Welcoming New Friends – Kiri Tollaksen, Jeffrey Fields and Mirko Guadagnini

April 14th, 2010 No comments

For Magnificat’s performances of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers next week, we are pleased to welcome three musicians who will be appearing with us for the first time, cornettist Kiri Tollaksen, baritone Jeffrey Fields and tenor Mirko Guadagnini.

Mirko Guadagnini

These performances will be Mirko Guadagnini‘s San Francisco debut but he is known to early music fans from his appearance in the title role of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo on La Venexiana’s recording of Monteverdi’s opera, which received the 2008 Grammophone Award for Best Baroque Vocal.

In 2003 he sang for the opening of Teatro La Fenice in Venice with Caldara’s Te Deum led by Riccardo Muti and  in 2004 he made his debut as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte at Teatro Politeama in Lecce, as Oronte in Händel’s Alcina by Händel at Teatro Verdi in Trieste, as Conte in Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Paisiello at Teatro La Fenice in Venice and as Cassio in Otello at Grand Théâtre de Genève. In 2005 he sang Nerone in L’incoronazione di Poppea at Opera de Lyon, conductor William Christie with Les Arts Florissants; in Händel’s Messiah in Florence with Orchestra della Toscana. Mirko made his debut at La Scala in Milan as Goffredo in Rinaldo by Händel, and debuted in the title role of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo at Auditorium Verdi in Milan and at Auditorium Nacional de Madrid.

Kiri Tollaksen

Kiri Tollaksen enjoys a varied career as a performer and teacher. Kiri has performed extensively throughout North America and Europe with numerous groups such as Apollo’s Fire, Piffaro, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, New York Collegium, Concerto Palatino, La Fenice, and Tafelmusik. Kiri is a founding member of the ensembles Anaphantasia and Chiaroscuro. As a professional trumpet player, Kiri performs with the River Raisin Ragtime Revue and freelances throughout Michigan.

In addition to being on faculty at the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, Kiri maintains a teaching studio in Ann Arbor, and has taught cornetto at the Amherst Early Music Festival. Kiri holds performing degrees in trumpet from Eastman, Yale, and a Doctorate in Musical Arts from the University of Michigan. She has recorded with the Huelgas Ensemble, Apollo’s Fire, Piffaro, La Fenice, The New York Collegium, La Gente d’Orfeo, the River Raisin Ragtime Revue and the Dodworth Saxhorn Band.

Jeffrey Fields

Jeffrey Fields has performed regularly throughout California in concert, oratorio and opera since moving to the Bay Area in 1999. In 1998, he was selected as an Adams Fellow at the Carmel Bach Festival and has had numerous solo appearances there since; he will sing the Monteverdi Vespers at this summer’s festival. He also sings regularly with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and American Bach Soloists.

Jeffrey made his Carnegie Hall debut in Handel’s Messiah in December 2007. Recent and current engagements include Dvorak’s Stabat Mater in Berkeley, Handel’s Alexander’s Feast at UC Davis under Jeffrey Thomas, Brahms’ Requiem in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Berkeley, Mozart’s Requiem with the Marin Symphony, Orff’s Carmina Burana at Stanford, Handel’s Samson with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Acis and Galatea (Polyphemus) with Berkeley Opera, the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Marin Oratorio, Mendelssohn’s St. Paul in Berkeley, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at the Carmel Bach Festival and the Bach Society of St. Louis, the Requiems of Faure and Durufle, Haydn’s Creation in Los Angeles and Carmel, and Bach’s B Minor Mass with the San Francisco Bach Choir. Jeff was a three-time winner of the NATS Central Region auditions. His wide repertoire includes Marcello in Puccini’s La Boheme, Papageno in Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, and King Herod in Massenet’s Herodiade, as well as a broad spectrum of concert works, oratorios and art song.

KDFC to Present Magnificat at Yoshi’s in San Francisco on June 7th

April 14th, 2010 No comments

Tickets available online through Yoshi’s

On June 7th, KDFC with present Magnificat’s CD Release Party at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. The event will mark the official release of the first volume of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani’s complete works.

