(2017) for vocal ensemble – 9 minutes
Commissioned by: Philharmonie Luxembourg – Rainy Days festival 2017
Written for: EXAUDI
Dedicated to: Mme Michèle Ries
Published by: Noutefabrik
Category: Vocal, Works 2-6 Players
Year Composed: 2017
Duration: 9 min
Orchestration: S, M, Ct, T, B
Notes on score:
As part of my research for this new choral piece, I have enjoyed rediscovering the madrigals of the Italian Renaissance, which had not been part of my sound world for many years, as well as diving deeper into the poetry of that time. I was keen to find a text which would still be relevant today. And all the better if I could unearth words by a woman writer, as their poetry was often less known than that of male counterparts such as Petrarch, whose poems were typically chosen by the musicians of the time. To my delight, I stumbled across Modesta da Pozzo, known under the pseudonym of Moderata Fonte (1555-1592), who superbly expressed the problematics of women’s social status and vented her own feminist sentiments in her epic poem, Il Floridoro (Venice, 1581), composed of 13 cantos of approximately 100 octaves each.
Writing in ottava rima rather than using the canons or forms of Petrarchism allowed Moderata Fonte to “invade the poetic field of epic and chivalric poetry that had been hitherto dominated by men poets”. In the four first octaves of Canto 4, she makes a case for young girls and boys to be treated equally with regards to their education and the development of their potential, something that is still worth pointing out today, even in our relatively open-minded Western society! Interestingly, Fonte herself was schooled at a convent and gained access to her brother’s grammar school education by asking him what he had learnt every day after school.
Also today, a conscious effort is necessary to make girls feel welcome in STEM (science, technology, engineering and Mathematics) classes and take up professions in these and many other male-dominated fields. As a woman composer, I feel particularly strong about encouraging the next generation of girls to get into conducting and composing, two specialisations in my field in which women are still marginalised. Equal rights and opportunities at the outset of young people’s lives should be the norm and yet, perhaps unwittingly, through lack of female role models or an ill-placed joke or remark, society often falls back on traditional models as we feed young girls conflicting and sometimes off-putting information and ideas. Fonte’s text is thus a timely reminder and very topical today, as she addresses fathers in particular “not to consign [their daughter] to a lower station but to set her to tasks just like his sons…for when confined to ordinary training, her eduction brings her small esteem.”
Quotes from “Women Poets of the Italian Renaissance – Courtly Ladies & Courtesans, edited by Laura Anna Stortoni. Translated by Laura Anna Stortomni & Mary Prentice Lillie(Italica Press, New York, 1997) pp 209-219
16.11.2017 at Philharmonie Luxembourg