solo motets Scherzi di sacra melodia (1648). Over the past decade, Magnificat has supplied basso continuo parts for five of these motets for performance.

More photos of the partbaook for both the 1648 and 1650 collection can be viewed in the photo gallery.

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Cozzolani Project Releases Psalm 110: Confitebor tibi Domine

June 3rd, 2010 Comments off

Magnificat and Musica Omnia have released another track from the first volume of Cozzolani’s complete works. With the release of Confitebor tibi Domine, all of Cozzolani’s eight voice settings are now available. You can listen and download from this link.

If the first psalm, Dixit Dominus, with its unusual refrain, constantly varying textures and martial affect represents one side of Cozzolani’s 1650 collection, Confitebor tibi displays another. The concertato duet and trio writing found in the first psalm are present here as well as are the tutti declamatory, martial and antiphonal sections. Read More

Cozzolani’s Salmi a otto voci concertati (1650)

April 22nd, 2010 Comments off

The collection, the Salmi a otto voci concertati… which has been recorded in its entirety by Magnificat was Cozzolani’s fourth published in the short span of ten years (1640-50; one publication survives complete, one incompletely, and the first seems completely lost).  It was dedicated to her almost exact contemporary Alberto Badoer, a Venetian patrician and the bishop (1633-1677) of the small city of Crema in Venetian territory some 40 kilometers southeast of Milan.

The book contains six settings of psalms for eight voices (Dixit, Confitebor, Beatus vir, Laudate pueri, Nisi Dominus, Laetatus sum) along with two settings of the Magnificat (Mary’s canticle); this must represent some of the pieces sung by the house’s two choirs at the afternoon service of Vespers, on both the day before (“First Vespers”) and the day of (“Second Vespers”) major feasts of the church year. There are also two other psalms with violins (Laudate Dominum is a short psalm often used to replace another text at the end of the psalmodic part of Vespers).  The rest of Cozzolani’s large edition consists of eight motets for various liturgical occasions for two to five voices without instruments, which could have been sung at Vespers, at Mass, or informally.

Cozzolani’s publication is one of only ten volumes published in Italy between 1630 and 1656 to include eight-voice Vespers.  We know that its publisher Alessandro Vincenti, the better of the two music printers in Venice, priced it at 14 lire, a fairly expensive edition due to the amount of paper used in its nine part-books, although not out of line compared to other editions of its size.  By way of comparison, the entire annual salary offered to Claudio Monteverdi’s successor as chapelmaster at St. Mark’s in 1643 was 1,920 lire. Read more…

Cozzolani – A “Clear Pearl” of Excellent Musical Invention

April 10th, 2010 Comments off

This post is excerpted from the notes that will accompany the first volume of Magnificat’s recording of Cozzolani’s complete works.

A feast day celebration in the Piazza del Duomo in Milan, 1630

Over the last twenty years, performances and scholarship have given us some idea of the remarkable musical world of cloistered nuns in early modern Italy.  The Cozzolani Project’s recordings of the complete works of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602-c.1677), testify to both her own musical creativity and to the high skills of the musicians in her Benedictine house of Santa Radegonda in Milan, across the street from the city’s cathedral (the monastery was razed by the early nineteenth century).

There is evidence for excellent music-making at S. Radegonda as early as the late sixteenth century.  Writing in 1674 (while Cozzolani was still alive), the Milanese poet and occasional librettist Carlo Torre praised its singers thusly:

“It can be said that in our own times, Mount Helicon has been transported to this monastery, due to the excellence of its veiled singers, or that spirits from on high fly in this church, since rapturous melodies are heard … So that you readers do not think I am speaking in hyperbole, I will wait for you there on the next feast-day, and you will take away true proof of what I have said”.