Over the past couple years, “KDFC in the Clubs” has offered Bay Area audiences the chance to hear classical artists performing in a less formal atmosphere. Magnificat will be the first early music ensemble to be presented – and the first to appear at Yoshi’s. Read more…

Montverdi’s Setting of the Psalm Laetatus sum (1610)

April 12th, 2010 No comments

Whereas the structure of Dixit Dominus, Laudate pueri, Nisi Dominus, and Lauda Ierusalem is centered around reiterations of the psalm tone in each verse, the formal organization of Laetatus sum does not depends on the cantus firmus, but rather on the disposition of the text over a series of repeated bass patterns in the sequence ABACD ABACD’ AB’D’, where D’ is a variant of D. Each pattern corresponds to one of the eleven verse of the text except C and D, which combine for  a single verse. The Sicut erat, concluding the doxology, coincides with the final statement of the pattern D’. The psalm tone appears only occasionally in the tenor, altus, or cantus part, though normally stands out prominently when it does make an appearance.

The first of Monteverdi’s structural modules is the famous walking bass frequently cited in Montverdi literature. This bass is repeated exactly in each its five occurrences, lending Laetatus sum a strong sense of harmonic and structural continuity. The other three patterns, whose systematic return tightens the organization even further, have generally escaped notice. Read more…

Cozzolani – A “Clear Pearl” of Excellent Musical Invention

April 10th, 2010 No comments

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…

Monteverdi’s Setting of the Psalm Laudate pueri (1610)

April 9th, 2010 2 comments

Monteverdi’s setting of Laudate pueri (1610) is scored for eight voices, but here, in contrast ith his technique in Nisi Dominus and Lauda Ierusalem, Monteverdi rarely divides the ensemble into antiphonal four-voice combinations, preferring instead to pair voices in the same register. Throughout the psalm, Monteverdi is extremely flexible in his treatment of the plainchant. The psalm tone (tone 8 with finalis g) migrates freely from voice to voice, is transposed and is absent altogether in some passages. Nevertheless, each verse of the psalm appears at least once in plainchant.

The treatment of the psalm tone at the beginning of Laudate pueri resembles that at the opening of Dixit Dominus: after initial solo intonations in a tenor voice (quintus), the psalm tone combines with a countersubject to evolve a steadily expanding imitative texture. Even the countersubject is similar to the one at the beginning of Dixit Dominus. Whereas this process encompassed the entire first verse of Dixit Dominus, in Laudate pueri only the first half of the verse is traversed, so the process is repeated, with a new countersubject, to complete the first verse.

After the first verse, where Dixit Dominus had turned to the tripartite series of falsobordoni, ritornellos, and duets, Laudate pueri presents a lenghthy succession of virtuoso duets for voices in a single register, accompanied by the cantus firmus. In this portion of the psalm (verse 2-5), the psalm tone migrates upwards through the texture from one verse to the next, starting in the quintus and proceeding through the altus, the cantus, and finally the sextus. It is sung both in long notes and in half notes and quarter notes, but even in the shorter rhythmic values the cantus firmus appears sustained because of rapid embellishments in the other voices. The movement of the chant out of its bass role in the quintus part permits increased harmonic variety, and successive transpositions of the psalm tone upwards by a fifth (verses 2 and 3 transpose the reciting note to G, verse 4 to D) admit a wider tonal compass as well. Only at verse 5 does the reciting note return to its original C. Read more…

Monteverdi’s Setting of the Psalm Dixit Dominus (1610)

April 7th, 2010 No comments

After its opening verse, Monteverdi’s 1610 setting of Dixit Dominus alternates between falsobordone settings of the chant (tone 4 with finalis e) and imitative textures built over the cantus firmus in the bass. Each falsobordone is followed by an instrumental ritornello. The doxology then concludes with a solo tenor intonation of the psalm tone and a six-voice polyphonic chorus, balancing the opening verse in symmetrical construction. Throughout the psalm, only the melismas that conclude each half verse (typical for falsobordoni) and the ritornellos are free of the chant.

