Mottetti a 1- 4 Voci, 1691

One of the last Italian nuns to have published her works in the 17th century was Bianca Maria Meda (1661?-1732-3), a nun at the Benedictine convent of San Martino del Leano in Pavia. Virtually nothing is known about this composer, but her Mottetti a 1-4 voci (Bologna, 1691) are of considerable significance and beauty. The collection contains ten motets for 2, 3 and 4 voices, in addition to two works for solo voice accompanied by two violins. Composed in an almost operatic style typical of the late seventeenth century, each motet features short solo arias demanding great virtuosity whose characters range from dramatic to lyrical, from pathetic to fiery. These arias are skillfully alternated with brief polyphonic choral sections of contrasting tempo and affect, and each piece concludes with an Alleluia marked by striking melodic motifs and rapid-fire interweaving of the voices.

A few of Meda’s works occasionally appear on concert programs (thanks both to Cappella Artemisia’s own performances and the dissemination of her compositions by Artemisia Editions). Yet despite the excellent quality and captivating nature of her music, only three works from this collection have ever been recorded (one of these is found on Cappella Artemisia’s own CD: Rosa Mistica: musiche delle monache lombarde del Seicento).

This worthy composer continues to be unknown to even to the most attentive listeners of early music. Cappella Artemisia hopes to remedy this situation by recording her unpublished motets in a single monographic CD on the Brilliant Classics label. The forces involved will include 8 female voices, two violins and a full ensemble of basso continuo instruments. This recording will not only shine a light on the vibrant world of music in Italian convents of the Seicento but also, more importantly, it will provide testimony to the excellence and uniqueness of the music by this unjustly forgotten composer.