A few years earlier, the urban panegyricist Filippo Picinelli named her specfically in his praise of the house’s music: “Among these sisters, Donna Chiara Margarita Cozzolani merits the highest praise , Chiara (“clear”) in name but even more so in merit, and Margarita (“a pearl”) for her unusual and excellent nobility of [musical] invention”. Read more…

Cozzolani’s Laudate Dominum for Soprano and Violins

March 31st, 2010 Comments off

Jennifer Ellis Kampani Featured in Magnificat’s Latest Release

Download Magnificat’s recording of Laudate Dominum

Jennifer Ellis KampaniMagnificat is pleased to release our recording of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani’s setting of the psalm Laudate Dominum, one of only two works by the composer involving obbligato instruments and her only psalm setting for solo voice. As with her second setting of Laudate pueri, Cozzolani adds two violins to the texture and, as in that psalm, the violins are used here both to punctuate the text with ritornelli and in interactive dialogue with the voice.

Magnificat’s recording features soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani, who will be singing in their upcoming performances of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers on the weekend of April 23-25 and will perform a solo recital as part of Magnificat’s 2010-2011 season. The recording also features violinists Rob Diggins and Jolianne von Einem and the continuo team of David Tayler, theorbo, and Hanneke van Proosdij, organ. Laudate Dominum omnes gentes will be included in Volume 1 of the complete works of Cozzolani, which will be released by Musica Omnia at the Berkeley Early Music Festival this June.

Robert Kendrick provides a succinct analysis of the structure of Laudate Dominum in his seminal work on the music of nuns in 17th century Milan, Celestial Sirens:

“Given the liberties of both the psalm settings and the mottetto con strumenti, it is surprising that Cozzolani’s solo Laudate Dominum with two violins is nor even freer than its simple structure would indicate: an opening section ‘Laudate…omnes populi’ for solo voice, long instrumental ritornello, and tutti (with recalls of the opening at the end); the remaining psalm text, which moves from B minor to D minor; the return of the opening vocal idea and the ritornello, and then another troped doxology. This begins with new material but then interlaces the setting of ‘laudate’ in the middle of ‘et nunc et semper’, then surprisingly sets the last verbal phrase to the music of ‘omnes populi laudate’ from the very first tutti. As elsewhere in Cozzolani’s music, the surprise is not the use of the refrain but the way in which the first section is split and recalled unexpectedly–a final reflection, again, of the salmo bizzaro.”

To download a lossless file of Cozzolani’s Laudate Dominum in a variety of formats, hear other music by Cozzolani, or to pre-order Magnificat’s double-CD set of Cozzolani’s complete works, please visit the Cozzolani Project music page.

Cozzolani’s Beatus vir – the most Bizarre of the “Salmi Bizarri”

March 19th, 2010 Comments off

Click Here to Stream and Download Cozzolani’s Beatus vir

First page of the Cantus Primo partbook for Beatus Vir

Magnificat and Musica Omnia are pleased to announce our latest release – Cozzolani’s extraordinary setting of the psalm Beatus vir. Taking the characteristics of the “salmi bizarri” to an extreme, here Cozzolani manipulates the psalm text into a dialogue and collects ritornelli as she makes her way through the text. The recording features sopranos Catherine Webster, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, Ruth Escher and Andrea Fullington; altos Meg Bragle, Karen Clark, Suzanne Jubenville and Elizabeth Anker; and a continuo team of John Dornenburg, violone, David Tayler, theorbo and Hanneke van Proosdij, organ, with Warren Stewart conducting.

Magnificat first performed this compositional tour de force on the San Francisco Early Music Society series in 1999, with later performances at the 2002 Berkeley Early Music Festival, on the Music Before 1800 series in New York in 2003, and in 2007 for the Society for Seventeenth Century Music at Notre Dame University.

