Two Forgotten Early Female Composers

Publishing music as a woman was rather difficult and basically unheard of until rather recently. Even performing was a challenge, since most couldn’t readily play outside of their own or their friend’s sitting rooms. However, there were some exceptions, two of which were Lucia Quinciani (c. 1566-1611) and Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre (1665 – 1729). Both were such fine musicians and composers that they were well recognized in their time, but have since faded into the history books.

Quinciani is most notable for being the first published female composer of monody, a form of Italian music where a solo voice sings a clear melody with simple instrumental accompaniment. The composer is performed so little today that the only available recording on Youtube can be found in this clip. You can find her piece about 1 min. and 45 seconds in.

Guerre is a little more known. Here is an explanation by fellow blogger and music critic Kurt Nemes:

Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre came from a family of musicians who happened to live in the very heart of Paris on the Ile St. Louis, which is right behind the Ile de la Cite, on which Notre Dame Cathedral sits. A prodigy on the harpsichord (taught by her father) she captured the attention of Louis XIV when she played before him. She was accepted into the French court and studied under the King’s mistress. She’s notable for composing in the then new forms cantata and sonata which came from Italy. Also, she was the first French woman to write an opera. La Guerre wrote in almost every form and became very well known. Today’s piece is a cantata about the parting and crossing of the Red Sea from book one of her Cantates françoises sur des sujets tirez de l’Ecriture, French Cantatas on subjects taken from Scripture (Paris, 1708).



(via here and here)


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