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The women appearing before our ears throughout this programme range from the Virgin Mary and Dido, queen of Carthage, to Shakespeare’s Desdemona and the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, waiting for her execution in the Tower of London in 1536. But the disc also features four other heroines–the Italian composers Claudia Sessa, Francesca Caccini, Lucrezia Vizzana and Barbara Strozzi. All active between 1590 –1675, they will have required great courage to rise above the social conventions of the time, but this surprisingly productive period for female composers also offered an opportunity that would disappear in later centuries: the all-female environment provided by the convent. More than half of the women who published music before 1700 were nuns, including Sessa and Vizzana, who are here represented by brief meditations on the suffering and death of Christ.
Caccini and Strozzi, on the other hand, lived very much in the secular world – Caccini at the Florentine court and Strozzi as a free-lance musician and composer in Venice. Unhindered by the restrictions imposed by the church on sacred music they both adhered to the new stile moderno championed by Claudio Monteverdi. Celebrated for their singing, they composed vocal music which makes ‘the words the mistress of the harmony and not the servant’, to quote Monteverdi’s brother Giulio Cesare. The soprano Ruby Hughes has already made her name for herself in a wide-ranging repertoire, but has a special love for the constellation of lute, cello and voice. With Jonas Nordberg and and Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann– who also contribute instrumental solos –she here revels in the dramatic and expressive potential offered by this trio combination, and by the music by these female composers and their English colleagues Henry Purcell and John Bennet.
Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger: Toccata Arpeggiata
Henry Purcell: Bonduca, Z. 574 "The British Heroine"
Bonduca, Z. 574, "The British Heroine": No. 17. O lead me to some peaceful gloom
Antonio Vivaldi: Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op. 14 No. 9, RV 42
Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op. 14, No. 9, RV 42: I. Prelude: Largo
John Bennet: Venus' birds, whose mournful tunes
Venus' birds, whose mournful tunes
Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op. 14 No. 9, RV 42
Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op. 14, No. 9, RV 42: II. Allemande: Andante
Barbara Strozzi: Cantate, ariette e duetti, Op. 2
Cantate, ariette e duetti, Op. 2: No. 14. L'eraclito amoroso
Alessandro Piccinini: Chaconne
Claudia Sessa: Occhi io vissi di voi
Occhi io vissi di voi
Anonymous: The Willow Song
The Willow Song
Francesca Caccini: Il primo libro delle musiche
Il primo libro delle musiche: No. 3. Lasciatemi qui solo
Barbara Strozzi: Diporti di Euterpe, Op. 7
Diporti di Euterpe, Op. 7: No. 4. Lamento
Cello Sonata in G Minor, RV 42
III. Sarabande: Largo
IV. Gigue: Allegro
Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana: Componimenti musicali de motetti concertati
Componimenti musicali de motetti concertati: O magnum mysterium
Henry Purcell: Dido & Aeneas, Z. 626
Dido and Aeneas, Z. 626, Act III Scene 2: When I am laid in earth, "Dido's Lament" (arr. for voice, archlute and cello)
Anonymous: O Death Rock Me Asleep
O Death Rock Me Asleep
“[Ruby Hughes] has a warm, almost mellow voice, well suited to this enterprising collection of 17th-century songs…the striking feature of this disc is the array of powerful pieces by Italian women composers…to all them Ruby Hughes brings an exemplary understanding and stylishness.”