Harmonia Early Music

Harmonia Time Capsule: 1474

Let’s take a quick look back in time...to the year 1474 and the births of two formidable women, and the death of Dufay.

Isabella d'Este

Photo: wikipedia

Leonardo da Vinci's "Cartone per un ritratto di Isabella d'Este."

In March, Italian religious leader Angela Merici was born.  It is likely that events from her tragic and tumultuous childhood compelled her to become a nun in early adulthood.  Orphaned at the age of ten, she and her older sister Giana Maria were sent to reside with their uncle.  Not long after, Giana Maria suddenly died without receiving last rites.  Heartbroken, Merici joined the Third Order of St. Francis and prayed fervently for her deceased sister’s soul.  Throughout the remainder of her life, Merici worked for better Christian educational opportunities for girls.  She established two schools for girls in Desenzano and Brescia, and in 1535 she founded the Order of Ursulines.  Legend tells of her travels to the Holy Land, during which she was struck blind but relieved by prayer.

Disembodied Voices: Music and Culture in an Early Modern Italian Convent
Craig A. Monson
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Divas in the Convent: Nuns, Music, and Defiance in Seventeenth-Century Italy
Craig A. Monson
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Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto, author of the epic poem Orlando Furioso, was born in September 1474.  At first, Ariosto’s path to success seemed regularly thwarted.  As the oldest child in his family, he was obligated to study law, rather than pursue his love of literature and poetry.  Regardless, Ariosto found time to compose comedies and lyrical works.  His efforts eventually attracted the attention of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, who became Ariosto’s patron and invited him to reside at the house of d’Este.  According to the poet, this period of service was one of exploitation and poor compensation.  When dismissed by the cardinal, Ariosto worked for his brother Alfonso.  Ariosto met better treatment and, by that time, had secured a reputation as a gifted writer and competent statesman.

Orlando Furioso
Ludovico Ariosto
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Also born in 1474 was Isabella d’Este—a woman of renowned learning and a formidable leader, who inspired a generation of artists.  Isabella was a precocious child who could recall entire works by Greek authors.  She also regularly debated principles of governance while traveling between Naples and Mantua.  This breadth of knowledge became invaluable when Isabella’s husband, Francesco Gonzaga, was captured by Venetian forces in 1509.  Isabella took command of Mantua’s armies and saw to the city’s protection until her husband’s release.  When Gonzaga returned, knowledge of his wife’s competence made him jealous.  Following marital discord, Isabella found herself free to travel and live independently.  She did so until her husband’s death in 1519.

The Cabinet of Eros: Renaissance Mythological Painting and the Studiolo of Isabella d'Este
Stephen Campbell
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Isabella d'Este, marchioness of Mantua, 1474-1539: a study of the renaissance
Julia Mary Cartwright Ady
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Isabella and Leonardo: The Artistic Relationship between Isabella d'Este and Leonardo da Vinci, 1500-1506
Isabella and Leonardo: The Artistic Relationship between Isabella d'Este and Leonardo da Vinci, 1500-1506
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Finally, 1474 marks the year of Guillaume Dufay‘s death.  The composer is well known for his command of isorhythm, his extensive use of fauxbourdon (false base), and the influence he held over future generations of Franco-Flemish composers. Less well known is Dufay’s purported role as music theorist.  19th century musicologist François-Joseph Fétis reported seeing a 16th century copy of Dufay’s treatise on musical meter in a London bookshop.  Since then, however, no evidence of Dufay’s theoretical writing has been found.

The Motet in the Age of Du Fay
Julie E. Cumming
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Music heard in this time capsule:

Guillaume Dufay (c. 1397-1474): Tr. 2 - Ma belle dame souveraine
Ensemble Amadis — Music and Chants from the Time of Joan of Arc (Editions Jade/Milan Records , 2006)
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album cover

Guillaume Dufay (c. 1397-1474): Tr. 2 - Ma belle dame souveraine
Ensemble Amadis — Music and Chants from the Time of Joan of Arc (Editions Jade/Milan Records , 2006)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Disembodied Voices: Music and Culture in an Early Modern Italian Convent
Craig A. Monson
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Orlando Furioso
Ludovico Ariosto
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
The Cabinet of Eros: Renaissance Mythological Painting and the Studiolo of Isabella d'Este
Stephen Campbell
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Isabella d'Este, marchioness of Mantua, 1474-1539: a study of the renaissance
Julia Mary Cartwright Ady
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Isabella and Leonardo: The Artistic Relationship between Isabella d'Este and Leonardo da Vinci, 1500-1506
Isabella and Leonardo: The Artistic Relationship between Isabella d'Este and Leonardo da Vinci, 1500-1506
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
The Motet in the Age of Du Fay
Julie E. Cumming
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Divas in the Convent: Nuns, Music, and Defiance in Seventeenth-Century Italy
Craig A. Monson
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
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Harmonia Early Music is a nationally syndicated weekly early music radio program, podcast and blog produced by WFIU Public Radio.

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