BFXTen – Early English Masters of the Baroque

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Zenobia – The Glory Days of Antioch

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Westminster Wisdom – Augustine’s Miracles

May 29th, 2010 No comments

The Renaissance Mathematicus – Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel.

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Magnificat to Host the June ‘History Carnival’

May 26th, 2010 No comments


UPDATE May 31 – the June History Carnival is now live – please click here or on the tab above.

On or around June 1, Magnificat will take part in what has become an impressive tradition, when we host the 88th History Carnival. Each month since 2005, links to articles from the well-developed history blogosphere are gathered together on one blog and given some commentary for context.

I discovered the monthly carnival at some point and have found them not only an enjoyable and educational read but a terrific way of ferreting out blogs with obscure and fascinating specializations. They’ve all found a home on my RSS reader and many appear in the sidebar of this blog.

A review of past Carnivals (the archive can be viewed here) demonstrates the exciting work being made available on the internet – at least in general history. In addition to the excellent nominations I have already received, I am planning to feature some blogs that focus on the history of music for this installment of the Carnival.

Nominations for the Carnival can be made by writing to the blog ( or, more officially, by visiting the History Carnival nomination page.

Berkeley Festival Finale: A Venetian Vespers from Monteverdi to Vivaldi

May 23rd, 2010 1 comment

The Berkeley Festival Finale program will be a celebration of the extraordinary repertoire of music composed by Venetian composers for the elaboration of the office of Vespers during the century following Monteverdi’s monumental Vespro della Beata Vergine in 1610. It will also be a celebration of the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition and the extraordinary ensembles being featured on the festival’s “main stage”: ARTEK, AVE, the Marion Verbruggen Trio, Magnificat, Music’s Re-Creation and ¡Sacabuche!, along with the string ensemble Archetti, all of which will perform in the concert.

Though the music in Monteverdi’s collection was composed while he was in the service of the Duke of Mantua, it served to display his mastery of the sacred genres and contributed to his appointment in 1613 to the most prestigious musical position in Europe: maestro di cappella at the Basilica of St. Mark’s in Venice. Monteverdi’s colleagues at San Marco, and the illustrious series of musicians that followed him in the position of maestro, dedicated the finest fruits of their talent and skills to the ornamentation of the Vespers liturgy, the primary venue for elaborate sacred music throughout the 17th Century. This program will explore the ingenious ways that these composers adapted to the changing aesthetics in integrated the evolving compositional styles of the 17th Century in setting the ancient, unchanging texts that make up the Vespers liturgy. Read more…

Berkeley Festival: Cozzolani’s Concerti Sacri (1642)

All but one of the motets (O cæli cives from Salmi a Otto Voci, 1650) on Magnificat’s June 11 concert as part of the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition are drawn from Cozzolani’s second publication, Concerti sacri, a set of twenty concertos for 1 to 4 voices and a Mass Ordinary for four voices published in 1642. The volume was dedicated to the single most important patron of singers in northern Italy, Prince Matthias de’ Medici, a cadet whose military career had taken him from Florence to Milan in late winter 1640-1 and who mostly likely heard Cozzolani’s music during his stay in the city. That the dedication reflected some kind of contact between Matthias and Cozzolani, and that it was something of an afterthought, was noted by a Milanese patrician, Constanza Vittoria Arcimboldi, in a letter to the cadet Medici off at war:

“In addition, I will count on having met Your Highness’s taste in the following matter: I trust you will not be displeased that on my advice or urging Donna Chiara Margarita Cozzolani has dedicated her books of music to Your Highness; they will be presented to you by the Marchese Guicciardini.”

Read more…

SFCV Berkeley Festival Preview

Bologna’s Festa della Porchetta

May 17th, 2010 No comments

Paul at the excellent BibliOdyssey blog, has a post with a series of fascinating prints depicting Bologna’s annual Festa della Porchetta – the Festival of the Suckling Pig, celebrated by the Bolognese for five centuries until the arrival of Napolean’s army in 1796. The tradition has apparently been revived in the last decade – including a shared roasted pig – to help spread peace in the city. Click the detail image to link to the full image.

