Thursday August 8, 2019 | 7:30PM (Pre-concert talk at 6:45PM)
Christ Church Cathedral | Map
Being published in one’s lifetime was a great accomplishment for composers of the 17th century – especially if you happened to be a woman! Barbara Strozzi published eight collections of exquisite arias and madrigals on the familiar subject of love gone wrong that are of a similar, superlative standard to those of her contemporary Claudio Monteverdi. Strozzi’s remarkable output as an artist is thanks in part to the patronage she enjoyed from the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Vittoria della Rovere who was an important proto-feminist of the early 17th century who believed in the important of supporting virtuoso women artists, musicians and writers. This concert celebrates Strozzi’s 400th anniversary with a programme of sensual and playful arias and duets performed by two of the greatest interpreters of 17th century vocal music living today.
To view/download this programme, please click here.
This concert is generously supported by Jo & Bob Tharalson
Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677):
Sonetto prœmio dell’opera (Mercé di voi)
Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger (c. 1580-1651):
(Libro terzo d’intavolatura di chitarrone, Rome 1626)
Lagrime mie, Lamento
Per un bacio
Gregorio Strozzi (1615-1687):
Sonata per basso solo
(Elementorum musicæ praxis, Naples 1683)
L’astratto (Voglio, sì, vò cantar)
L’Eraclito amoroso (Udite amanti)
Mater Anna (A S. Anna)
Dal pianto de gli amanti scherniti s’imparo a far la carta (Mordeva un bianco lino)
Bernardo Storace (c.1637-c.1707):
(Selva dei varie compositioni, Venice 1664)
La Vittoria (Il gran Giove non si gloria)
Barbara Strozzi had the good fortune to be raised in a world of creativity, intellectual ferment, and artistic freedom. Born in 1619 in Venice, Barbara was baptized on August 6 at the Santa Sofia parish. At that time, Venice was at its cultural peak, a city of wealth, peace, academic curiosity, and musical innovation. In addition to the luck of time and place, Barbara grew up in a household frequented by the greatest literary and musical minds of the age.
The adopted daughter of poet Giulio Strozzi was most likely his natural daughter, recognized or ‘legitimized’ in his will of 1628 as his figliuola elettiva. Her mother Isabella lived in the same household as Giulio and was his principle heir until Barbara should come of age. Though born in Venice, Giulio, himself the illegitimate and later recognized son of Ruberto Strozzi, was nonetheless a member of one of the most powerful families of Florence, second only to the Medici in wealth and influence.
That the Strozzi name was recognized far and wide may have assisted Giulio in his ability to mix with many levels of Italian society. He was the founder of several accademie or groups of creative intellectuals, and was an influential member of the Accademia degli Incogniti formed by the libertine writer Giovanni Francesco Loredano in Venice. This group was almost single-handedly responsible for the genesis and spread of what was to become known as Opera – music and theatre highly intertwined into a new art form which flourished in Venice throughout the 17th century and then expanded throughout the continent. The Incogniti counted among its participants famous authors, poets, philosophers, and musicians, possibly including the great Monteverdi. It was into this milieu that young Barbara was introduced as a singer and composer. Giulio created another group, the Unisoni, where Barbara reigned as hostess and arbiter of debates such as “what moves the passions more: tears or song?” Barbara convinces us that it is indeed, song, for “…I know well that I would not have received the honour of your presence had you invited been invited to see me cry rather than hear me sing.” Poets and musicians dedicated works to her, praising her as “a most virtuosic singer”.
Frustratingly little is known about Barbara’s childhood and musical training. We know that she studied with Francesco Cavalli, director of music at St. Mark’s Basilica and a prolific composer of early opera. There are no other known documents pointing to her studies, and little reference to possible early and unpublished songs from the period before 1644.
Barbara made a mark as composer and singer, eventually publishing between 1644 and 1664 eight collections of songs – more music in print during her lifetime than even the most famous composers of her day – without the support of the Church or the patronage of a noble house. She is sometimes credited with the genesis of an entire musical genre, the cantata. In the 17th, 18th, and even 19th centuries her works were included in important print and manuscript collections of song which found their way to the rest of Europe and England. Yet she died in obscurity in Padua in 1677 with little wealth or property.
We can only wish that there were journals, diaries, or more letters regarding her work. Given the few bits of information we now have about Barbara’s private life, we have a picture of an extraordinary woman of talent, beauty, intellect, and business savvy, who published 125 pieces of vocal music in her lifetime.
