Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Giaches de Wert and the First Concerto

Donald Macleod explains how a devastating earthquake that nearly destroyed Ferrara in 1570 led to the creation of an extraordinary ensemble of virtuoso female musicians.

After a devastating earthquake nearly destroys Ferrara in 1570, from the rubble is born an extraordinary ensemble of virtuoso female musicians.

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.

Barely a decade into the rule of Duke Alfonso II, the man who turned Ferrara into a cultural and political powerhouse, tragedy struck the city in 1570 as it was hit by a devastating earthquake. Alfonso's accession had already resulted in the flowering of female singing at the court, but now, forced to entertain visiting royalty on the most threadbare of resources, the Duke commanded his finest female musicians to form an ensemble of their own - dazzling guests with their brilliant, shimmering vocal harmonies. This first generation of singing ladies was to gain a pan-European reputation, and set the scene for the fabled "concerto delle donne" - highly-secretive concerts at which noblemen would be treated to an utterly unique, and mesmerising, musical performance. Donald Macleod explores the genesis of the ensemble with Renaissance music scholar Laurie Stras, concentrating today on the music of one of the age's most gifted composers: Giaches de Wert.

Giaches de Wert
Amen, amen dico vobis
Stile Antico

Giaches de Wert
Gratie ch'a pochi il ciel largo destina; Tirsi morir volea
Musica Secreta

Giaches de Wert
Qual musico gentil
Musica Secreta

Luzzasco Luzzaschi
Dolci sospiri ardenti
Musica Secreta

Luzzasco Luzzaschi
Ch'io non t'ami cor mio; Canzon francese; Troppo ben'puo
La Venexiana

Giaches de Wert
Ascendente Jesu in naviculam
Stile Antico.

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Unknown

    Evening news ident

  • Giaches de Wert

    Amen, Amen Dico Vobis

    Choir: Stile Antico.
  • Giaches de Wert

    Tirsi Morir Volea

    Ensemble: Musica Secreta.
    • LINN: CKD169.
    • LINN.
    • 17.
  • Luzzasco Luzzaschi

    Deh Non Cantar

    Ensemble: Musica Secreta.
    • LINN RECORDS : ckd-169.
    • LINN RECORDS.
    • 11.
  • Giaches de Wert

    Qual Musico Gentil

    Ensemble: Musica Secreta.
    • LINN: CKD169.
    • LINN.
    • 10.
  • Luzzasco Luzzaschi

    Ch'Io Non T'Ami Cor Mio

    Ensemble: La Venexiana.
    • GLOSSA: GCD920919.
    • GLOSSA.
    • 3.
  • Luzzasco Luzzaschi

    Canzon Francese

    Ensemble: La Venexiana.
    • GLOSSA: GCD920919.
    • GLOSSA.
    • 13.
  • Giaches de Wert

    Ascendente Jesu In Naviculam

    Choir: Stile Antico.

Broadcasts

  • Thu 9 Mar 2017 12:00
  • Thu 9 Mar 2017 18:30
  • Thu 29 Nov 2018 12:00

Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

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

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

The production team reflects on 5 of Donald Macleod’s best stories from the last 20 years

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.