Barbara Strozzi

Composer Information

Birth - August 6, 1619 | Venice, Italy

Death - November 11, 1677 | Padua, Italy

Nationality - Italian

Era - Baroque

Composer Biography

Written by: Julia Vide

        Barbara Strozzi was born in Venice at a time when culture, wealth, peace, academic curiosity, and musical innovation were at its peak. She was the adopted (and possibly illegitimate) daughter of composer Giulio Strozzi. She was trained in various aspects of music from a young age, frequently entertaining her fathers guests and other musicians with her voice. Her father later created the Accademia degli Unisoni to promote Barbara’s performances. Without her father’s connections and involvement in the musical activities of Venice, it is unlikely that Barbara would have been able to launch a career as a composer. Strozzi’s primary teacher was Francesco Cavalli, an Italian composer of opera in the early Baroque period. Cavalli’s compositional style, including the use of a combination of recitative and aria techniques in his compositions, is reflected in Strozzi’s works.

        Strozzi published her first volume of songs (a book of madrigals) in 1644. She went on to publish another seven sets of vocal pieces, though one of these sets has unfortunately been lost. Of her surviving seven sets of music, only one set contains sacred music while the remaining contain secular vocal music. Each set is dedicated to a different patron. These works contain a continuo accompaniment, some even calling for additional strings. Strozzi’s Il primo libro de madrigali and other madrigals and ariettas reflected her imaginative handling of melody, rhythm, and form. Her harmony is very unique, using dissonances among other techniques. Strozzi published most of her music after her father’s death as a means to support herself financially since she inherited very little despite being Giulio’s sole heir.

        Strozzi mainly composed cantatas and arias which were expertly and lyrically written for soprano voice. Her cantatas are complex compositions, switching between multiple styles of recitative, arioso, and aria. Barbara often wrote her music as the result of a sort of challenge from others at the Accademia to produce a work on a specific text. Most of the texts she used were either written by her father or well-known poets, or were anonymous lyrics. Because of her father’s literary influence, text was of utmost importance in Strozzi’s compositions. She usually set emotional texts, writing about misery in love and unrequited love. She employed unprepared dissonance to express emotion in her music and often wrote dissonances between the voice and accompaniment. While Strozzi was an accomplished composer, she passed away in 1677 with little wealth or property to show for her success.

See Also


A playlist of music composed by Barbara Strozzi.
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