In this season of social distancing, I'm offering a series of virtual micro-concerts for anyone to enjoy. Every Wednesday, I’ll post one fine performance of notable music for women’s voices. The selections and performing groups will be varied and eclectic. Most will be in the 3-5 minute range. Each post will include an audio recording, brief notes, text & translation and, when practical, a PDF copy of the score in case you want to follow along.
Listen to this week's music and see the score in the Listening Room. No password necessary
This week we journey back to 18th c. Venice, a city that was experiencing a remarkable flowering of sacred music composed specifically for women’s voices by some of the western world’s great masters of vocal music.
The Venetian Ospedali
The energy behind this flowering of creativity was largely provided by Venice’s several Ospedali. The Ospedali were charitable institutions established by the Catholic church to house young, female wards who were considered undesirable in Venetian society. These included orphans, homeless children, lepers and reformed prostitutes. Quite unpredictably, by the mid-1700's, these institutions occupied the core of Venetian society and continued to do so for half a century.
The Ospedali provided marginalized girls and young women with an education which included rigorous musical training. One of the obligations for the young wards was to sing in church services and in concerts which were attended by members of Venice’s wealthy merchant class. Venice’s top operatic and church composers (Including Vivaldi, Porpora and Hasse) also taught at Venice's Ospedali and composed for them. They encouraged the young musicians to flourish and reach a high standard of musicianship. By mid-century, the Ospedali had begun to draw international attention because of the caliber of their musical performances.
The Ospedali contributed to Venetian culture by breaking class barriers and by empowering women, in opposition to social conventions of the time. The Ospedali allowed women to choose education and independence over marriage or a convent. And, remarkably, the singers transcended the common association of immorality with female public performances. Audiences not only accepted but celebrated their concerts. In addition, the structure of the Ospedali relied on female leadership. The Ospedali developed educated women, virtuosic female musicians, and leading female administrators.
Johann Adolph Hasse
After Dresden, Venice was the second important center of Hasse’s life. He was widely known there as “il caro Sassone” (the beloved Saxon.) In turn, Hasse, the son of a Lutheran church organist, adapted himself to Italy, converting to Catholicism in 1725. Hasse was a highly successful opera composer and, like his rival, Porpora, he also composed sacred music for Venice’s Ospedale degli Incurabili. After his death on December 16, 1783, Hasse was buried in the small church across the square from his home in Venice.
About this Work
Laudate pueri is the first movement of a multi-movement setting of Psalm 113 for 4-part women’s voices and orchestra (strings and continuo.) It was composed sometime between 1735 and 1749 for the women of the Ospedale degli Incurabili in Venice. When Hasse moved back to Dresden, he arranged this piece for SATB mixed voices. The original SSAA version was finally published in a modern edition by Carus Verlag in 2010.
You may share or use any of these notes freely as long as you include this attribution:
"Notes by Mitchell Covington. www.mitchellcovington-music.com"
About this Performance
Cantores Celestes, Toronto, directed by Kelly Galbraith;
With the Emperor Quartet; Matthew Coons, organist;
Katherine Napiwotzki and Lindsay Newman sopranos.
Psalm 113: 1-2
Laudate pueri Dominum Laudate nomen Domini. Sit nomen Domini benedictum
ex hoc nunc et usque in saeculum.
Praise, o ye servants of the Lord,
Praise the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord
From this time forth and forevermore.
This piece can be done with piano accompaniment. If possible, add ‘cello or bass playing the lowest notes in the LH of the keyboard reduction.
For a more historically accurate performance, it can be performed with string quartet + bass with an organ or harpsichord playing the continuo part (not the piano reduction.) For a chorus of 30 or more singers, consider increasing the string complement to 3,3,2,2,1.
(For directors of non-profit arts organizations, note that in most regions, if you advertise, “with orchestra,” you’ll most likely sell more tickets--and grow your audience.)
This piece can be successfully performed with modern string instruments at A440, but really comes alive with period instruments playing at Baroque pitch.
For performance materials and any other help, feel free to contact me.
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Mitchell Covington is an award-winning composer and conductor who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a frequent adjudicator for choir competitions and festivals and has led choir tours and festivals throughout Europe. Mr. Covington has several choral compositions in print with major U.S publishers and his music has been performed by choirs throughout the U.S and Europe. Mr. Covington is the Founding Artistic Director of Voci Women's Vocal Ensemble.