From Paul’s post:

“Bologna’s Festa della Porchetta was an annual carnival held on 24 August for more than five centuries. It commemorated both the Feast of St Bartholomew and the victory of Bolognese forces over Frederick II during the Battle of Fossalta in 1249. Frederick’s son, King Enzo, was imprisoned for thirty years in the city centre in a tower that now bears his name, adjacent to where the Porchetta celebrations took place in Palazzo Maggiore.

It was customary for the city’s nobles to enjoy a banquet in a palace fronting onto Palazzo Maggiore, and a spit-roasted suckling pig, together with poultry, breads, cheeses and cakes, was thrown from the balcony for the regular townsfolk to fight over. The festivities evolved over the centuries into large-scale affairs with acrobats, games, singing and dancing, in theatrical productions of wars, historical events and allegorical performance plays. Giant purpose-specific floats, stages, theatre props and machinery were constructed each year to accommodate the unique requirements of the year’s entertainment theme.”

View the many images and read the entire post at BibliOdyssey

Quiet, but Busy

May 14th, 2010 No comments

The blog has been quiet, but we’ve been hard at work. We’re close to launching the new Magnificat website – and this blog will a little re-designing as well. But that’s just part of what’s been going on.

It’s less than a month now til our performances at the Berkeley Festival and Exhibition. The festival is shaping up to be a fascinating event – in addition to the seven ‘main stage concerts and the EMA conference and exhibition there will be 50 fringe concerts during the week! Many (most) of these concerts include dear friends of Magnificat and it is evidence of the amazing vibrance of the early music scene in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The same week, Magnificat will be officially releasing the first volume of our recordings of Cozzolani’s complete works at a CD release party at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. Beyond final tweaks and dithering with the audio files, there’s the booklet to proof read – and then there’s the cover image…

We are also putting the final touches on Magnificat’s 2010-2011 season – and the brochure that will announce it. We’re very excited about the programs we will be offering next season. Each program will examine a different aspect of the tremendous cultural shift that took place over the course of the 17th century – the changes in the notions of nobility, the way that music of the lower classes was reflected in art music, the various ways that brilliant women found to express themselves in spite of societal restrictions, and use of parody and satire in the form of the Italian commedia dell’ arte was used to comment on the human condition.

And the music! The first English opera, Charpentier’s beloved Midnight Mass, a program of women’s music featuring soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani and a charming (and sometimes bawdy) staged madrigal comedy.

Even before the festival in June this blog will host the next History Carnival. While the subject is roughly the 18th century, in keeping with the focus of this blog, we’re getting fascinating nominations from a wide range of historical specializations – evidence of the impressive work being done in the blogosphere. We’re happy to receive more nominations – just go to this link to make your suggestion.

All in all a pretty exciting time.

A Magnificent Season

April 30th, 2010 No comments

Last weekend Magnificat completed our 18th season with three performances of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers in three beautiful venues for three large and appreciative audiences. We still have performances at the Berkeley Festival and a CD release party at Yoshi’s in June, but it is a good time to reflect on what has been Magnificat’s most successful and rewarding season yet.

Above all, we thank the musicians (full list below) who devoted so much love, devotion and talent to each of Magnificat’s projects this season.

In October the season began with performances of Francesca Caccini’s La Liberazione di Ruggiero in collaboration with the Carter Family Marionettes. The production melded the Sicilian puppet tradition, steeped in the tales of Ariosto and Tasso, Caccini and librettist Saricinelli’s adaptation of the tale of Ruggiero and Alcina for the Florentine court of Grand Duchess Maria Magdalena, and the vibrant (and bawdy) tradition of the nascent Italian theater of commedia dell’arte. We will again explore the commedia tradition next season with a production of Orazio Vecchi’s madrigal comedy L’Amfiparnaso in collaboration with the Dell’ Arte players. Read more…

SFCV Review: Magnificat’s Marvelous Magnificat

April 30th, 2010 No comments

The following by Anna Carol Dudley was posted at San Francisco Classical Voice. Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco also reviewed the Grace Cathedral performance.