Cozzolani subtitles her setting of the psalm Beatus vir “In Forma di Dialogo, signaling a very free recasting of the psalm text into a series of questions and answers between interlocutors. While the entire psalm text is traversed in its proper sequence (with the omission of occasional words), the text also serves as a matrix from which various phrases can be extracted and inserted repeatedly in the midst of other verses. Only a schematic of the text and its reworking can give an adequate idea of how freely and dramatically Cozzolani treats it. In the following outline of the psalm and its literal English translation, bold type indicates refrains and texts repeated out of order as found in the original psalm text. Italics constitute the dialogue, with questions and their answers, the answers derived from the psalm itself. The verses are numbered as in the Liber Usualis. Read more…

Cozzolani Project Releases New Track – O caeli cives

March 11th, 2010 Comments off

Click Here to Stream and Download Cozzolani’s dialogue motet O caeli cives

Caravaggio's St. Catherine

The Cozzolani Project‘s latest release is the five-voice dialogue for St Catherine of Alexandria, O cæli cives (1650). As in a few other pieces, the ‘singing angels’ to whom musical nuns were often compared, form one side of this dialogue, while two voices represent the faithful on earth.

In his seminal work on the music of Milan’s convents, Celestial Sirens, Robert Kendrick suggests that O cæli cives may have been originally composed in 1649 for the feast day of her convent’s patron saint, Radegund, whose name scans in Latin like Catherine’s.  Kendrick notes “the poetic conceit of the dialogue, which features humans (soprano and mezzo-soprano on Magnificat’s recording) asking angels (three sopranos – two sopranos and mezzo-soprano on the recording) for the saint’s resting-place immediately after her death, was described in Agostino Lampugnani’s Della vita di S. Radegonda (Milan, 1649).”

Peterzano's painting in S. Maria della Passione in Milan

The imagery in the text is similar to that in Simone Peterzano’s painting The Mystic Marriage of Alexandria with Sts. Radegund and Justina of Padua [ca. 1585], formerly the high alterpiece in the chiesa esteriore of the convent of S. Radegonda, now preserved in S. Maria della Passione in Milan.Kendrick notes the parallels between the commissioning of such paintings and the dedications in motet compositions by nuns:

“The emphasis on the patron(ess) saint or Marian iconography found in such paintings would echo the themes of the early motet dedications to nuns; ultimately it reflected the devotional life of patrician families. Sanctoral cults mirrored and provided a public focus for the civic religion of aristocratic clans in early modern Italy.”

Magnificat’s recording features sopranos Catherine Webster, Andrea Fullington, and mezzo-soprano Deborah Rentz-Moore as the ‘Angels’ and soprano Jennifer Ellis-Kampani and mezzo-soprano Meg Bragle as ‘The Faithful’. The singers are as always by David Tayler, theorbo and Hanneke van Proosdij, organ.

The two volume complete works of Cozzolani can be pre-ordered at cozzolani.com/subscribe . All those pre-ordering receive free digital downloads of all tracks – those currently available and new tracks as they become available. Please visit cozzolani.com for more information about Cozzolani and these recordings.

Cozzolani Project Releases New Track – Laudate pueri a 6

February 18th, 2010 2 comments

Click Here to Listen and Download Cozzolani’s Laudate pueri à 6

First Page of Laudate pueri à 6 in the Tenor Primo part book

Magnificat and Musica Omnia are pleased to announce the release of Cozzolani’s second setting of the psalm Laudate pueri (à 6), one of only two of her works that call for obbligato instruments in addition to voices and basso continuo. Like her setting of Laudate Dominum for solo soprano, the Laudate pueri à 6 includes parts for two violins.

Despite various Episcopal efforts to ban non-keyboard instruments from convents in 17th-Century Milan, there is considerable evidence for nuns’ ability to play obbligato instrumental parts that occasionally appear in publications of convent music. While there are no records of non-keyboard instrumentalists at Cozzolani’s convent, S. Radegonda, in the 1660s there are accounts of “cantatrice, e sonatrici” (i.e. singers and instrumentalists) at the convent and two or three violinists were associated with each of the convent’s choirs in the 1670s.

The violins offer Cozzolani another element in the psalm’s expansive compositional architecture. Without an opening sinfonia, the psalm establishes a two-period refrain in the opening verse that returns in alternation with an instrumental sinfonia between the verses. Robert Kendrick has noted that in its insistent return to the G final for each verse and the use of similar melodic figuration gives this setting the sound of a strophic variation.

