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The Duarte Circle, Antwerp 1640
Olalla Alemán, Griet De Geyter (soprano)
Korneel Bernolet (virginal)
Transports Publics/Thomas Baeté
rec. 2017, AMUZ, Antwerp, Belgium
MUSICA FICTA MF8028 [68:02]

Before the 20th century female composers were very rare. The best-known from the mid-17th century is Barbara Strozzi. The present disc presents a contemporary of hers, living in the southern Netherlands: Leonora Duarte. She was a member of a musical family, and one of its composing members. Whereas the compositions of her brother Diego are all lost, seven fantasias for viol consort by her pen have come down to us. All of them are included in this disc, which presents a kind of musical evening as it could have taken place at the home of the Duarte family.

The Duartes were a Jewish-Portuguese family. Although they had converted to Catholicism - not by their own free will, but under pressure of the authorities - they did not feel free and decided to move to Antwerp, which was a relatively tolerant place. Here they soon became a centre of domestic music making. The 1640 in the title of the present disc refers to the year that Anna Roemers Visscher, a Dutch poetess, visited Antwerp and attended one of those private concerts. The father of the family, Gaspar, and three of his daughters, including Leonora, sang and also played various instruments, such as the violin, the viola da gamba, the lute and the harpsichord. As the Duartes had set up a successful jewellery business and counted a number of European rulers among their clients, they could afford five harpsichords and a virginal, made by the most famous keyboard makers of the time, Ruckers and Couchet. Undoubtedly these were used during the concerts in their home.

In addition to the fantasias by Leonora Duarte, the programme presents music which may have been played during such concerts. John Bull, one of England's most brilliant keyboard players and composers, had moved to the continent and acted as organist at the court of Archduke Albert in Brussels. Many of his compositions were included in a manuscript, put together by Guilielmus Messaus. He was choirmaster at the St Walburgis church in Antwerp and was famous for his Christmas songs on Dutch texts, known as cantiones natalitiae. One of them, Hoe light ghy hier so cout (How Thou liest here in such cold) is included here. Considering its popular character, Griet De Geyter is right in singing it rather straightforwardly. Sophisticated ornamentation would be out of place here.

Girolamo Frescobaldi seems to be the odd man out in the programme. However, he was in Brussels for some time in 1607 in the retinue of the cardinal and nuncio Guido Bentivoglio. In 1608 he published here his first book of madrigals. Moreover, Leonora Duarte's Sinfonia de octavi toni is based on a ricercar for keyboard by Frescobaldi. The latter is represented here with an instrumental canzona and one of his duets. Leonora's fantasias reflect the English style. The Duarte's often played English music, and in 1645/46 the English composer Nicholas Lanier, former Master of the King's Music to Charles I, stayed at the Duarte home. No more shall meads is a song on a chaconne, one of the most popular bassi ostinati, or ground, as the English called it.

Another regular guest of the Duarte family was Constantijn Huygens, a poet and playwright from the United Provinces, who also played an important role in politics. He was an ardent lover of music, and was in contact with some of the leading composers of his time. He also composed music himself; most of his output has been lost, but the two Italian arias performed here are part from a collection of psalms, arias on Italian texts and French chansons for solo voice and basso continuo, which he published in 1647.

The last section of the programme pays tribute to the Jewish roots of the Duarte family. First we hear one of the Psalms on a Hebrew text by the Italian Jewish composer Salomone Rossi, who for most of his life was connected to the Gonzaga dynasty in Mantua. The performers have appropriately chosen his setting of Psalm 137: "By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion". Then follows another of Leonora's fantasias, one of the few which have a cantus firmus. It has not been possible to identify it, but Thomas Baeté set a Sephardic song to it. Like Psalm 137, its text fits the situation of the Duarte family, as it is about the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt.

Leonora Duarte is included in New Grove, but I assume that hardly anyone has ever heard of her. Thanks to Thomas Baeté and his ensemble Transports Publics she is now more than just a name. With her as the central figure, a most interesting part of musical life in the southern Netherlands from the mid-17th century is brought to life. And this disc also contributes to our knowledge of the fate of Jewish people at a time of religious upheaval. The performances are outstanding: Olalla Alemán and Griet De Geyter have very fine voices, which are excellently suited to this kind of repertoire and which match perfectly in the pieces they sing together. The players make a convincing case for Leonora's consort music. It is nice that her fantasias are available on disc now.

If you like to expand your musical and historical horizon, this is a disc to investigate.

Johan van Veen

Leonora DUARTE (1610-1678)
Sinfonia de 10. toni [2:35]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Begli occhi, aria a 2 [3:22]
John BULL (c1562-1628)
La Guamina
Guilielmus MESSAUS (1589-1640)
Hoe light ghy hier so cout [3:57]
Leonora DUARTE
Sinfonia de 12. toni [2:10]
Sinfonia de 1. toni [2:28]
Courante 'Juweel' [2:13]
Leonora DUARTE
Sinfonia de 1. toni, seconda parte [1:47]
Sinfonia de 3. toni [2:39]
Nicholas LANIER (1588-1666)
No more shall meads [3:23]
Canzona La Bianchina [3:19]
Constantijn HUYGENS (1596-1687)
Orsa bella e crudele [1:45]
Fantasia [2:57]
Girolamo DALLA CASA (?-1601)
Non gemme, non fin oro (after Cipriano de Rore, 1515-1565)
Constantijn HUYGENS
Deh, s'ŕ tanta beltŕ [2:55]
Leonora DUARTE
Sinfonia de 8. toni (after Girolamo Frescobaldi) [1:58]
Fantasia 6. toni [9:31]
Salomone ROSSI (c1570-1630)
Psalm 137: Al naharot bavel [3:33]
Leonora DUARTE
Sinfonia de 2. toni [3:45]
trad/Leonora DUARTE, arr Thomas Baeté & Olalla Alemán
El paso del Mar Rojo [5:09]



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