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The women appearing before our ears throughout this programme range from the
Virgin Mary and Dido, queen of Carthage, to Shakespeare's Des­d­emona and the
unfortunate Anne Boleyn, waiting for her execution in the Tower of London in
1536. But the disc also features four other heroines - the Italian composers
Claudia Sessa, Francesca Caccini, Lucrezia Vizzana and Barbara Strozzi. All
active between 1590 -1675, they will have required great courage to rise
above the social conventions of the time, but this surprisingly productive
period for female composers also offered an opportunity that would disappear in
later centuries: the all-female environment provided by the convent. More than
half of the women who published music before 1700 were nuns, including Sessaand
Vizzana, who are here represented by brief meditations on the suffering and
death of Christ.

Cacciniand Strozzi, on the other hand, lived very much in the secular world
-Cacciniat the Florentine court and Strozzias a free-lance musician and composer
in Venice. Unhindered by the restrictions imposed by the church on sacred music
they both adhered to the new stile modernochampioned by Claudio Monteverdi.
Celebrated for their singing, they composed vocal music which makes 'the words
the mistress of the harmony and not the servant', to quote
Monteverdi's brot­h­er Giulio Cesare. The soprano Ruby Hugheshas already made
her name for herself in a wide-ranging repertoire, but has a special love for
the constellation of lute, cello and voice. With Jonas Nordbergand Mime
YamahiroBrinkmann-who also contribute instrumental solos -she here

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