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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Cozzolani
LABELS: Musica Omnia ren Stewart
WORKS: Vespro della Beata Vergine
PERFORMER: Magnificat/Warren Stewart
Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, a Milanese Benedictine nun, published four collections of music between 1640 and 1650. Two discs here present the Second Vespers of the Feast of the Annunciation. A third contains biography, social context, musical analysis, dispensed in a scholarly but charmingly informal way (though extended ‘voice-overs’ distract the ear from the music).


The music is superb. At one extreme are eight-part Psalms and a Magnificat, with continuo. Richly sonorous chordal pillars frame expressive sections for fewer voices, dancing together in parallel lines, weeping chromatically in penitential contemplation, ferocious in descriptions of God’s vengeance. Cozzolani was an inventive craftswoman, imposing structural repetitions and sequences upon the continuous sacred texts. Despite her enclosure, she knew contemporary opera too: there are extravagantly florid motets for one to four voices, and a dramatic dialogue between the Virgin and the faithful.

Recorded sound is excellent, generous acoustic shading the cutting edge of voices. The timbral density of women-only, one-to-a-part, is striking, ‘bass’ generally an octave above instruments. Only a tendency for


an inner voice to pull pitch down sometimes tires the ear. Highly recommended new repertoire complementing Cozzolani’s nine motets from Linn (CKD 113). George Pratt