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Her first opus, Il Primo Libro de Madrigali, includes 25 inventive works for 2-5 voices, all written on Giulio’s poetry. The first of these, Mercé di voi, is not only the introduction to the volume but is also an invocation to the stars that she be crowned with laurels and called a new Sappho. The poetic language Giulio’s poetry seems to have inspired Barbara to equal and perhaps surpass the intricacy of Monteverdi’s late madrigals. Her settings can be playful, as in The Quarrel Among the Five Senses (1.14), The Quail (1.17), and An Old Lover Abandons the Field (1.20). They can be full of passionate longing, as in Prayer to Love (1.15), Dialog at Departure (1.08), and the delicious Dal pianto de gli amanti scherniti s’imparo a far la carta – Paper Making Learned From the Tears of Disdained Lovers (1.21) where we learn that frustrated lovers, crying into their handkerchiefs and gnashing their teeth, were the first creators of paper pulp.
The rest of Barbara’s works are primarily for solo soprano. While Opus 2 is mostly made up of short, often strophic pieces, Opus 3 shows more sophistication in the cantata form of longer pieces. Opus 4 is missing and perhaps never published. Opus 5, Sacri Musicali Affetti, is her only volume of sacred motets. It opens with Mater Anna, an encomium to Sant’ Anna, the mother of Mary, patron saint the dedicatee Anna de’ Medici of Austria who had been waiting for a child. Perhaps the motet itself was not only a dedication (the name ANNA is capitalized in each recurrence of the text) but a plea for the successful continuation of the lineage of the Medici and the Hapsburgs.
Opus 6 is a mixture of short and long pieces. From Opus 7, published in 1659, we have the exquisite Lagrime mie, a chromatic and haunting depiction of tears of grief and suffering. Constructed over a repeated four-note descending passacaglia – often called the lamento pattern – Strozzi captures the inexorable sorrow of lost love.
Strozzi’s final work, published in 1664, is her most complex and sophisticated collection of cantatas. L’Astratto is almost a sampler of possible emotions and musical styles: the singer is distracted and just can’t find any music to fit her mood. She tries one style, stops, talks to herself, picks something else, throws it aside, but finally settles on the perfect choice – a bit melancholy yet hopeful, deeply loving and serene.
– Dr. Candace Magner
Suzie LeBlanc, soprano
Born in Acadia, Suzie LeBlanc fell in love with the Baroque early in life. Now an international star, the charismatic soprano is well-known for her passionate performances of Early Music, art song, contemporary music and Acadian traditional repertoire.
She has sung with many of the world’s leading early music ensembles in concert and opera performances as well as on film and on disc. Concerts have taken her to festivals all over the world and on the opera stage, she has performed for De Nederlandse Opera, Festival de Beaune, Opéra de Montréal, the Boston Early Music Festival, Tanglewood, Festival Vancouver and Early Music Vancouver.
Recently appointed to the Order of Canada for her contribution to Acadian culture and to the performance of Early Music, she has also earned four honorary doctorates and a career grant from the Conseil des Arts du Québec.
Suzie’s recordings have received several prestigious awards, including a Grammy award for a recording of Lully’s Thésée with the Boston Early Music Festival, an Opus award for best world music recording – “Tempi con Variazioni” – and best contemporary album, for a disc of early songs by Olivier Messiaen. In 2014, she was awarded ECMA’s Best Classical Album (2014) for “I am in need of music”, which was also a finalist for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Award.
In 2019, she premiered MOUVANCE, a multidisciplinary work by Jerôme Blais supported by the Canada Council and made her debut as a conductor with the Studio de Musique Ancienne in a programme of music from 17th century Italian convents. She performed with Vancouver’s Elektra, Constantinople and toured Fiorè with Elinor Frey. She frequently performs with Ensemble Constantinople and Elinor Frey, celllist.
Suzie is vocal coach and director of Cappella Antica at McGill University and the founder and co-artistic director of Le Nouvel Opéra, an organisation presenting early and contemporary chamber opera in Montreal.
Dorothee Mields, soprano
Dorothee Mields is one of the leading interpreters of 17th- and 18th-century music and is beloved by audiences and critics alike for her unique timbre and moving interpretations.
She appears regularly with the Collegium Vocale Gent, Netherlands Bach Society, L’Orfeo Barockorchester, Freiburger Barockorchester, RIAS Kammerchor, Bach Collegium Japan, Orchestra of the 18th Century, Lautten Compagney Berlin, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra Toronto, The English Concert and Klangforum Wien under conductors such as Stefan Asbury, Beat Furrer, Michi Gaigg, Paul Goodwin, Philippe Herreweghe, Emilio Pomàrico, Hans-Christoph Rademann, Andreas Spering, Masaaki Suzuki and Jos van Veldhoven.
Dorothee Mields is a welcome guest at international festivals, including the Leipzig Bach Festival, Suntory Music Foundation Summer Festival in Japan, Boston Early Music Festival, Flanders Festival, Wiener Festwochen, the Handel Festival in Halle, Musikfestspiele Potsdam, Styriarte Graz, Niedersächsische Musiktage, Musikfest Bremen, Mainzer Musiksommer and Mosel Musikfest.
