The idea of a 'secret' music may seem somewhat strange to modern minds, but during the closing decades of the 16th century the Duke Alfonso II of Ferrara was so jealously obsessed with the singing and playing of his concerto delle donne, or singing ladies, that he allowed only chosen guests to hear them in his private concerts, known as the musica secreta. Yet as with all of the best kept secrets, the legendary fame of these women spread throughout and beyond Italy. They inspired composers and performers alike with their dazzling technique, and laid the foundations of a rich repertoire for female voices as well as playing a leading role in establishing solo song and the new 'baroque' styles.
At the same time, Italian convents were becoming equally renowned for their prodigious music making, and by the 17th century composing nuns began to emerge, writing in the most up-to-date styles and even publishing their own music. Much of this music has only recently come to light, and Musica Secreta have been particularly fortunate in having the help of the foremost scholars in this exciting new field. In addition to performing and recording music by nun composers, they plan to present programmes of mainstream polyphony as the nuns would have done, thus giving a fascinating new historical slant on familiar repertoires.
All the members of Musica Secreta are well-established and experienced musicians who have worked with leading British ensembles such as the Consort of Musicke, the New London Consort, the Tallis Scholars and the Gabrieli Consort. They have also given masterclasses at summer schools, and have taught and lectured at several principal conservatoires in England and abroad.
Musica Secreta were honoured to be the 1996 recipient of the American Musicological Society's Noah Greenberg award, granted in recognition of an outstanding scholarly and artistic endeavor. The award provided support for performance workshops and concerts by the Orlando Consort and Musica Secreta at the Twenty-Third International Conference of Medieval and Renaissance Music, Southampton, 1996. Musica Secreta have recorded three albums with Linn Records, one of which "Dangerous Graces" (Linn CKD 169) won a Diapason Découverte in January 2003.
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'Vizzana….frequently used her exceptional musical talent to celebrate the physical, sacramental presence of Christ in all its sensuous images….The subtly variegated palette of Musica Secreta reveals her own spiritual secrets deliciously.'The Sunday Times
'…the music is reminiscent of Monteverdi and others, but admirably wrought and certainly worth discovering...The group’s cast is a recommendation in itself, and there is no doubt that music and interpretation are evenly matched. Seraphic sounds…Musica Secreta’s fine disc shows her (Vizzana) to have been an excellent composer...all the performances are atmospheric. If they find more music of this quality, scholars will at last be able to revise musical histories without having to indulge in token feminism.'Classic FM Magazine
'Extraordinarily worldly, even sensual settings, ravishingly declaimed.'Independent on Sunday
'Were Botticelli's Primavera to burst into song, she would probably sound like this.'The Observer
'Vizzana’s 20 motets are historical treasures wonderfully presented by the acclaimed Musica Secreta.'Early Music Review
...don't resist the tempting price of not much more than a single disc.more >>The Consort
This recording is to be thoroughly recommendedmore >>Independent on Sunday
Were Botticelli's Primavera to burst into song, she would probably sound like thismore >>Amazon.co.uk
a unique collectionmore >>HMV Choice
A most aristocratic entertainmentmore >>The Scotsman
the result is deeply satisfyingmore >>
A truly unique and wonderful experiencemore >>International Record Review
Musica Secreta's singing is perfectly matched to this music: the voices blend beautifullymore >>Independent on Sunday
this ravishing music of restrained passion should win you overmore >>Scotland on Sunday
this fine group strikes a balance between scholarly correctness and a real passion for musicmore >>BBC Music Magazine
'There is no doubt about the integrity and intelligence of its performances, and the sound of the ensemble's female voices is refined and exquisitely sweet...'more >>