Aristocratic women exerted unprecedented political and social influence in Florence throughout the late 16th and early 17th century; during this period convents flourished and female members of the powerful Medici family governed the city for the first and only time in its history.
These women also helped shape the city’s aristocratic life, commissioning works of music, art, and theater that were inscribed with their own concerns and aspirations. Through commissions, patrons sought to promote a vision of the world and their place in it. The unique social norms, laws, educational background, and life experiences of female patrons meant the expression of a worldview that differed significantly from that of their male counterparts.
This according to Echoes of women’s voices: Music, art, and female patronage in early modern Florence by Kelley Harness (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).
Above, Cristina di Lorena, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, a patron of Marco da Gagliano; below, Gagliano’s Bel pastor.
In 2016 A-R Editions published Benedetto Marcello: Cassandra, a new critical edition edited by Talya Berger.
Benedetto Marcello composed Cassandra in 1727 to a poem by Antonio Conti written at Marcello’s request. The work is a large-scale dramatic cantata for solo alto voice with unfigured basso continuo for the harpsichord; it was not published in Marcello’s lifetime.
Cassandra describes the events of the last years of Trojan War as told by the prophetess Cassandra. Unique in its formal design, the cantata blends arioso sections with recitatives and arias. The expressive vocal line conveys grief, rage, terror, and happiness, and demands vocal agility and technical command from the singer. The work was among the most popular of Marcello’s cantatas during the eighteenth century, and it continued to be performed regularly up to 40 years after it was composed.
Below, a performance by Giovanna Dissera Bragadin and Nicola Lamon.
Although Johann Jacob Froberger was employed as an organist and recognized as an exceptional harpsichordist, he was also a clavichordist. Musically trained in Germany and Italy, where the clavichord flourished, he undoubtedly played the instrument.
The most convincing proof of this hypothesis is his music, nearly all of which can be performed effectively on the clavichord, whose dynamic range makes possible the nuances of lute playing and singing.
Stylistically, Froberger’s suites for keyboard resemble lute music; at the time, lutenists and keyboardists regularly traded repertoire, and clavichordists playing the music of Froberger should follow the vocal models of his polyphonic works.
This according to “Froberger and the clavichord” by Howard Schott, an article included in De clavicordio. III (Magnano: Musica antica, 1997, pp. 27–34).
Today is the 400th anniversary of Froberger’s baptism! (His birthdate is not known.) Below, Richard Smith plays his Lamento sopra la dolorosa perdita della Real M.stà di FerdinandoIV, Rè de Romani on the clavichord.
King Carlos III’s patronage had a major impact in 18th-century Spanish musical life; it also helped to engender what is now one of Luigi Boccherini’s best-loved works.
Boccherini composed the minuetto from his string quintet in E, op. 11, in 1771, while he was employed at Carlos III’s court. In this post he was paid a handsome stipend of 30,000 reales as a cellist and composer.
This according to Luigi Boccherini en la Ilustración Española by Ricardo García Cárcel, a dissertation accepted by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in 1999.
Today is Carlos III’s 300th birthday! Below, the work in question.
A-R Editions launched the series John Eccles: Incidental music in 2015 with Plays A–F (the volumes are sorted by the plays’ titles).
Eccles’s active theatrical career spanned a period of about 16 years, though he continued to compose occasionally for the theater after his semi-retirement in 1707. During his career he wrote incidental music for more than 70 plays, writing songs that fit perfectly within their dramatic contexts and that offered carefully tailored vehicles for his singers’ talents while remaining highly accessible in tone.
These plays were fundamentally collaborative ventures, and multiple composers often supplied the music; thus, this edition includes all the known songs and instrumental items for each play. Plot summaries of the plays are given along with relevant dialogue cues, and the songs are given in the order in which they appear in the drama (when known).
Below, an instrumental work that Eccles composed for a 1661 revival of John Fletcher’s The mad lover.
A musical event 330 years ago today sought to forge a bridge between the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches in Germany.
