Raphaella Aleotti and the Nuns of San Vito

In the shadows of the Estense palaces in Ferrara arose the remarkable concerto grande of the convent of San Vito, “universally celebrated by many and diverse musicians from Italy and abroad” (in the words of the contemporary composer Artusi). There were at least 23 musicians: “Cornetts, Trombones, Violins, Viole bastarde, Double Harps, Lutes, Crumhorns, Flutes, Harpsichords, and voices, all at one time.” The Concert Mistress conducting this ensemble was Raphaella Aleotti, the first Italian nun to have published any music. In the same year (1593) in which her Sacrae cantiones appeared, a collection of madrigals was published by Vittoria Aleotti, now believed to be the same woman using first her secular and then her monastic name. This recording has involved the participation of 9 singers as well as players of virtually every instrument associated with her convent (quite coincidentally, 23 musicians), and also includes pieces composed by her well-known teacher, Ercole Pasquini, in addition to others by various composers dedicated to the musical nuns of Ferrara.

“The singing is light and delicate and the playing is firm. One would expect a certain monotony stemming from the similarity of so many short pieces, but the performances are varied enough to introduce considerable variety.” (Fanfare)
“Ormai possiamo affermare che a questo valido ensemble, diretto da Candace Smith, debba ascriversi la riscoperta della maggior parte delle musiche delle suore attualmente nota. […] Le splendide armonie che Cappella Artemisia fa rivivere, sono risuonate tra quelle mura, in un ‘Concerto grande’ che richiamava numerosi ascoltatori, spesso illustri. […] Il risultato è una maestria compositiva alta, unita ad una sensibilità particolare che rende questi brani gemme preziose di un piccolo scrigno finalmente riaperto.” (Avvenire)
“Aleotti tends toward dramatic expression of the text, and when the singers of the Cappella Artemisia set the top line of one of these motets as an instrumentally accompanied solo, it’s easy to imagine that you’re listening to unknown Monteverdi. That is just one of the group’s many ways of interpreting the printed notes; they use various vocal and instrumental configurations, offering possible sonorities in a spirit of experiment. “ (All Music Guide)
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Raphaella Aleotti and the Nuns of San Vito

(2007 by Tactus)

In the shadows of the Estense palaces in Ferrara arose the remarkable concerto grande of the convent of San Vito, “universally celebrated by many and diverse musicians from Italy and abroad” (in the words of the contemporary composer Artusi). There were at least 23 musicians: “Cornetts, Trombones, Violins, Viole bastarde, Double Harps, Lutes, Crumhorns, Flutes, [...]

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