Within this scheme, Monteverdi varies the context of the chant in several different ways. In the falsobordoni themselves, the first half-verse is presented on an a minor chord (A major for verse 6), while the second half-verse is a steplower on a G major triad. In the alternate verses 3, 5, and 7, the chant, transferred to the bass in half and quarter notes, supports first an imitative duet, and finally an imitative five-voice texture, creating a series of variations over the bass cantus firmus. The beginning of this latter verse looks very much like measured falsobordone and illustrates how closely chordal textures in the harmonization of a psalm tone approximate falsobordone, expecially when the chant is in the bass, allowing for very little variety of harmonization. Read more…

The Whole Noyse to Perform with Magnificat

April 6th, 2010 No comments

The Whole Noyse - Stephen Escher, Sanford Stadtfeld, Richard Van HesselIt is a pleasure to be working together again with The Whole Noyse in Magnificat’s performances of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers. In numerous collaborations over the past two decades, I have been consistently impressed with their musicianship and impeccable ensemble playing and Steve, Richard, Sandy and Herb have all become dear friends and trusted musical colleagues. The Whole Noyse will be joined by cornettist Kiri Tollaksen and frequent collaborator trombonist Ernie Rideout in our Vespers performances.

The Whole Noyse has collaborated with Magnificat from our very first season in 1992, when they joined for a series of memorable performances of Schütz’ Weihnachtshistorie, co-presented by the San Francisco Early Music Society. In 1994, they joined in our staged production of Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo, which we subsequently recorded for Koch International. No one who was present will forget the infamous Halloween recording session that stretched into the wee hours of the morning at St. Vincent’s in Marinwood! Later in 1994, we first performed Monteverdi’s Vespers, which were co-presented by SFEMS and the Sonoma Bach Society. We would perform the Vespers again together in 1999. Read more…

Monteverdi’s Setting of the Psalm Lauda Ierusalem (1610)

April 4th, 2010 No comments

A nearly continuous psalm tone cantus firmus (tone 3 with finalis a) in the the tenor voice forms the scaffolding for Lauda Ierusalem. In the first two verses the chant begins with the intonation, but in subsequent verses it follows the normal pattern of commencing with the reciting note. Transposition of the psalm tone by a fourth occurs in verses 4-6 and again at the beginning of the doxology. Within the tonal areas prescribed by the reciting level of the chant, the harmony fluctuates continually, never establishing a regular pattern.

Lauda Ierusalem, like Nisi Dominus, is characterized by two choirs in frequent antiphonal responses, but the texture is thinner, comprising only seven parts. The six voices apart from the cantus firmus are subdivided into two equal ensembles of canto, alto, and bass, and the more transparent sonority of these three-voice choirs facilitates more frequent interchanges and greater rhythmic complexity than is exhibited by Nisi Dominus. While the overall tonal organization of the psalm is determined by the pitch at which the reciting note appears, structure on a smaller scale is determined, as in Nisi Dominus , by antiphony. However, in contrast to the lengthy passages with one choir only that characterize Nisi Dominus, the second choir of Lauda Ierusalem regularly alternates (sometimes in imitation) with the first choir at the interval of approximately three bars. Read more…

The ‘Specialness’ of Monteverdi’s Vespers

April 2nd, 2010 No comments

This article is adapted from a longer article that appears in the April issue of the San Francisco Early Music Society newsletter, which can be viewed and downloaded in PDF format at the SFEMS website.

Recently Craig Zeichner, who is writing a piece about “2010 Vespermania,” asked me what made the Monteverdi Vespers so special. There are so many different answers to the question, which in itself is certainly a potent argument for its “specialness.” Several generations of writers have explored many angles in describing this amazing music — certainly more than any other music from the period — and it has become one of the enduring classics of the musical canon.

Surely one of the most striking aspects of this music is Monteverdi’s astonishing juxtaposition of old and new in a way that perfectly captured the zeitgeist of Italy in 1610. In fact, few works of art are so strongly associated with a specific year. At the same time, the music succeeds in transcending identification with any particular time and place.

