Leonora Duarte (1610–1678): Converso Composer in Antwerp
In this program, we feature the music of Leonora Duarte (1610–1678), a Jewish Converso living in Antwerp who composed seven Sinfonias for viol consort — the only known seventeenth-century viol music written by a woman. The music is testament to a formidable talent for composition. Born in Antwerp to a prominent family of merchants and art collectors (friends of the keyboard -making Ruckers family, and possibly Vermeer and Rubens), Duarte received a superb musical education that included instruction on harpsichord, lute, and viol, as well as lessons in composition. Duarte’s musical evenings at home with her siblings quickly became well-known ports of call for traveling diplomats and literati, among them Constantijn Huygens, Dutch poet Anna Roemers Visscher, composer Nicholas Lanier, and singer Anne de la Barre.
But both a Jew and a woman, Duarte received no commissions from church or court; thus the existence of the Sinfonias presents a remarkable opportunity for us to consider music within the domestic sphere. In this performance, we invite you to consider Duarte’s extant works as products of her interactions with a vibrant, urban community; as vital testimony to the cultural accomplishments of women Converso in early modern Europe; and as evidence of a complex and symbiotic relationship with her male contemporaries, some of whom will also be played, among them the English composer, John Bull (1562/3–1628), director of music at Antwerp cathedral and very possibly one of her tutors.
Our Duarte concert at The Metropolitan Museum in December 2017.
Duarte at The Academy of Arts and Letters, December 2018.
Left: our green room at The Academy of Arts & Letters. Each chair contained the name of every member of the Academy.
Right: Warming up in the Academy's Library before our concert
2017–2018 was Women's Voices.
Prompted by a desire to respond to our political climate, each concert of 2017–2018 will be devoted to work by female composers from the early modern period. In so doing, we are performing a quintessential task of feminist musicology: shifting the point of power away from a domineering force and toward a minority voice—letting it sound, and letting it speak.