Barbara Strozzi






    Barbara Strozzi was born in Venice, Italy on the 6th August 1619. Baroque scholars conclude that her mother is Isabella Griega and her father, librettist and poet Giulio Strozzi as there is little evidence of her birth. Born into an artistic, academic family and surviving plagues that ripped through Venice in her early life, Strozzi became a well-known young vocal talent in the area. At her young age, she was able to sing with ease whilst also playing the lute or theorbo, accompanying herself in concert.

    Her father, a prominent academic in Venice, introduced her to the composer and director of music at St Mark’s Basilica, Francesco Cavalli. At 16, Strozzi began publishing her vocal compositions, the first examples being two volumes of short songs in 1635 and 1636. Her talents were so profound that despite the societal pressures and views at the time, she was allowed to regularly perform at both social and academic gatherings.

    Throughout her performing and composing careers, Strozzi aimed to secure financial sponsorship. Many of her vocal collections were dedicated to different patrons of the arts. Funding from the wealthy was one of the only ways composers were able to have their music performed in public and published in print. Her song collections were often dedicated to major figures in society such as the Medici family.

    She was the first female composer to publish secular music under her own name; society at the time meant that women often had to write under male pseudonyms in order to have their work recognized in the public eye.

    Barbara Strozzi composed mostly for the voice with the majority of her works being for the soprano vocal range. The impact of her father’s literary skill is clear in her compositional style; she worked in meticulous detail over elements such as word setting. Another prominent feature in Strozzi’s compositional style is long, drawn out dissonances often used to express the strong lyrical meanings in her songs. 

    Barbara Strozzi died in 1677 at the age of 58 in Padua, Italy. Through her 125 known works to have been published, Strozzi developed a distinctive and innovative style. Scholars often find sketches and fragments of her work in archives so Strozzi’s compositional library is still being discovered and growing to this day.

    Oliver Clayton
    Oliver Clayton
    Oliver Clayton is currently reading an undergraduate degree in Music at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire where he studies modern violin with Susanne Stanzeleit and baroque violin with Lucy Russell. Whilst at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Oliver often plays in the Birmingham New Music concert series where he premiers new compositions. Oliver also works as a creative, collaborating on various artistic projects in and around Birmingham. Oliver regularly performs with the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus singing alongside the CBSO. When not playing the violin, Oliver is an avid reader of modern and contemporary fiction and writes commercially. Before attending higher education, he studied German and History alongside Music.
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