(1619-1677)Click to play Click to read
One of the more intriguing musical figures of the 17th century, Barbara Strozzi was born in Venice in 1619 to Isabella Garzoni, servant to Giulio Strozzi, a noted citizen and a respected man of letters. In 1628, he acknowledged Barbara as his natural daughter by referring to her in his will as his “figliuola elettiva”, and designating her as his heiress.
. iTunes: Music-classical-Paul Beier)
Under Giulio Strozzi’s guidance, Barbara studied music with singer and opera composer Francesco Cavalli and developed an outstanding singing voice. By the age of 16, she sang at concerts in the Strozzi house, accompanying herself on one of the many instruments in the home. In 1635, the composer, Nicolò Fontei published his first volume of bizzarrie poetiche in Venice, songs dedicated to “please the charming and highly gifted young woman, Signora Barbara.”
Two years later, Giulio Strozzi founded his own Academy, The Academy of the Unisons, devoted mainly to music. At member gatherings, Barbara’s talents as a singer and instrumentalist were clearly evident. She was known for her intellect, learning and wit, and often presided over the meetings.
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Strozzi’s beauty did not go unnoticed either. Just one painting survives, showing a very attractive young woman with dark chestnut hair and a grave and direct gaze. Titled Female Musician with Viola da Gamba, it shows her partially undressed, leading many scholars to speculate that she perhaps also supported herself as a courtesan.
As well as being a gifted singer, though, Barbara Strozzi was also a talented composer. In an article in Musical Quarterly in 1999, Beth L. Glixon wrote that Strozzi was “the most prolific composer – man or woman – of printed secular vocal music in Venice in the middle of the 17th century”.
In 1644, Strozzi published her first opus “the first work that I, as a woman, all too daringly bring to the light of day”. Dedicated to the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, these madrigals featured texts written by her father. Her remaining eight published collections appeared after Giulio Strozzi died in 1652, with some texts written by her father’s friends; others by herself. Almost all of her works were secular and most were written for a lyric soprano. They show her flexible mastery of musical form as she moved easily between cantatas, ariettas and duets.
(music: Finche Tu Spiri, Op. 7. Ensemble Poïésis Play Strozzi & Marini, Aeon Records 2006 (www.aeonrecords.com). iTunes: Music-classical-Ensemble Poïêsis)
(music: Mentita (version instrumantale) op. 6. Ensemble Poïésis Play Strozzi & Marini, Aeon Records, 2006. (www.aeonrecords.com) iTunes: Music-classical-Ensemble Poïésis)
Her significant body of work included six volumes of cantatas, more than any other composer working in that genre at the time.
Barbara Strozzi never married, but, by 1651, she had four children, three reputedly fathered by Giovanni Paolo Vidman, a friend of her father. A married man, he and the Vidman family nevertheless left money to these children in their wills.
Strozzi’s last published volume appeared in 1664. The following year she produced a group of songs for Carlo II, Duke of Mantua. Thereafter, little is known of her life. She remained in Venice until May 1677, when she moved to Padua, where, after a short illness, she died in November at the age of 58.
HOASM online site (www.hoasm.org)
Stevenson, Joseph, All Music Online (www.allmusic.com)
Music Academy Online (www.musicacademyonline.com)
Music:Strozzi: Sacri Musicali Affetti (Venise 1655) Maria-Christina Kiehr, Concerto Soave, Import Download, 2006
Canzon (55 seconds)
Tastegiate – 1 (30 seconds)
La Venexiana & Claudio Cavin courtesy of Cantus Records (www.cantusrecords.com) Barbara Strozzi: Primo Libro de’ Madrigali La Venexiana & Claudio Cavin , Cantus Records 1998
Goisca (51 seconds)
Paul Beier courtesy of Magnatune (www.magnatune.com) Barbara Strozzi: Diporti di Euterpe, Paul Beier, Magnatune, 2011
Non occorre (41 seconds)
Ensemble Poiësis courtesy of Aeon Records (www.aeonrecords.com) Ensemble Poïésis Play Strozzi & Marini, Aeon Records, 2006
Mentita (version instrumantale) op. 6 (20 seconds)
Finche Tu Spiri, Op. 7 (20 seconds)
Musica Secreta courtesy of Qualiton Imports, Ltd. (www.qualitonrecords.com) Barbara Strozzi Performed by Musica Secreta, Qualiton Imports, Ltd. 2009
Amor dormiglione (33 seconds)
Canto di bella bocca (34 seconds)