But in considering Craig’s question, I found myself asking another: “What was the motivation for this grandiose display of talent?”

The answer may lie in the specific circumstances in which the collection was assembled. As many scholars have demonstrated, the Mass and Vespers collection of 1610 does not present the music performed for any specific event. Indeed, combining the five psalms and five sacri concenti into a single liturgy is problematic. But why a collection of sacred music — a genre almost entirely absent from Monteverdi’s published music in the first 40 years of his life? All indications suggest that the publication was intended to help Monteverdi escape the Mantuan court. Read more…

Monteverdi’s Setting of Nisi Dominus (1610)

April 1st, 2010 No comments

In each of the psalm settings of Montverdi’s 1610 Vespers the varying contexts of the cantus firmus (in each case, the psalm tone) help to define the structure of the psalm itself. The simplest organization is found in the cori spezzati setting of Nisi Dominus, which exhibits a continuous cantus firmus (sixth tone with finalis f) in the tenor part of each of the two five-voice choirs. Each statement of the psalm tone begins with its intonation, offering Monteverdi enhanced opportunities for harmonic variety in setting the chant. Although the cadential organization of each verse is similar, the bass underlying each statement of the pslam tone presents considerable variety.

The chant itself varies rhythmically from long notes to the same shorter notes as appear in the other parts, and a little more than half way through, at Sicut sagittae (verse 5), the tone is transposed up a fourth, allowing harmonzations with B flat minor and G minor chords in contrast to the predominating F major and D minor triads of the preceding verses. At the same point, the meter shifts to triple time, introducing a further variant in both the cantus firmus and its polyphonic content. Read more…

Re-Discovering Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610

March 31st, 2010 No comments

This article is adapted from a longer article that appears in the April issue of the San Francisco Early Music Society newsletter, which can be viewed and downloaded in PDF format at the SFEMS website.

Monteverdi as a young man in Mantua

One of the great joys of Magnificat has been the opportunity of exploring the astounding repertoire of 17th-century music that has been unjustly neglected for centuries. Magnificat’s process of discovery has often resulted in modern “premieres” that are exciting for both the musicians and our audiences. But in the case of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers, we are approaching music that is generally familiar to our audience — many of whom have even sung the piece — and each of the musicians involved can list multiple performances of the work on their resumes. Yet turning to Monteverdi’s familiar music together is no less a revelation than any premiere, especially in the company of musical friends that bring such a breadth of experience with them to the performances.

It has been observed that Monteverdi’s astonishing juxtaposition of old and new perfectly captured the zeitgeist of Italy in 1610 and, in fact, few artworks are so strongly associated with a specific year. At the same time, the music succeeds in transcending identification with any particular time and place. It is this sense of timeless beauty that has captured the imagination of generations and made it one of the most beloved works of Western Art. Read more…

Cozzolani’s Laudate Dominum for Soprano and Violins

March 31st, 2010 No comments

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.

Magnificat to Join in Berkeley Festival Finale – Monteverdi to Vivaldi!

March 29th, 2010 No comments

CanalettoThis year’s Berkeley Festival & Exhibition will conclude with a grand event – a program celebrating the glorious repertoire of vespers music by Venetian composers from Monteverdi to Vivaldi. It will also be a celebration of the Berkeley Festival, in which all the main stage ensembles will collaborate to offer a unique experience for the Festival audience. In addition to Magnificat the final concert will feature performances by ARTEK, AVE, The Marion Verbruggen Trio, Music’s Recreation, ¡Sacabuche!, and the string ensemble Archetti. The concert will take place at 4:00 pm on June 13 at First Congregational Church in Berkeley.

