Women Composers: The Seventeenth Century – Part I


Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (27 November 1602 – ca. 1676-1678), was a Baroque music composer, singer and Benedictine nun.)

Leonora Duarte was secretly Jewish.

“…(1610 – 1678?) was a Flemish composer and musician, born in Antwerp. She belonged to a wealthy Portuguese-Jewish family who were marrano, meaning they outwardly acted as Catholics while secretly maintaining their Jewish faith and practices. She was baptized on 28 July 1610. Having been one of the six siblings, in the well known musical family of the Duartes, Leonora composed seven sinfonias which happen to be the only records of music written for viol by a woman in the 17th century.

The Duarte home was a center for music-making and had contact with many important families in the Low Countries and England, including one of the most influential Dutchman of all time in, regards to art and culture, Constantijn Huygens. Duarte wrote for violconsort. Her surviving compositions include seven fantasies for a consort of five viols.…”

Leonora Baroni (December 1611 – 6 April 1670)

“…She was the daughter of Adriana Basile, a virtuosa singer, and Mutio Baroni. Leonora Baroni was born at the Gonzaga court in Mantua. She sang alongside her mother and sister Caterina at court and across Italy, including cities such as Naples, Genoa, and Florence. She was admired not only for her skill as a musician, in which she almost overshadowed her mother, but also for her learning and refined manners. Baroni was honored by poets such as Fulvio Testi and Francesco Bracciolini, who addressed poems to her, as did some nobles, such as Annibale Bentivoglio and then-cardinal Pope Clement IX. These poems were collected and published as Applausi poetici alle glorie della Signora Leonora Baroni in 1639 and reprinted in 1641. John Milton later wrote a series of epigrams to her, entitled Ad Leonoram Romae canentem.

In 1633, Baroni moved with her mother to Rome, where she sang at many salons in the Palazzo Barberini. On 27 May 1640 Baroni married Giulio Cesare Castellani, Cardinal Francesco Barberini’s personal secretary.

In February 1644, Baroni moved to the French court of Anne of Austria briefly, but by April 1645 she was back in Rome, where she was a chambersinger. Apparently she was not admired in Paris, perhaps because her Italian style of ornamented singing was too foreign to the court there.

None of Baroni’s compositions survive, but the French traveller and viol player André Maugars mentioned her compositions while praising the musical understanding of her singing...”

Duchess Elisabeth Sophie of Mecklenburg (1613–1676)

Francesca Campana (c. 1615–1665)

Barbara Strozzi (1619–1677)

“…Strozzi was said to be “the most prolific composer – man or woman – of printed secular vocal music in Venice in the Middle of the century.” Her output is also unique in that it only contains secular vocal music, with the exception of one volume of sacred songs. She was renowned for her poetic ability as well as her compositional talent. Her lyrics were often poetic and well-articulated.

Nearly three-quarters of her printed works were written for soprano, but she also published works for other voices. Her compositions are firmly rooted in the seconda pratica tradition. Strozzi’s music evokes the spirit of Cavalli, heir of Monteverdi. However, her style is more lyrical, and more dependent on sheer vocal sound. Many of the texts for her early pieces were written by her father Giulio. Later texts were written by her father’s colleagues, and for many compositions she may have written her own texts…”


To be continued….