Laudate Pueri à 6 was published for two sopranos, two tenors, and two violins, Magnificat has recorded the work with four sopranos – Catherine Webster, Ruth Escher, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, and Andrea Fullington. The sopranos are joined by Rob Diggins and Jolianne von Einem, violin, John Dornenburg violone, David Tayler, theorbo and Hanneke van Proosdij, organ.

Magnificat Featured on PRX Women’s History Month Program

January 25th, 2010 Comments off

To mark Women’s History Month, Public Radio Exchange (PRX) has posted an hourlong program celebrating some of the remarkable women in music from the Baroque. Hosted by Angela Mariani, the program includes works by Barbara Strozzi, Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Isabella Leonarda and, of course, Chiara Margarita Cozzolani.

We are pleased that they included Magnificat’s recording of Cozzolani’s setting of the psalm Dixit Dominus on the program.

Have a listen!

The Producer Speaks: Impressions from the Cozzolani Recording Booth

January 10th, 2010 Comments off
Peter Watchorn and Joel Gordon

The Men in the Booth: Peter Watchorn and Joel Gordon (photo by David Tayler)

Over recent weeks I have been re-discovering the amazing music of Donna Chiara Margarita Cozzolani and the extraordinary talents of the ladies (and a few gentlemen) of Magnificat who brought it all to life. It seems hardly possible that the first of these recordings took place a decade ago, beginning in August 2000, marking one of Musica Omnia‘s very first projects (We began recording Jaap Schroeder and Penelope Crawford’s Atlantis Ensemble the same year.)

Having released two “liturgical” versions of a fairly hefty sampling of Cozzolani’s music from both 1642 and the grander collection of 1650, we are now finally mining the remaining wealth of material that we captured and preserved all those years ago in order to realize our original goal of presenting all the surviving music by this wonderful and unique composer, who for me exemplifies the second generation of composers of the Italian Baroque.

I can recall the atmosphere of friendly camaraderie between all the performers and their good-natured acceptance of myself as newly appointed (and relatively inexperienced) producer, fortunate to be working with the highly experienced (and fantastic) engineer/co-producer Joel Gordon, who created the “sound” for Musica Omnia and has continued to develop it right up to most recent release – our 30th. And working with Magnificat and Warren Stewart was a great joy – and an education. And, how great it was to simply spend time in the beautiful Bay Area.

I remember being amazed at the virtuosity of the singers, the imagination of the continuo team and the visionary direction of Warren Stewart, who radiated scholarship, practical knowledge and committed enthusiasm for this music with every gesture. It’s also great to recall the special sound created by having SATB music sung entirely by women, recreating the sounds that must have enlivened Chiara Margarita’s convent in Milan, spreading its fame far and wide. And what a cast: Catherine Webster, Meg Bragle, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, Karen Clark, Jennifer Lane, Deborah Rentz-Moore, Ruth Escher, Suzanne Jubenville, Andrea Fullington, Elizabeth Anker and Linda Liebschutz. Not to mention the exemplary continuo support of Hanneke van Proosdij, David Tayler and John Dornenburg. Read more…

Photos from Cozzolani Recording Sessions

January 8th, 2010 Comments off

David Tayler has scanned some photos from the August 2001 Cozzolani recording sessions at St. Stephen’s in Belvedere – have a look.

Here’s a photo of “The Cast” from August 2001.

The Cast from August 2001

Warren Stewart, Elizabeth Anker, Suzanne Jubenville, Catherine Webster, Ruth Escher, Andrea Fullington, Hanneke van Proosdij, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, Meg Bragle, John Dornenburg, and David Tayler

Cozzolani Project Releases New Track “Quis audivit unquam tale”

January 6th, 2010 Comments off
Quis Audivit Bass page 1

The first page of Quis audivit unquam tale from the Bass part book

The Cozzolani Project is pleased to announce the release of a new track, the Christmas/Epiphany motet Quis audivit unquam tale.

