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date: 28 September 2021

Cozzolani, Chiara Margaritafree

Cozzolani, Chiara Margaritafree

  • Robert L. Kendrick

(b Milan, Nov 27, 1602; d Milan, 4 May 1676 – 20 April 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. She is mentioned in documents from S Radegonda in connection with disputes over the regulation of music and may have served as the maestra di cappella of one of the house’s two choirs.

Cozzolani’s first publication (1640) is lost, along with the continuo part to the 1648 solo motets. But enough music remains to mark her as one of the leading composers of mid-century Milan. The duets and solos in the 1642 Concerti sacri are among the first Milanese examples of the Lombard style pioneered by Gasparo Casati. These motets 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 look back to earlier traditions; the Assumption Day dialogue Psallite superes, for instance, is a cantilena refrain motet.

The 1650 Vespers volume mixes 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, although their liberal use of repetition and sequence tempers their appeal. The 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 genre in both prints is the dialogue; Cozzolani’s 1650 dialogue on Mary Magdalene at the 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.

After 1650 Cozzolani’s musical production seems to have slackened off, partly because of her duties at S Radegonda (she was abbess in 1658–9 and 1672–3, and prioress in the 1660s), and the crusade against music and ‘irregularities’ launched by Archbishop Alfonso Litta in the mid-1660s.


Primavera di fiori musicali, 1–4vv, bc, op.1 (Milan, 1640), lost

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)

O dulcis Jesu, 16496

1 ed. in Noske, 1992, 2 ed. in Kendrick, 1998

Scherzi di sacra melodia, 1v, bc lost, op.3 (Venice, 1648), ed. in Kendrick, 1998

Salmi à otto … motetti et dialoghi, 2–8vv, bc, op.3 [sic], (Venice, 1650)

1 ed. in Noske, 1992, 2 ed. in Kendrick, 1998

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: ‘Sul dialogo latino del Seicento: Osservationi’, RIM, 24 (1989), 330–46
  • R.L. Kendrick: ‘The Traditions of Milanese Convent Music and the Sacred Dialogues of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani’, The Crannied Wall: Women, Religion and the Arts in Early Modern Europe, ed. C. Monson (Ann Arbor, 1992), 211–33
  • 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)
  • R.L. Kendrick;: ed: Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (Madison, WI, 1998)
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