Chiara Margarita Cozzolani was a Benedictine nun who
lived her entire adult life in the Santa Radagonda convent, in Milan.
While her music was destined to remain within these walls for centuries,
huge crowds came to the convent’s church to hear the "angelic voices"
of the nuns who sang Cozzolani’s "passionate and ecstatic music".
This recording, the first in a projected series of the composer’s works,
is a world premiere.
One can hear, from the very beginning of this work,
that it is both firmly rooted in its past, yet fully modern for its
time. It opens with a brief phrase in plainchant, and such sections
are interspersed throughout the work. Yet when the whole choir begins
singing, the sound blossoms with sonorities that were certainly modern
at the time, and, even now, awaken the ear to new sounds. The music
is rich with emotion - the colors and tones it contains are breathtaking.
One could make a comparison with Hildegard of Bingen, but only in the
intensity of the music - the two composers were separated by several
centuries, but one can clearly hear that the music comes from the same
place in the soul. At times, the choir sings in subtle layers of delicate
voicing, similar to the madrigal style. At other times, a soloist takes
the music to a different plane, singing what is almost an aria with
the choir accompanying her.
The choir on this recording is excellent, with a beautiful
tone and a magnificent texture. The rerecording is about as good as
it could be, and puts these women’s voices in the perfect light. The
resulting sound is captivating and enthralling.
Musica Omnia has come up with an original idea. Each
of its recordings contains an additional CD, called Beyond the Notes.
This is basically a presentation of the music with spoken text and musical
examples. In a way, it can be seen as liner notes with music. While
one would not want to listen to this CD many times, it is invaluable
in giving the listener a more complete approach to the music. Whether
listened to before or after hearing the music, it opens the ears to
new insights, in a way that printed liner notes cannot. Musica Omnia
deserves kudos for this idea, and it would be wonderful if other labels
picked up on it. Here, Warren Stewart discusses the spirituality of
Cozzolani’s music, and puts it into the context in which it was written
This beautiful recording is a revelation. Cozzolani
was a unique composer, and her music has an otherworldly sound that
is deeply attaching. Rush out and listen to this - you will be surprised,
enchanted, and most probably delighted.