Page 17 - Church Music Quarterly June 2019
P. 17

   performed, and unsurprisingly those responsible for its rediscovery have gravitated towards manuscripts that are both clearly autographed and written for the particular voice-types in choirs of today. As Laurie Stras explains: ‘The more we look the more we will find ... Only in the last decade has there been some momentum gathering around noticing that nuns
are spoken of, in the chronicles, and noticing that a manuscript might have a nun’s name on it and therefore might be composed by nuns or certainly sung by nuns.’
In early 17th-century Italy, the Medici state was
run by Christine of Lorraine. Christine was more than happy to appoint the 20-year-old Francesca Caccini (1587–1641) to the role of ‘musician to the Grand-Duke of Tuscany’, a role that involved vocal performances (singing in church and in secular settings), instrumental performances and composing. She worked alongside several other women, fulfilling her employer’s demands for music. Caccini was expected to write for the church year and was feted
‘Women, in general, possess no artistic sensibility’ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
for her Holy Week compositions in particular. There were major, public events that drew huge congregations to the Medici Church and Chapels of San Lorenzo for which Caccini provided the music, but the majority of her work was for private settings at the heart of court, music that was intensely personal for the individual listener.
Caccini is just one example of
a prolific Baroque composer. The superstar, Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665–1729), wrote exciting sacred cantatas on a range of Bible stories: 12 in total, for instrumental ensemble and voice. In her dedication
to Louis XIV, Jacquet de la Guerre describes the texts as containing the ‘most significant deeds of Holy Scriptures’. A Te Deum sung in the chapel of the Louvre in thanksgiving for the recovery of Louis XV from smallpox was probably her last work.
A classical-era composer, Marianna Martines (1744–1812), had the good fortune of living in the same apartment block as the poet Metastasio, singing teacher and composer Nicola Porpora, and Franz Joseph Haydn! Martines took keyboard lessons from Haydn, singing lessons from Porpora and received
a thorough education from Metastasio. By the age of 16, Martines was already composing for St Michael’s, the parish church of the Imperial Court. Her Mass
in C impressed those in attendance at the service,
as did the oratorios, motets and settings of psalms she produced subsequently. The Dixit Dominus,
in particular, sent the members of the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna into raptures. They could
not ‘express sufficiently their amazement at the combination of beauty, ingenuity, nobility of expression, and an astonishing correctness in
the compositions’, according to Viennese press
of the time.

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