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A Teenager Female Composer in Renaissance Italy– Do You Know Her?

However, before becoming a nun, she wrote and published one madrigal, “Di pallide viole”, in a musical anthology. Two years later, she published 18 madrigals, which used lyrics by Giovanni Battista Guarini, an Italian poet and dramatist, as well as other writers. Each of these 18 pieces almost feels like a lesson in a particular musical device, assigned by her teacher, Ercole Pasquini, who was originally credited with their authorship. The final madrigal is what’s known as a madrigale spirituale, or a musical madrigal with a sacred theme. Perhaps she knew she was about to enter the convent and leave her secular life behind?

When Vittoria entered San Vito, she took the name Raffaella and soon published a book of motets (short sacred pieces written for an unaccompanied choir) called Sacrae cantiones quinque, septem, octo, & decem vocibus decantande. This was the first book of sacred music by a woman to appear in print.

Aleotti’s music is characterized by stylistic complexity and word painting, as well as her ability to heighten the meaning of a text using harmony, dissonance, phrasing, and unusual voicing. Many of the sacred motets are composed for five voices. They would have been written for and sung by the women in San Vito’s convent, so we don’t know the actual octave used by the singers.

Vittoria's Sacrae cantiones quinque, septem, octo, & decem vocibus decantande was the first book of sacred music by a woman to appear in print.

Outside of her compositions, Aleotti was well-respected for her talents as a musician, conductor, and teacher. She became a conductor for the convent and trained other women to play a variety of instruments— some of which were not usually acceptable for women to play during this period. She also taught children in the public sphere. Little information survives about Aleotti’s later years, but the impression she made as a young woman has stood the test of time.

Cappella Clausura has had the pleasure of performing all of Aleotti’s pieces across several concerts. Director Amelia LeClair has made her own editions of all 18 madrigals, available here. Our first professional recording, “Love Songs of a Renaissance Teenager” was released in 2014. You can listen here.

Want to read more about Vittoria? You can check out her ChoralWiki entry here and learn more about her life and works here.

What questions do you still have about Aleotti? Let us know in the comments, and check back in next week for a profile on Fanny Mendelsohn!

“Do You Know Her” is Cappella Clausura’s newest educational initiative. With this series, we hope to expose our audiences to a range of female composers throughout history and celebrate their often overlooked achievements. By the end of August, we’ll have shown a spotlight on four remarkable women from history.

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