Isabella Leonarda (1620-1704)
Vespro a cappella della Beata Vergine
The Vespro a cappella della Beata Vergine of Suor Isabella Leonarda (1620-1704), presented here for the first time in a modern performance, was published in Bologna in 1678 by the printer Giacomo Monti. It belongs to the rich and variegated anthology of vocal and instrumental works published by this nun in the course of her long and creative musical life. Taking up a common performance practice in northern Italy at the time of Leonarda and used in the Vespers liturgy, organ pieces by Girolamo Frescobaldi and Giovanni Paolo Cima have been inserted between the psalms on this recording in place of the antiphons sung in plain chant. The Vespro a cappella della Beata Vergine was composed during a period of crucial importance for the history of western music. The renaissance aesthetic, based on the technique of contrapuntal writing, was overtaken by new lexical and formal innovations of the baroque, such as basso continuo, vocal monody, instrumental music and opera. The old polyphonic style was not, however, completely abandoned, but instead breathed new life into sacred music.