She is a devoted chamber musician and offers a range of highly interesting projects such as “Lord Nelson at the river Nile” (music by Haydn and contemporaries dealing with the battles of Lord Nelson), “White as Lillies was her Face” with songs by John Dowland combined with texts by Heinrich Heine, “Mort exquise, mort parfumée” with French impressionistic compositions, “Duft und Wahnsinn” (fragrance and lunacy) together with Hille Perl, viola da gamba, and Lee Santana, lute, as well as “Birds” with flutist Stefan Temmingh.
A steadily growing discography with several award-winning recordings documents her artistic achievements. “Inspired by Song” and “Birds” with Stefan Temmingh, “Handel” with Hille Perl, Monteverdi “La dolce vita” with the Lautten Compagney Berlin and Wolfgang Katschner (all DHM), Bach “Kantaten für Solo-Sopran” with L’Orfeo Barockorchester and Michi Gaigg and Boccherini Stabat mater with the Salagon Quartett (both Carus) have been especially well received.
In 2018/19, Dorothee Mields is artist in residence at the Heinrich-Schütz-Musikfest. Further upcoming highlights include appearances in Japan with the RIAS Kammerchor, at the Wigmore Hall with The English Concert, with Seattle Symphony, and at the Internationale Orgelwoche Nürnberg, as well as tours with Collegium Vocale Gent, Freiburger Barockorchester, Gli Angeli Genève and Holland Baroque.
Lucas Harris, theorbo
Lucas Harris discovered the lute during his undergraduate studies at Pomona College, where he graduated summa cum laude. He then studied early music in Italy at the Civica scuola di musica di Milano (as a scholar of the Marco Fodella Foundation) and then in Germany at the Hochschule für Künste Bremen. After several years in New York City, he moved to Toronto in 2004 and became the regular lutenist for the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. He is a founding member of the Toronto Continuo Collective, the Vesuvius Ensemble (dedicated to Southern Italian folk music), and the Lute Legends Ensemble (a multi-ethnic trio of lute, pipa, and oud). Lucas plays with many other ensembles in Canada and the USA, including the Helicon Foundation (New York) and the Smithsonian Chamber Players (Washington, D.C.). For many years he has been on faculty at the Tafelmusik Summer and Winter Baroque Institutes as well as Oberlin Conservatory’s Baroque Performance Institute, and has also taught for Vancouver Early Music’s Baroque Vocal Programme, the International Baroque Institute at Longy, and Amherst Early Music. In 2014 Lucas completed graduate studies in choral conducting at the University of Toronto, the degree having been funded by a prestigious SSHRC research grant not often awarded to performers. Upon graduating, Lucas was chosen as the Artistic Director of the Toronto Chamber Choir (now in its 50th anniversary season), for which he has created and conducted nearly twenty themed concert programs. He has also directed projects for the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, the Ohio State University Opera Program, Les voix baroques, and the Toronto Consort. Lucas recently became a Canadian citizen and is also the proud father of Daphnée (age 7). Lucas’s work with Les voix humaines was praised in Montréal: “La révélation du concert est le luthiste torontois Lucas Harris, qui tisse un fil poétique à travers ses interventions infiniment subtiles. La douceur et la patience de son jeu émerveillent.” (Le Devoir)
Mark Edwards, harpsichord & organ
First prize winner in the 2012 Musica Antiqua Bruges International Harpsichord Competition, Canadian harpsichordist and organist Mark Edwards is recognized for his captivating performances, bringing the listener “to new and unpredictable regions, using all of the resources of his instrument, […] of his virtuosity, and of his imagination” (La Libre Belgique). Since 2016, he is Assistant Professor of Harpsichord at Oberlin Conservatory.
He has given solo recitals at a number of prominent festival and concert series. He has had concerto performances with a number of award-winning ensembles, including Ensemble Caprice (Canada) and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. He is also an active chamber musician.
His début solo CD, Orpheus Descending, was released in 2017 on the early-music.com label and was reviewed warmly. Passaggi (ATMA 2013), his CD with the Canadian recorder player Vincent Lauzer, was nominated for an ADISQ award.
In addition to his success in Bruges, Mark has distinguished himself as a prizewinner in a number of important competitions, including the 2012 Jurow International Harpsichord Competition. He is the recipient of academic grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the German Academic Exchange Service. He studied at the Eastman School of Music where he earned his Bachelor of Music with highest distinction, and completed graduate degrees at McGill University and the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Leiden University and the Orpheus Instituut, Ghent, where his research examines the intersection of memory, improvisation, and the musical work in seventeenth-century France.