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Now the night draws in

By our editors - 30. November 2022
A concert set to the hours of the day by Ensemble Astrea.

Now the night draws in is a concert of early music recently held at our gallery. Set within an imaginary 24-hour day, we explore the ways the changing light and shadow, and the multitudes of emotions that arise, can be expressed through music. The programme is highlighted by a suite of pieces from Nicolas Chédeville’s Les Danses Amuzantes (1733), the score of which features in one of the paintings on view. Other exhibited works complement the period and cities where the composers lived. We invite you to watch the video from the event and explore the highlights below.


Our morning set is centered on a frottola, a type of secular song prevalent in Renaissance Italy, by Marchetto Cara (ca. 1465-1525). It features the sound of morning birdsong. The lyrics ask: “Little bird, how finely you sing?” Cara was a composer in the Medici court in Florence and this kind of music would have been heard by an artist like Agnolo Bronzino.

The piece sits between two gagliarde, a type of 16th century dance, by Vincenzo Galilei (1520-1591), lutenist and father of the astronomer who was also an accomplished lutenist. The example below invokes the muse of the dance.

Marchetto Cara
Mentre io vo per questi boschi
Vincenzo Galilei
Gagliarda Terpsichore
Agnolo di Cosimo, known as il Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man with a Book, 1525-28, oil on panel, private collection


Two women composers from 17th century highlight our afternoon performance. There were many accomplished women composers from this era, most often found in convents or coming from an artistic family. Lucretia Orsina Vizzana (1590–1662) was based in Bologna, and through the publication of her work, her music became known outside the convent world.

Lucretia Orsina Vizzana
O Magnum Mysterium

Born in Venice to the poet Giulio Strozzi, Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677, not related to the painter Bernardo Strozzi who is thought to have painted her only existing portrait) was a singer and composer who published more secular music than anyone else from her era. Notably, she found success without the support of one particular aristocratic patron. Like her father, Barbara was a member of the literary society known as the Accademia degli Incogniti. Typical of her sense of wit and humor is the recurring pun and wordplay in La Sol Fà, Mi, Rè, Dò, playing on the idea of the solfeggio to be recombined in Venetian dialect for other meanings.

Barbara Strozzi
La Sol Fà, Mi, Rè, Dò
Bernardo Strozzi, A Gamba Player (Barbara Strozzi?), ca. 1640, oil on canvas. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden Gal.-Nr. 658


Faustina Maratti was the daughter of the painter Carlo Maratti, who used her as a model for his Saint Margaret of Antioch. Faustina was a poet, painter, and a member of the Arcadian Academy where she met her husband, Giovanni Zappi, a lawyer and poet. They hosted literary salons in their household. Some of the frequent attendees were the most celebrated composers of the day – notably George Frideric Handel, who, in his youth, spent a short time in Rome, and Alessandro Scarlatti. For the evening set, imagine you are at a soirée at the Maratti-Zappi household and Handel himself is performing. He was a cosmopolitan composer who is better known for his career later in England, but he was conversant in all the European styles and was able to improvise with influences from France and Italy.

George Frideric Handel
Aria and Variations in D minor, HWV 428
Carlo Maratti, Portrait of a Lady, Probably the Artist’s Daughter, Faustina Maratti Zappi (ca. 1679-1745), half-length, as Saint Margaret, ca. 1688-95, oil on canvas. Private collection


At night, we move to other parts of Europe, although the Italian influence was never far behind. Heinrich Albert (1604-1651) was very influenced by his teacher and cousin Heinrich Schütz, who studied in Venice and may have encountered Monteverdi in his heyday. Heinrich was the ringleader of a poet-musician-artist society. They met at his residence, a little hut surrounded by pumpkins. Like the Arcadian Academy, all the members had nicknames based on mythology which were carved into the pumpkins. Johann Nauwach (1595-1630) also published music in the lyrical Italian style, calling them “Teütscher Villanellen” after the mid-16th century Italian song style. In a painting by Giuseppe Maria Crespi, there is a man playing lute similar to the Renaissance lute heard in our concert.

Johann Jakob Froberger
Sarabande from Suite XVIII
Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Lute Player, ca. 1700-05, oil on copper. Private collection

Our night ends in a pastoral dream, a fetê champêtre, where you might hear music played on a musette – a type of bagpipe associated with a rustic lifestyle, although in paintings peasants are not usually depicted playing it. In a set of paintings on view at the gallery, Les Danses Amuzantes (1733) features on the title page of a score. It is an actual publication by the composer, musette player and instrument maker Nicolas Chédeville (1705-1782). Upon close reading, the rest of the music appears to be a pastiche from several different music publications. Bach, Rameau, Couperin and many composers liked to write music that imitated the musette, with its signature drone sound, so in keeping with their spirits, our musicians decided to play Les Danses Amuzantes on a different set of instruments.❖

Nicolas Chédeville (1705-1782)
selections from Les Danses Amuzantes
French School, 18th century, Portrait of a Musician in a Landscape, oil on canvas
Nicolas Henri Jeaurat de Bertry, A pair of devants de cheminée, 1775, oil on canvas
With special thanks to the Yale School of Music for lending its instruments and the musicians at Ensemble Astrea – Grant Herreid, Benjamin Katz, and Clara Rottsolk. Read on for their biographies.
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