A beautiful singer and
A fine composer.
She had four children,
Never married, and published
Books of her own songs.
Daring, creative, and bold,
Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677) was a remarkable composer and singer who lived in the golden age of Venice. She wrote an abundant amount of music, and had it published in her own lifetime. And her publications contained only her compositions. Typically, the works of female composers were included in musical anthologies with male composers. Barbara Strozzi’s publications were all her own.
She was the daughter of Isabella Garzoni, a servant of Giulio Strozzi, a poet and librettist. Strozzi, who may have been her biological father, adopted her, and encouraged her musical education. Barbara studied with composer Francesco Cavalli.
That her father encouraged her musical education would have been remarkable enough. But when he later formed a circle of musicians, Barbara regularly attended, and frequently sang at these gatherings. She was praised for her musical ability, and some of the members dedicated works to her. She began composing by setting her father’s poems to music, but soon began writing her own poetry for her music.
Barbara Strozzi’s independent streak made her a magnet for slander in her time. She bore four children, but never married. It is believed that the father of most, if not all, of the children was Giovanni Paolo Vidman, a patron of music and a member of the circle of musicians that Barbara’s father founded.
Barbara Strozzi was a financially secure woman. Venetian records indicate that she was a smart investor, and had enough resources to make loans—including to Giovanni Vidman. Independent indeed.
But let’s get to the music. You can find sheet music for some of her compositions here.
Here’s a lovely song, Voi pur begl’occhi, sete, which begins “Beautiful eyes, you are indeed a door to paradise”
And here is the haunting Lagrime mie. The opening words are “My tears, why will you not fall and quench the fiery pain that takes away my breath and crushes my heart?” Wow.
You can find many fine recordings of the works of Barbara Strozzi at your favorite music streaming site or vendor. Check them out!
Biography of Barbara Strozzi from a blog dedicated to her life and works, http://barbarastrozzi.blogspot.com/2008/06/history-barbara-strozzi-composer-1619.html
Core Donato Editions, publications of the works of Barbara Strozzi http://www.cordonatoeditions.com/
Barbara Strozzi, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Strozzi
Glixon, Beth L. “New Light on the Life and Career of Barbara Strozzi.” The Musical Quarterly, vol. 81, no. 2, 1997, pp. 311–335. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/742467.
Glixon, Beth L. “More on the Life and Death of Barbara Strozzi.” The Musical Quarterly, vol. 83, no. 1, 1999, pp. 134–141. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/742264.
Rosand, Ellen. “Barbara Strozzi, ‘Virtuosissima Cantatrice’: The Composer’s Voice.” Journal of the American Musicological Society, vol. 31, no. 2, 1978, pp. 241–281. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/830997.
Image attribution: Portrait believed to be of Barbara Strozzi titled Gambenspielerin [The Viola da Gamba Player] by Bernardo Strozzi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABarbara_Strozzi_1.jpg