Music dedicated to the Convents: Monographic Series

This series consists of music by individual male composers who dedicated works to nuns of various convents, or by composers who had other convent connections. The series currently features works by three such men: Benedetto Re, Sisto Reina, and Ignazio Donati.

Benedetto Re, maestro di cappella at the Duomo from 1606 to 1626, was music teacher to Caterina Assandra, a nun at the Benedictine convent of Sant’Agata in Lomello (about 40 kilometers outside of Pavia), and the first nun in 17th-century Lombardy to have published music. Assandra evidently studied composition with Benedetto Re, whom she calls her Maestro di contraponto on the title page of her op. 2. It would appear that the relationship between master and disciple was one of mutual respect for each of them included works by the other in his or her personal collection.

Sisto Reina, a minorite monk, was an organist as well as a composer, and served as organist and/or maestro di cappella in Saronno, Milan, Piacenza and Modena. His numerous dedications to nuns throughout northern Italy include those to the singer Donna Ginevra Francesca Carcano at S. Maria in Cantù, the organist and singer Donna Delia Maria Ciceri at the convent of S. Margherita in Como, Donna Candida Aurelia Archinta and the organist and singer Donna Candida Maria Campi, both at the convent of S. Ambrosio in Cantù, the musical princess Angelica Luigia Mariana Gonzaga, a nun at S. Paolo in Milan, Rosa Antonia Torriana, a nun at S. Cecilia in Como; and, finally, Suor Erminia Catterina Manzoli, organist at San Giovanni Battista in Bologna.

Ignazio Donati occupied the post of maestro di cappella between 1596 and his death in 1638 in an impressive series of cities both large and small, including Urbino Pesaro, Fano, Ferrara, Novara, and Lodi, finally crowning his career at Milan Cathedral. His compositions demonstrate extraordinary skill in the full range of sacred styles in fashion in the first decades of the century, extending in scale from solo motets to polychoral concertato works with instrumental obbligati.

MR 01 Sisto Reina: De Profundis for Bass and 2 Cornetti or Violins (1660).

Sisto Reina was born in Saronno near Milan and died, perhaps in Modena, sometime after 1664. A minorite monk, he was an organist as well as a composer, and served as organist and/or maestro di cappella in Saronno, Milan, Piacenza and Modena.

Among the many collections which Reina dedicated to nuns is the Fiorita corona di melodia celeste dedicated to the nuns of San Giovanni Battista in Bologna. Addressed to the organist Suor Erminia Catterina Manzoli, this collection flies in the face of instrumental restrictions, for it contains a canzonetta spirituale for three voices and two violins, as well as the motet for bass solo and two cornetti presented here. The “convent” version transposes the solo part up an octave for an alto.

MR 02 Sisto Reina: Two motets for 3 voices (1653 & 1650)

Sisto Reina was born in Saronno near Milan and died, perhaps in Modena, sometime after 1664. A minorite monk, he was an organist as well as a composer, and served as organist and/or maestro di cappella in Saronno, Milan, Piacenza and Modena.

Among the many collections which Reina dedicated to nuns is the Fiorita corona di melodia celeste dedicated to the nuns of San Giovanni Battista in Bologna. Addressed to the organist Suor Erminia Catterina Manzoli, this collection flies in the face of instrumental restrictions, for it contains a canzonetta spirituale for three voices and two violins, as well as the motet De profundis for bass solo and two cornetti (see MR 01/a).

In the fancifully entitled collection Marsyae, et Apollini de musices principatu, op. 4, from 1653, the motet Surge filia Sion is dedicated to the organist and singer Donna Candida Maria Campi, and another to Donna Candida Aurelia Archinta, both nuns at the convent of S. Ambrosio in Cantù.

Both Surge filia Sion and Dormis anima were originally scored for two sopranos and bass, a popular ensemble in the seventeenth century, even in collections of music intended to be sung in the convents. Reina evidently knew that the nuns would not have been daunted by the problem of singing bass parts, presumably transposing them into their ranges as we have done here in the case of our edition for female voices. (In the rare cases where the bass parts go exceptionally low, we have provided ossia notes at the upper octave.)

MR 03a Benedetto Re: 2 canzoni francesi (1609 & 1618)

This volume contains two instrumental works composed by Benedetto Re (Regio, Regius). Very little is known of Re’s origins: it is widely believed that he was born in Pavia, where he was employed as maestro di cappella at the Duomo from 1606 to 1626. His published works include: Missarum sacrarum cantionum… Liber Primus (Milan, 1607); Integra psalmodia vespertina (Venice, 1611); and Sacrarum cantionum… (Venice, 1618). What little else we know about Re comes from his pupil, Caterina Assandra, a nun at the Benedictine convent of Sant’Agata in Lomello (about 40 kilometers outside of Pavia), and the first nun in 17th-century Lombardy to have published music.

Assandra evidently studied composition with Benedetto Re, whom she calls her Maestro di contraponto on the title page of her op. 2. It would appear that the relationship between master and disciple was one of mutual respect for each of them included works by the other in his or her personal collection. Assandra’s book of motets contains two of Re’s works: a Litany for 6 voices, and the Canzon Francesa [sic!] à 4 included here. In turn, Re included compositions of hers in two of his own compilations, those of 1611 and 1618. The latter collection, Sacrarum cantionum, contains not only a work by Assandra but also two motets dedicated to other nuns. One of them, a certain Signora Suor Giovanna Battista Landriana, was undoubtedly a relative of Fabrizio Landriano, bishop of Pavia and dedicatee of both the collection and the Canzon à 4 detta La Landriana, the other work in this volume.

 

MR 04 Ignazio Donati: Salmi boscarecci (à 12 or à 6). vol. I: Beatus vir (1623)

Ignazio Donati occupied the post of maestro di cappella between 1596 and his death in 1638 in an impressive series of cities both large and small, including Urbino Pesaro, Fano, Ferrara, Novara, and Lodi, finally crowning his career at Milan Cathedral. His compositions demonstrate extraordinary skill in the full range of sacred styles in fashion in the first decades of the century, extending in scale from solo motets to polychoral concertato works with instrumental obbligati.

An example of this latter genre is the remarkable collection of Salmi Boscarecci (Venice, 1623): a collection of concertato Psalms for six voices, with the addition (if desired) of six other voices which complete the ensemble and serve as a double ripieno for polychoral performance. Donati provides detailed and fascinating instructions on six alternative ways to perform these pieces, adapting them to forces ranging from 6 to more than 24 parts, and arranged in anything from one to five choirs.

Donati’s travels brought him in contact with a great variety of musical situations, including evidently the musical chapels of the convents. In the instructions which accompany this collection, he suggests that nuns, whose chapels obviously lacked male voices, could sing bass parts up an octave (doubling the part, if necessary, by an instrument at the lower octave if chordal inversions would otherwise occur). In our edition for female voices, we have also chosen to transpose the tenor parts up an octave in order to put all the parts within the vocal ranges of any normal women’s choir. Though Donati himself does not specifically indicate this tenor transposition in his preface, he does allow for the opposite situation (singing the soprano part down an octave by a tenor voice), and so we feel justified in suggesting this means of performance.