Claudio Monteverdi, already famous as a composer of secular music in the late 16th century, published a Mass and a vesper service in 1610. This year is the occasion for many celebrations of the 400th anniversary of that event. On Sunday afternoon, in Grace Cathedral, Magnificat celebrated. Fielding a team of 10 extraordinary singers, Artistic Director Warren Stewart conducted a splendid performance of the 1610 Vespers, accompanied by four string players, organ and theorbo continuo, and six players of a variety of Renaissance winds: The Whole Noise and guests.

Magnificat in Grace Cathedral

Five psalms were set for chorus, including a lovely double-chorus Nisi Domini (Unless the Lord build the house). Every psalm was bookended by antiphons sung unison by the men, led by celebrant Hugh Davies. Other numbers were for smaller ensembles and soloists.
Sopranos Jennifer Ellis Kampani and Jennifer Paulino sang the parts written for castratos, making nice work of the florid Pulchra es (You are beautiful) from the “Song of Solomon.” Also from the “Song of Solomon” is Nigra sum (I am a black but beautiful daughter), which Monteverdi set for tenor in spite of the text — perhaps preferring the heft of a tenor voice to a soprano sound, or perhaps writing for a particularly gifted tenor. The gifted Paul Elliott invested it with beautiful feeling. He has a masterful way with florid outbursts that are not simply vocal display but have expressive purpose.

Read the entire review

Monteverdi’s Song of Mary and ‘Re-Animation’

April 28th, 2010 No comments

Magnificat at Grace Cathedral

Last weekend I had the privilege of sharing Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine of 1610 with an extraordinary assembly of musicians and three engaged and appreciative audiences. I have often said that the most wonderful  thing about directing Magnificat is that I get the best spot in the hall to experience fine artists at work and that was definitely the case in these concerts.

When I eventually got home from the Grace Cathedral on Sunday, I opened the laptop to check the Inbox and was greeted with the familiar pop-up window “You are now running on reserve battery.” My initial response was “No kidding!,” a response to which anyone coming off a production like the 1610 Vespers could relate. But it also got me thinking about the ‘rhythm’ of vespers how eloquently Monteverdi embroiders that rhythm and ‘recharges the batteries’ as the vespers moves from one multi-layered text to another. Read more…

Photos from 1610 Vespers at St. Patrick’s

April 24th, 2010 1 comment

Nika Korniyenko took some photos from our performance of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers yesterday evening at the beautiful St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. Two more performances – tonight at St. Mark’s Episcopal in Berkeley and tomorrow afternoon at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Both concerts are selling well but tickets are still available.

Cozzolani’s Salmi a otto voci concertati (1650)

April 22nd, 2010 No comments

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…

Monteverdi’s Setting of the Hymn ‘Ave maris stella’

April 18th, 2010 No comments

The treatment of the cantus firmus in the hymn Ave maris stella is quite different from its use in the psalms and the Magnificats. In the hymn, the plainchant always appears in the topmost part as the principal melody, harmonized in an essentially chordal fashion. This manner of setting the Ave maris stella melody can be traced all the way back to Dunstable’s alternatim version, which adds a modest degree of ornamentation to the plainchant. Monteverdi, however, adheres strictly to the notes of the chant itself, which is a first-mode melody evidently derived not from the Roman rite, but from the liturgy of Santa Barbara in Mantua, prepared specifically for the Gonzaga ducal chapel in the late sixteenth century.

Monteverdi sets each of the seven verses either in voal polyphony or as accompanied monody, subjecting the borrowed melody in successive verses to  a series of variations in texture, sonority and meter. Separating verses 2-6 is a ritornello for five unspecified instruments. The overall setting is conservative in character, even in notation, which is principally in semibreves and minims. The only modern elements are the insertion of the ritornello and the reduction of the texture to a solo voice with continuo accompaniment in verse 4-6. Nowhere is there an attempt to interpret individual wordsof the text, a difficult proposition in the strophic setting of hymns in any event. Read more…


April 17th, 2010 1 comment

Qui dat nivem sicut lanam:
nebulam sicut cinerem spargit.
Mittit crystallum suum sicut buccellas:
ante faciem frigoris eius quis sustinebit?

