Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Donald Macleod explores the work of composer, poet and mystic St Catherine of Bologna.

Lust, murder, sex, intrigue - and a host of music written by, and for, virtuoso women. BBC Radio 3 lifts the lid on the secret world of the singing ladies of Renaissance Ferrara.

Throughout the 1500s, the northern Italian city of Ferrara was one of Europe's political and cultural powerhouses: ducal seat of the celebrated d'Este family, and home for a time to perhaps the Renaissance's most notorious femme fatale: Lucrezia Borgia. Yet it also had a thriving musical culture - one founded upon the unique talents of a set of quite extraordinary women, who honed their musical gifts in almost total secrecy in convents and at secret concerts held in a tiny room within Ferrara's vast Castello. These women had a huge influence on Monteverdi, Gesualdo, and other luminaries of the early Baroque - yet when the Duchy of Ferrara fell in 1597 they faded into legend. This week, Composer of the Week puts that right. Recorded in studio and on location in modern-day Ferrara, Donald Macleod is joined by Renaissance musical scholar Laurie Stras to explore more than a century of female musical genius.

Donald and Laurie begin the week with a selection of gems from Ferrara's golden age - and hints of the dramatic story to come - before taking us right back to the mid-15th century and the first key figure in our story: composer, poet and mystic St Catherine of Bologna. Famed as a composer, poet, singer and violinist, musicians and poets from around Europe would come to the doors of the convent of Corpus Domini in Ferrara for an audience with Catherine, who - according to legend -would play for days at a time, and move between song and speech, music and chant.

Suor Leonora d'Este
Salve Sponsa Dei
Music Secreta

Luzzasco Luzzaschi
Non sa che sia dolore
Doulce Memoire
Denis Rasin Dadre, conductor

Luzzasco Luzzaschi
I'mi son giovinetta
Toccata del quarto tono
O dolcezz' amarissime d'Amor
Musica Secreta

Anon, words St Catherine of Bologna
Giardino I: Madre che festi
La Reverdie

Anon, words St Catherine of Bologna
Giardino III: Benedicamus Domino; Deh, dime se'l piace
La Reverdie

Anon, words St Catherine of Bologna
Giardino VI: O Yesu Dolce
Giardino VII: O Dilecto Iesu Christu
Adiastema, La Reverdie

Heinrich Isaac, words St Catherine of Bologna
Giardino X: J'ai pris amours

Anon, words St Catherine of Bologna
Giardino XI: Ciaschaduna amante
Adiastema, La Reverdie.

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Suor Leonora d'Este

    Salve Sponsa Dei

    Ensemble: Musica Secreta.
  • Anonymous

    Salve sponsa Dei

    Ensemble: Musica Secreta.
  • Luzzasco Luzzaschi

    Non Sa Che Sia Dolore

    Singer: Veronique Bourin. Singer: Axelle Bernage. Singer: Christel Boiron. Ensemble: Doulce Memoire. Director: Denis Raisin-Dadre.
    • ZIG ZAG : ZZT-071001.
    • ZIG ZAG.
    • 1.
  • Luzzasco Luzzaschi

    Non sa che sia dolore

    Singer: Veronique Bourin. Singer: Axelle Bernage. Singer: Christel Boiron. Ensemble: Doulce Memoire. Director: Denis Raisin-Dadre.
    • ZIG ZAG : ZZT-071001.
    • ZIG ZAG.
    • 1.
  • Luzzasco Luzzaschi

    I' mi son giovinetta

    Ensemble: Musica Secreta.
    • AMON RA: CDSAR58.
    • AMON RA.
    • 6.
  • Musica Secreta

    I' mi son giovinetta

    • AMON RA: CDSAR58.
    • AMON RA.
    • 6.
  • Luzzasco Luzzaschi

    Toccata del quarto tono

    Ensemble: Musica Secreta.
    • AMON RA: CDSAR58.
    • AMON RA.
    • 6.
  • Luzzasco Luzzaschi

    O dolcezz' amarissime d'Amor

    Ensemble: Musica Secreta.
    • AMON RA: CDSAR58.
    • AMON RA.
    • 6.
  • Luzzasco Luzzaschi

    O dolcezze amarissime d'amore

    Performer: Paula Chateauneuf. Ensemble: Musica Secreta. Singer: Deborah Roberts. Singer: Tessa Bonner. Singer: Mary Nichols.
    • AMON RA : CD-SAR-58.
    • AMON RA.
    • 7.
  • Anonymous

    Giardino I - Madre che festi

    Ensemble: La Reverdie.
    • ARCANA: A367.
    • 4.
  • Anonymous

    Giardino III - Benedicamus Domino

    Ensemble: La Reverdie.
    • ARCANA: A367.
    • 7.
  • Anonymous

    Giardino III - Deh, dime se'l piace

    Ensemble: La Reverdie.
    • ARCANA: A367.
    • 7.
  • anon

    Giardino VI - O Yesu Dolce

    Ensemble: Adiastema. Ensemble: La Reverdie.
    • ARCANA: A367.
    • 12.
  • La Reverdie

    Giardino VI: O Yesu dolce

    • ARCANA: A367.
    • ARCANA.
    • 12.
  • anon

    Giardino VII - O Dilecto Iesu Christu

    Ensemble: Adiastema. Ensemble: La Reverdie.
    • ARCANA: A367.
    • 12.
  • La Reverdie

    Giardino VII: O Dilecto Iesu Christu

    • ARCANA: A367.
    • ARCANA.
    • 14.
  • Heinrich Isaac

    Giardino X - J'ai pris amours

    Ensemble: Adiastema. Ensemble: La Reverdie.
    • ARCANA: A367.
    • 16.
  • Adiastema

    Giardino X : J'ai pris amours

    • ARCANA: A367.
    • ARCANA.
    • 16.
  • Heinrich Isaac

    Giardino XI - Ciaschudana amante

    Ensemble: Adiastema. Ensemble: La Reverdie.
    • ARCANA: A367.
    • 16.
  • Adiastema

    Giardino XI: Ciaschudana amante

    • ARCANA: A367.
    • ARCANA.
    • 16.

Broadcasts

Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.