Structured around Second Vespers for the Feast of the Visitation, the program will include psalm settings by Claudio Monteverdi (Dixit Dominus from the famous 1610 Vespers and Laudate pueri from his 1641 collection Selva morale), Ludovico Viadana (a four choir setting of Laetatus sum from 1612), Giovanni Rovetta (Nisi Dominus published in 1639), and Biagio Marini (Lauda Ierusalem from 1652). Each of the psalms will be preceded by a chant antiphon and followed by an “antiphon substitute” as was common in Italy throughout the Baroque period. The “substitutes” will include sonatas by Francesco Cavalli, Dario Castello, and Giovanni Legrenzi, a solo motet by Alessandro Grandi, and the Vivaldi e minor concerto for four violins. All the performers will join for Monteverdi’s beloved setting of the hymn Ave maris stella from the 1610 Vespers and Vivaldi’s g minor Magnificat, both of which will be conducted by Magnificat’s Artistic Director Warren Stewart. Read more…

Why All This Music for Vespers?

March 24th, 2010 No comments

The reasons for the exponential growth in music for Vespers around the turn of the 17th century are not entirely clear, though probably multiple. A few publications of Vesper music in the latter part of the Cinquecento carried mottos such as conformi al decreto del Sacro Concilio di Trento (conforming to the decrees of the Council of Trent), even though psalms and Magnificats themselves had not been mentioned in the final dictates of the Council. Indeed, the predominantly chordal settings of psalm texts in this period meant that psalm settings by their very nature conformed to the Council’s decree for clarity of text in polyphonic masses. However, the fact that the Council had not addressed psalmody in its declarations on music eventually meant that psalms were not considered subject to the same constraints as the mass in the eyes of composers and church officials. Certainly the psalms for major feasts, which were more in number than the mass ordinary movements normally set in polyphony, offered a greater variety of texts for seventeenth-century composers who continued and even augmented the interest in musical interpretation of textual concepts inherited from the Cinquecento. Another factor may have been the tradition of granting indulgences for attending Vesper services—there are hints of this in the documents of the Servite congregation in Milan. This is a subject requiring further investigation, but may indeed be a principal explanation of the rapid expansion of Vesper polyphony in the late
sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Read more…

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

March 19th, 2010 No comments

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 No comments

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.

Magnificat to be Featured at 2010 Berkeley Early Music Festival

March 11th, 2010 No comments

Tickets Now available Online – Click Here

Magnificat has been invited to perform a  program of Cozzolani motets as a featured concert on the Berkeley Early Music Festival and Exhibition this June. The concert will mark the release of the first volume of our recordings of Cozzolani’s complete works. Sopranos Catherine Webster, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, and altos Meg Bragle and Jennifer Lane will join with the continuo team of David Tayler and Hanneke van Proosdij for the concert on Friday June 11 at 8:00 at First Congregational Church in Berkeley.

The program will be drawn from Cozzolani’s 1642 collection Concerti Sacri and will include setting of all four Marian antiphons – Ave regina coelorum, Salve, O regina, Alma redemptoris mater, and Regina caeli, laetare. In addition, Magnificat will perform six of her other motets – Colligite, pueri, flores, O mi domine, Obstupiscite, gentes, Regna terrae cantate Deo, Quid, miseri, quis faciamus and Psallite superi.

Magnificat first appeared on the Festival in it’s inaugural year 1990, in a performance with Marion Verbruggen, and was presented by the San Francisco Early Music Society on the 1996 and 2002. At the most recent Festival in 2008, Magnificat joined with several other Bay Area ensembles in memorable performances of Alessandro Striggio’s Missa sopra ‘Ecco sì beato giorno’ under the direction Davitt Moroney.

Magnificat is grateful to all those who have supported the Cozzolani Project and look forward to sharing more of Donna Chiara’s magnificent music at the Festival. More details will be available soon on Magnificat’s website and this website.

Polyphonic Vespers Music Before Monteverdi

March 6th, 2010 No comments

The following is an excerpt from my article “Stylistic diversity in Vesper Psalms and Magnificats published in Italy in the Seventeenth-Century”, which can be downloaded here (PDF). Citations omitted from this excerpt can be found in the full article.

