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.
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.