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date: 22 September 2021

Cozzolani, Chiara Margaritafree

Cozzolani, Chiara Margaritafree

  • Robert L. Kendrick

Updated in this version

updated and revised

(b Milan, Nov 27, 1602; d Milan, May 4, 1676 – April 20, 1678). Italian singer and composer. In many ways, her life epitomizes the destiny of Milanese patrician women, most of whom became nuns in the early 17th century; some two-thirds of the 41 monasteries that housed them were renowned for music until the late 18th-century dissolutions. The youngest daughter of a wealthy merchant family, she entered the Benedictine monastery of S Radegonda. She professed final vows in 1620, taking ‘Chiara’ as her religious name. P.P. Melli’s Corrente La Cozzolana in his Intavolatura, bk 5 (1620) may be a tribute to her skills. She is mentioned in documents in connection with disputes over the regulation of music in the 1660s, and may have served as the maestra di cappella of one of the house’s two choirs. In the difficult years for the house after 1660, Cozzolani’s musical production waned, partly because of her duties at S Radegonda (she was abbess in 1658–9 and 1672–3, and prioress in the 1660s), and also due to her efforts to protect her foundation’s musical traditions against the crusade over ‘irregularities’ launched by Milan’s Archbishop Alfonso Litta in the mid-1660s.

Cozzolani’s first publication (1640) seems lost, but enough music remains to mark her as one of the leading composers of mid-century Milan. The solo and duet motets in the 1642 Concerti sacri are characterized by highly affective texts, extended musical length by means of sequence, rapid declamation, and irregularly spaced melismas, and by parallel 3rds. In contrast, the three- and four-voice pieces revisit styles of the 1620s; the Assumption Day dialogue Psallite superes, for instance, is a cantilena refrain motet of the kind pioneered by Grandi and Bernardi. Thanks to Kalinayová-Bartová’s (2016, 2018) findings, half of the solo motet collection of 1648 can be largely reconstructed, due to their anonymous appearance in Daniel Speer’s 1688 Philomela angelica; some of the ornaments and surprise cadences to which Cozzolani alludes in the book’s dedication undergird her settings of frequently intense Christological or Eucharistic texts (the only ones picked up by the Protestant Speer).

The 1650 Vespers psalms mix two-choir antiphony (in the tuttis and frequent refrains) with concertato solo and duet writing for the verses. These Vespers are among the largest-scale (and least traditional) settings of mid-century Milan; here Cozzolani used refrain troping among the psalm verses to underscore central affects of the texts, mixed with difficult soloistic writing in all voices (not simply the top parts). These pieces had some diffusion; one is transmitted (anonymously) in the 18th-century Bolivian Jesuit musical archives (Episcopal Archive of Concepción, Chiquitos). Both the 1642 and 1650 volumes, as published, are scored for normal vocal ranges (the vocal bass of the 1642 Mass setting goes down to C in the print). The sacred concertos in the 1650 book expand the characteristics of the 1642 collection in a more extended style; the duet O quam bonus es, for example, sets a double meditation (on the wounds of Christ and the milk of the Madonna) to balanced, well-crafted melodic periods in a multi-sectional form. A central subgenre among the motets is the dialogue; Cozzolani’s 1650 piece on Mary Magdalene and the angels at Christ’s Tomb stands apart among Milanese treatments by its apportioning of long phrases to the Magdalene’s lament, its closing section unified by an ostinato cadential figure, and its language taken from the Song of Songs.


Primavera di fiori musicali, 1–4vv, bc, op.1 (Milan, 1640), lost; formerly D-Bgk; cited in Picinelli, Armellini and Zur Feier des Wohlthätenfestes im berlinischen Gymnasium zum Grauen Kloster (Berlin, 1856)

Concerti sacri, 2–4vv, bc, op.2 (Venice, 1642); motets ed. in Kendrick (1998); Mass ed. C. Smith and B. Dickey (Bologna, 2000)

O dulcis Jesu, 16496 [from 1642]

Scherzi di sacra melodia, 1v, bc op.3 (Venice, 1648); reconstruction ed. L. Harris in Web Library of Seventeenth-Century Music (SSCM); bc survives partially in D. Speer, Philomela Angelica (‘Venice’, recte Augsburg, 1688)

Salmi à otto … motetti et dialoghi, 2–8vv, bc, op.3 [sic], (Venice, 1650); motets ed. in Kendrick (1998); Vespers music ed. C. Smith and B. Dickey (Bologna, 1999–2012)

No, no no che mare, aria, lost


  • F. Picinelli: Ateneo dei letterati milanesi (Milan, 1670), 147
  • M. Armellini: Biblioteca Benedictino-Casinensis (Assisi, 1731–2)
  • F. Noske: Saints and Sinners: the Latin Musical Dialogue in the Seventeenth Century (Oxford, 1992), 45–6, 110–11
  • R.L. Kendrick: Celestial Sirens: Nuns and their Music in Early Modern Milan (Oxford, 1996), 83–8, 268–365
  • R.L. Kendrick. ed.: Chiara Margarita Cozzolani: Motets (Madison, WI, 1998)
  • T. F. Kennedy: ‘Music and the Jesuit Mission in the New World’, Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, 39/3 (2007), 3–24
  • J. Kalinayová-Bartová: ‘Philomela angelica Daniela Speera: k neznámemu dielu známeho hudobníka [Philomela angelica by Daniel Speer: an unknown work of a well-known musician]’, Musicologica Brunensia, 51/2 (2016), 41–53
  • J. Kalinayová-Bartová: ‘Italian Sacred Monody North of the Alps: from Chiara Margarita Cozzolani’s Scherzi di sacra melodia (1648) to Daniel Speer’s Philomela angelica (1688)’, Musicologica Brunensia, 53/2 (2018), 87–104
  • M. Toffetti: ‘Deconstructing Daniel Speer’s Philomela angelica (1688) to Reconstruct Chiara Margarita Cozzolani’s Scherzi di sacra melodia (1648)’, Musicologica Brunensia, 53/2 (2018), 105–27
  • L. Harris and R.L. Kendrick: ‘Of Nuns Fictitious and Real: Revisiting Philomela angelica (1688)’, Recercare, 32 (2020), 129–54
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Berlin, Bibliothek zum Grauen Kloster [in D-Bs]
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