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Chiara Margarita Cozzolani

Italian composer Chiara Margarita Cozzolani was the most prominent and prolific of about a dozen nuns who published their own music in the seventeenth century.
Born into a well-to-do family, Cozzolani entered the monastery at St. Radegonda in Milan in her teens, taking her vows in 1620. Once located adjacent to the Duomo of Milan, St. Radegonda boasted the best musicians in Milan during that time, and Cozzolani was leader of at least one of the choruses there. As time passed, she would fulfill several positions within the order, including that of abbess. So highly regarded was Cozzolani's work that in 1640 her first publication was authorized, Primavera di fiori musicali. Unfortunately, no copies of this early print have come to light, but her collections Concerti Sacri (1642) and Salmi, Op. 3 (1650), have been preserved, in addition to Scherzi di sacra melodia (1648), the only copy of which is missing its continuo part. These extraordinary sacred pieces reveal that Cozzolani's nuns must have had considerable singing ability owing to the high level of difficulty in the writing for voices. Although cloistered, and thus removed from the mainstream of society, Cozzolani was certainly familiar with the music of Monteverdi and seems to have had contact with opera and other kinds of early monodic settings, given the great sense of independence exemplified in her vocal lines.
After 1650, Cozzolani's music ceases to appear in published form. Some scholars attribute this to Archbishop Alfonso Litta's musical reforms beginning in the mid-1660s, but by this time Cozzolani's press had been silent already for some 15 years. Cozzolani was about 75 years of age when she died sometime between May 1676 and April 1678, and the order of St. Radegonda was dissolved toward the end of the eighteenth century. While some documents from St. Radegonda that mention Cozzolani still exist, no music manuscripts of her work are known to have survived.

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