Listening Room

01 grazia delle donne 5qsixLa Grazia delle Donne
Miriam Leblanc; Ensemble La Cigale; Madeleine Owen
Analekta AN 2 9159 (


Purpurei flores by Isabella Leonarda (teaser 1)

Se muove a giurar fede by Francesca Caccini (teaser 2)

Hor che Apollo by Barbara Strozzi (teaser 3)


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Eight books of compositions? Little, if any support from the Church? Or from a spouse? And a woman? This was Barbara Strozzi, understandably the best known female composer of her time (1619-1677).

It is her compositions that occupy pride of place on this CD. Lagrime mie combines the passion of Myriam Leblanc’s soprano singing, the anguished lyrics of Pietro Dolfino and the supportive yet inspiring playing of Ensemble la Cigale to form a masterpiece of the Italian Baroque. Masterpiece, too, is the deserved description for Strozzi’s other piece on the CD, Hor che Apollo, as the same musicians master perhaps even greater achievements with this latter text and score. 

It is clear from the very first two tracks, Isabella Leonarda’s Purpurei flores and Sonata prima, that this CD brings together the best in female Baroque vocal writing along with one instrument in particular which is at last allowed to display its versatility – the Baroque recorder. Full credit, indeed, to Leblanc and recorder-player Vincent Lauzer. 

The prominence given to the two composers above should not detract from the others’ contributions. Prodigiously talented, Vittoria Aleotti mastered the harpsichord at a phenomenally early age. The results are very apparent as Leblanc interprets three of her songs, all very short but all very moving in their musical and lyrical context.

This CD proves the presence of female singers and, above all, female composers in the Renaissance. It challenges preconceptions.

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