Forty years ago, virtually nothing was known about polyphonic music for the Office except for the 1610 Vespers of Claudio Monteverdi, which had been receiving significant scholarly attention since shortly after World War II. Today, not only have a number of critical editions of Vesper publications from Italy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries been issued in various series, but a variety of scholars, including notably, Robert Kendrick, have researched the relationship between published and manuscript liturgical music and the monastic institutions and their friars and nuns that produced and performed this music. My own research has focused on bringing the entire Italian published repertoire of Office music to light through the collection of bibliographical information on over 1500 prints of Office music published between 1542 and 1725. This information will be made available online through a database being assembled at the Fondazione Cini in Venice and an online catalogue to be published by the Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music.

Dufay and Binchois

Polyphonic music for Vespers is a latecomer to the repertoire of polyphonic sacred music in Europe. This is especially true of the principal texts of the Vesper service, the four or five psalms that constitute the core of every Vesper ceremony (the monastic rite typically required only four psalms; however monastic composers almost invariably published psalms in groups of five or more). Hymns for Vespers had already been the subject of polyphonic composition in the late fourteenth century, and Dufay placed significant emphasis on hymns in his compositional output. Like hymns, polyphonic Magnificats also originated in the fourteenth century and achieved popularity in the next century with settings by Dufay, Binchois and others. The papal chapel in Rome in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries was a major center of Magnificat composition. Read more…

Monteverdi’s Unsuccessful ‘Audition’ in Rome

March 2nd, 2010 No comments

As early as the Fall of 1608 Monteverdi had discussed the possibility of leaving Mantua and his publication of a monumental Mass and Vespers in 1610, with a dedicate to Pope Paul V was clearly an attempt to promote his services. In that year, with his collection in tow, Monteverdi traveled to Rome, where he hoped to achieve two results: an audience with the Pope to enable him to offer his sacred collection in person, and a free place for his son Francesco. (Monteverdi was a widower of over two years at that point.) In a letter from that month he wrote to Cardinal Ferdinando Gonzaga:

“‘in the Roman seminary with a benefice from the church to pay his board and lodging, I being a poor man. But without this favor I could not hope for anything from Rome to help Franceschino, who has already become a seminarian in order to live and die in this calling.”

None of the composer’s plans came to fruition, and the letter, which gives a sense of the his dire financial situation, continues:

“For if Rome, even with Your Most Illustrious Lordship’s favor, were not to help him, he and another brother of his would remain poor, so that they wowukld hardly be able to start the New Year with bread and wine, which I lack. I shall look out for some simple benefice or other that can bring in a stipend sufficient to obtain the satisfaction of this need from His Holiness, if Your Most Illustrious Lordship will be so kind as to try and assist both him and me at the same time (as I hope from your infinite virtue), both with His Holiness and with Monsignor the Datary; otherwise, fearing that I troubled him too much when I was in Rome, I would not dare to ask him again any favor.”

[Translation by Time Carter from Paolo Fabbri’s Monteverdi, Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp 109-110.]

Galileo’s Music

March 1st, 2010 No comments

On his remarkable Galileo 1610 website, Mark Thompson writes about the role of music Gilileo’s scientific work:

“Thus the effect of the fifth is to produce a tickling of the eardrum such that its softness is modified with sprightliness, giving at the same moment the impression of gentle kiss and of a bite.”

Music played not only a unique, but an essential role in leading Galileo to his new physics. Because it is an art demanding precise measurement and exact divisions, music reflected the spirit of Galileo’s science.

One of Galileo’s most important discoveries, the law of falling bodies, can actually be traced to his early musical experiments with his father, Vincenzo Galilei, a musicologist and lute virtuoso. Together, they discovered the motions of pendulums while measuring with weights, the tensions of lute strings.

Galileo was an outstanding lutenist himself, whose “charm of style and delicacy of touch” surpassed even that of his father. Playing the lute was a source of great pleasure and a special comfort to him in his final years, when blindness was added to the many other trials of his life.

”Everything Galileo ever did has been challenged,” said the late Stillman Drake, Canadian historian of science and preeminent biographer of Galileo. ”But ultimately it stands up.”