In the second half of the 17th century it became customary to perform music on Christmas Eve at the Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano. The repertoire was embued with Arcadian sensibility, as the choice of the Nativity theme makes clear, and had an explicit didactic aim: to edify listeners through references to Holy Scripture and the basic principles of Christianity, both ethical and religious. Quite often, too, a desire was evident to celebrate the greatness of the Pope himself.
One of these Christmas Eve compositions, Li pastori alla cuna del Redentore, set to music by Giuseppe Pacieri, had an unusual fate: In 1685, two years after its performance in Rome, it was heard again in the ducal chapel in Wolfenbüttel (above) under a new title, Musica alla vigilia del Sto. Natale, and the praises of Pope Innocent XI at the end of Pietro Giubilei’s text ended up being sung at a Lutheran court.
An exceptional witness to and commentator on the event was the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, whose interest in musical events and unwavering commitment to the cause of religious reconciliation between the different Christian churches in Germany are well known. The 1685 performance was probably not accidental—it was likely a sign of the desire for politcal renewal on the part of Prince Anton Ulrich von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel. The performance therefore represents an extraordinary event in the history of music at German Protestant courts.
This according to “La cuna del Redentore a Wolfenbüttel (1685) e i tentativi di conciliazione religiosa in Germania” by Andrea Luppi (Rivista italiana di musicologia XXIV/5  pp. 47–66).
Four analyses of Domenico Scarlatti’s keyboard sonata K.296 demonstrate the possibilities and problems with analyzing this unusual and fascinating technique of composition—devising sequences of keyboard events while at the instrument, a forerunner of present-day procedures.
This approach diminishes the value of all conventional approaches to Scarlatti’s keyboard works, both of his time and ours, putting them in a new light.
This according to “F.244: 4 Annäherungen an eine Sonate” by Peter Böttinger, an essay included in Musik-Konzepte 48-49: Morton Feldman (Musik-Konzepte 47  pp. 57–121).
Today is Scarlatti’s 330th birthday! Below, the sonata in question.
The Heinrich-Schütz-Archiv at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber inaugurated the series Schütz-Dokumente in 2010 with Schriftstücke von Heinrich Schütz. This edition of Schütz’s personal writings gathers the written ephemera of the great composer’s long life.
The volume opens with a school essay on St. Mauritius from around 1600, and continues with libretti, occasional poems in German or Latin, dedications, correspondence, receipts, personnel lists, and entries in albums and Stammbücher, ending with the title page and dedication for his Schwanengesang (SWV 482–494) from 1671.
In 2014 Carus-Verlag issued Saul, HWV 53, a critical edition of Händel’s oratorio that presents for the first time the version conducted by the composer himself.
Saul is one of the most dramatic of Händel’s oratorios, and to a greater extent than almost any other oratorio it reveals with its gripping power its proximity to opera of its era.
The score demands what was at the time Händel’s most varied orchestra; the normal opera orchestra of the day was augmented by trombones, harp, solo organ, glockenspiel, and large kettledrums. The choir functions for the first time as a central participant in dramatic action, while also undertaking commentating functions as in a Greek tragedy.
This new edition makes use for the first time of musical material revealed by the latest Händel research, based as its most important source on the conducting score from which the composer himself directed his performances. Only this research has shown which arias, choruses, recitatives, and instrumental pieces, after he had made numerous corrections in his autograph, Händel chose for his performances, and in what order they were given.
The result has produced, apart from many changes of details (e.g. autograph instructions concerning the use of the organ), an uncommon ordering of individual pieces, and passages with altered notes.
Below, a dramatic excerpt.
Boydell & Brewer launched The Boydell composer compendium series in 2014 with The Rameau compendium by Graham Sadler.
The series aims to present up-to-date reference works on major composers that can provide instant information and connect users with further reading. As leading authorities on the composers in question, the authors are encouraged both to present available information and, where appropriate, to introduce new facts and arguments and to illuminate the various discourses on the subject.
Each volume includes an exhaustive cross-referenced dictionary of relevant people, places, institutions, compositions, terminology, genres, and events. A comprehensive bibliography is also included, as are numerous musical examples and illustrations.
Below, John Eliot Gardiner conducts a concert of Rameau’s works.