The Four Tenors

April 16th, 2010 No comments

Dan Hutchings, Chris LeCluyse, Paul Elliott & Mirko Guadagnini

The parts designated ‘Alto’ or ‘Septimus’ in Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers, like all music from the period, encompass a vocal range that in later music is most often sung by high tenors. The ‘counter tenor’ of the later Baroque would typically sing in a slightly higher register. As a result together with the ‘Tenore’ and ‘Quintus’ parts, we will have four tenors for our performances April 23-25.

Three of these tenors are very familiar to Magnificat audiences – Daniel Hutchings, Christopher LeCluyse, and Paul Elliott have appeared frequently in a wide variety of repertoire over the past decade. For these performances we are welcoming Italian tenor Mirko Guadagnini, who will be making his American debut.

Monteverdi’s alto, extending from e to b flat’, coincides much more closely with a modern tenor than with a modern alto, and we can assume the part would habe neem sung in the seventeenth century by what today would be called a tenor. Monteverdi’s tenor on the other hand, approximates a modern baritone, except that the highest few notes are beyond the reach of most baritones and wide-ranging tenor, like the four in Magnificat’s concert, are essential for the performance of the 1610 Vespers. Read more…

Sonata à 8 sopra Sancta Maria ora pro nobis (1610)

April 16th, 2010 No comments

The Sonata sopra Sancta Maria borrows the opening phrase from the Litany of the Saints and reiterates it in the soprano voice eleven times over a sonata for eight instruments. In general, the structure of the Sonata resembles, on a very large scale, that of a typical late sixteenth-century instrumental canzona, comprising a series of loosely related sections with repetition of the opening material at the end. As with the adaptation of the L’Orfeo toccata to Domine ad adiuvandum, a liturgical chant is superimposed on the instrumental composition, which could easily stand alone.

The cantus firmus does not begin until well into the piece, and its successive statements are altered rhythmically and separated by rests of varying durations. The instrumental sonata supporting the cantus firmus unfolds in ten overlapping section, the first one restated at the end in the manner of a da capo. As in the Magnificat, the different sections differ in style and texture, and the meter shifts between duple and triple time with some frequency. In contrast to the Magnificats, the sections do not correspond exactly with the restatements of the plainchant, since the opening segment is without cantus firmus and another section supports two intonations of the chant melody. Read more…

The Sopranos (for Magnificat’s 1610 Vespers)

April 15th, 2010 No comments

Jennifer Paulino and Jennifer Ellis Kampani

A year ago, Magnificat performed Alessandro Scarlatti’s serenata Amore, Venere, e Ragione with “3 Jennifers“. For the final concerts of our 2009-2010 season, Magnificat is pleased to feature two of the Jennifers for the two soprano parts – Jennifer Paulino and Jennifer Ellis Kampani – as our sopranos. (Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane will be joining us for our performance at the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition in June.)

Jennifer Paulino has appeared frequently with Magnificat since singing the role of Daniele in Stradella’s La Susanna in February 2007, a production that we also performed at the Tropical Baroque Festival in Miami that Spring. She has been a prat of several productions since then, including earlier this season when she sang several roles – notably the seductive Siren) in Francesca Caccini’s La Liberatione di Ruggiero.

Jennifer is a founding member of the Baroque ensemble Les grâces, who appeared in earlier this season on the San Francisco Early Music Society series and toured in Europe last Fall. As an ensemble singer, Jennifer has performed in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the Arts Center in Seoul, Korea, and on recordings contracted by the Spoleto Festival USA and The Washington National Cathedral. She was a member of The Choral Scholars, a vocal ensemble dedicated to the study and performance of early music and new works from 1999-2004. Her tenure with the ensemble culminated in a recording and concert in collaboration with Trio Mediæval and the Washington National Cathedral girls choir. Read more…