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La Donna Musicale: Celebrating the Music of Women Composers

A look at the Boston-based ensemble La Donna Musicale (Laury Gutierrez, dir.), including their recordings of music by women composers.

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soprano sings and musicians accompany

Photo: George Imirzian

La Donna Musicale in performance at Sanders Theater, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Laury Gutiérrez, dir.

The Boston-based ensemble La Donna Musicale has forged a unique place in the world of Early Music. Founded in 1992 by their director Laury Gutiérrez, the group specializes in exploring the repertoire of women composers from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical periods, including Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, Madalena Casulana, Anna Bon, and Antonia Bembo, among many others.

Since its inception the ensemble has not only devoted its energies to performance but to research and collaboration with a number of noted scholars in the field. As a result, they have developed a sizable catalog of music by women composers.

Antonia Bembo

Recordings have also featured prominently for La Donna Musicale. Their first release came in 2004 with the first of two volumes of The Seven Psalms of David by Antonia Bembo, which included an instrumental piece by Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre.

La Donna Musicale’s founding director, Laury Gutiérrez, has been spearheading the ensemble’s numerous projects since her student days at Indiana University’s Early Music Institute. Along the way she has been responsible for maintaining “La Donna’s” high musical standards and committed goal of bringing their particular repertoire to a wider audience on both sides of the Atlantic—through both live performance and radio broadcast. Reviews have unanimously praised the ensemble for their individual sound and approach.

Recently, Laury was awarded a fellowship by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, which is given to “support scholars, scientists, artists, and writers of exceptional promise and demonstrated accomplishment.” It is intended for the development of ideas in the creative arts. As a Radcliffe fellow, Laury will devise concert and educational programs, as well as recordings of music by Italian women composers.

Julie Pinel

The most recent recording by “La Donna” was a departure from their previous ones. Temporarily leaving the sacred repertoire, they focused on the songs of love and drink by Julie Pinel, a late baroque composer. The program also contained music by Jacquet de la Guerre, as well as a few mysterious figures by the names of Mademoiselles Herville, Denis, and Anne.

Julie Pinel was a French baroque composer from a long line of lutenists. She published her first book of songs in 1736 and quickly followed with another the following year. It is the later publication, entitled “New collection of serious and drinking songs,” that La Donna Musicale drew from as the foundation of their 2007 recording.

New Release

Our new release of the week features the distinguished harpsichordist Colin Tilney in a program entitled “Preludes and Dances for a French Harpsichord.” As you might guess the repertoire is centered on select pieces from the French baroque repertoire. A release of the DOREMI label, the program consists of composers well known in their day and as well now, including Jean Phillipe Rameau and François Couperin.

The music heard on this episode was performed by La Donna Musicale and Colin Tilney.

Music Heard On This Episode

Louis Couperin: Suite in A minor: Sarabande and "La Piémontoise"
Colin Tilney, harpsichord — Preludes and Dances for a French Harpsichord (DOREMI, 2008)
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Louis Couperin: Suite in A minor: Sarabande and "La Piémontoise"
Colin Tilney, harpsichord — Preludes and Dances for a French Harpsichord (DOREMI, 2008)
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Antonia Padoani Bembo: Psalm VI: Domine ne in furore tuo arguas me: "Domine ne in furore" and "Mais vous qui m’entourez"; From Sonata in A Major: Courante (Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre)
La Donna Musicale/Laury Gutiérrez — The Seven Psalms of David, Vol. 1 (LADM, 2004)
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F. Couperin: La Florentine
Colin Tilney, harpsichord — Preludes and Dances for a French Harpsichord (DOREMI, 2008)
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Antonia Padoani Bembo: From Psalm XXXVII: Domine ne in furore: "C’est ta grace, Seigneur" and "Soulage mon tourment"
La Donna Musicale/Laury Gutiérrez — The Seven Psalms of David, Vol. 2 (LADM, 2005)
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F. Couperin: La Convalescente
Colin Tilney, harpsichord — Preludes and Dances for a French Harpsichord (DOREMI , 2008)
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Julie Pinel: "Rossignol vous chantez"; "Vous partez, belle Iris" (Mlle. Herville)
La Donna Musicale/Laury Gutiérrez — The Pleasures of Love and Libation: Airs by Julie Pinel and other Parisian women (LADM, 2007)
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Gaspard Le Roux: La Favorite
Colin Tilney, harpsichord — Preludes and Dances for a French Harpsichord (DOREMI , 2008)
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Mlle. Denis: "Armons nous"; "Scène Pastorale" (Julie Pinel)
La Donna Musicale/Laury Gutiérrez — The Pleasures of Love and Libation: Airs by Julie Pinel and other Parisian women (LADM, 2007)
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F. Couperin: Prelude in D Minor
Colin Tilney, harpsichord — Preludes and Dances for a French Harpsichord (DOREMI , 2008)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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