Voci pari motets and convent polyphony in the 1540s: the materna lingua complex

Laurie Stras

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5 Citations (Scopus)


In the 1540s the great Venetian publishing houses of Scotto and Gardano issued a cluster of publications whose title pages advertised a particular vocal disposition—“voci pari,” or equal voices. Analysis of the motets, their texts, and their musical treatment reveals an intimate connection with convents and conventual worship. In this article I describe the relationships between the books, speculate as to how convents might have used the motets, and consider what the works can tell us about performance practice in female-voice ensembles. Drawing on aspects of the books’ publication history, the liturgical function of certain texts, and musical relationships with works composed at the Ferrarese court, I propose a candidate for the composer of at least some of the anonymous pieces in Musica quinque vocum: motteta materna lingua vocata (RISM 15432): Suor Leonora d'Este (1515–75), daughter of Duke Alfonso I d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia and the abbess of the convent of Corpus Domini in Ferrara.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-696
Number of pages80
JournalJournal of the American Musicological Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


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  • Musica Secreta in Triora 2019

    Laurie Stras (Organiser)

    7 Jul 201914 Jul 2019

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