As with most of the non-liturgical texts set by Cozzolani, the author of Quis audivit unquam tale is unknown, but there are references to Song of Songs 3:11 and the Gospel of John 1:14. The motet is notable for its variety of textures, alternating antiphonal motives and invertible counterpoint and florid declamatory writing with unexpected extensions of melodic ideas. Word painting for the parallel expressions of ascending and descending and for the contrast of the Kingdom of Heaven and the humble manger make this one of the most immediately attractive of Cozzolani’s works.

In the 1650 publication, Quis audivit unquam tale is scored for two sopranos and bass and Magnificat’s recording features Catherine Webster and Jennifer Ellis Kampani along with contralto Elizabeth Anker, who sings some of the bass part at pitch and some transposed up an octave. Magnificat first performed the motet in December 1999 on the San Francisco Early Music Society concert series, with recent performances last month on our own series.

Quis audivit unquam tale is available for streaming and download at The Cozzolani Project Music Page.

Who has ever heard of such a thing?

December 24th, 2009 Comments off

Who has ever heard of such a thing?
Who has ever seen something like this?
Marvel, O heaven;
Wonder, O earth;
Behold, O universe.

God has descended to flesh, and flesh has ascended to God.
The Word has become flesh.
The virgin adores Him whom she bore.

O deepest descent, O highest ascent!
He lies on hay in a manger Who sits on the throne of glory in heaven;
He mingles with rough animals Who is praised by angelic choirs;
He is quiet at His mother’s breast Who always speaks in the lap of His father.
He is hidden in a lowly stable, but is shown to the world by a shining star;
He is wrapped in swaddling clothes but is visited by kings;
He cries and weeps Who is the laughter and joy of Paradise.

Behold, what majesty, behold, what humility: majesty inside, humility outside, power inside, infancy outside, the riches of divinity inside, the poverty of humanity outside.
O true birth, most worthy of God and man!

Who has ever heard such a thing?
Who has ever seen something like this?

So let us, devoutly and humbly, adore Him with the shepherds, praise Him with the angels, let us praise the Solomonic King in the bodily diadem with which the virgin Mary, His mother, has crowned Him.

(Anonymous, set by Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, Quis audivit unquam tale?, 1650)

“Soften the voice as if, little by little, going away”

December 16th, 2009 Comments off

Gloria in altissimis – New Release from The Cozzolani Project

Click Here to Listen and Download

First page of Gloria in altissimis from the Canto Primo part book. (Click for pdf of the complete facsimile parts.)

The Cozzolani Project’s first new release is the Christmas Dialogue Gloria in altissimis, one of the Cozzolani’s most immediately appealing works, in which she vividly captures the brilliance and wonder of the Christmas narrative. The anonymous text alludes to Luke 2:10 and 14, and in Cozzolani’s hands it is infused with a gleeful exuberance and a touch of chromatic mystery. The Angels (two sopranos) are “glorious” and the shepherds (scored for alto and tenor) are at first astonished and then jubilant.

After the shepherd’s initial encounter with the angels, increasingly expressive solos are given to the four voices in turn, sung on Magnificat’s recording by soprano Catherine Webster, alto Suzanne Jubenville, soprano Andrea Fullington, and alto Karen Clark, who sings the tenor part at notated pitch. David Tayler, theorbo and Hanneke van Proosdij, organ complete the ensemble.

In an almost theatrical gesture, Chiara Margarita Cozzolani instructs the four singers at the end to “soften the voice as if, little by little, going away” in imitation of  the Angelic choir disappearing as they ascend back to Heaven after announcing their good news to the awestruck shepherds.

Soften the Voice Read more…

Salmi Bizarri – The Life and Music of Cozzolani (Podcast)

December 5th, 2009 Comments off

Magnificat’s recording Vespro della Beata Vergine included a third CD called “Beyond the Notes” – Salmi Bizarri: Cozzolani and the music of Milanese convents. Patterned on the talks that precede each Magnificat concert, on this CD I discussed aspects of Cozzolani’s life and music with musical examples.

This introduction to the life and music of Cozzolani is now available in streaming audio here:

Click Here to download this podcast