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Two concerts to showcase Baroque women composers

A concert devoted to Baroque women composers is a rare treat, and this weekend, Camerata del Sol will present two such concerts with music from Italy, Germany, France, and Belgium. While they may not have enjoyed the fame of Bach or Handel in the subsequent centuries, these women were accomplished and renowned in their own times and their music is increasingly finding its way into programs and recordings. The composers to be presented are Isabella Leonarda, Barbara Strozzi, Francesca Caccini, Elisabeth de la Guerre, Wilhelmine (Margravine of Bayreuth), and Leonora Duarte.

Soprano Heather Dials

Two El Paso musicians who have solo roles in the concerts, soprano Heather Dials and pianist and harpsichordist Joseph Lecher, spoke with Intermezzo host Leora Zeitlin by Zoom.

“Caccini and Strozzi happened to be the most prolific — even still today — of all female composers,” Dials said. “They wrote music for themselves [to perform]. They were both famous singers,” she said, adding that Caccini was the first woman to write an opera. Dials will sing two works by Caccini and Strozzi.

Lecher, who will accompany the concert on harpsichord, will also be the soloist in a concerto by Wilhelmine, sister to Frederick the Great. He explained how the work was only discovered in the 1930s, and a more complete version found in 1997. Despite a scholarly controversy about whether Wilhelmine wrote it, Lecher said, “it’s a great concerto. It’s a very good addition to the repertory that we have as keyboardists, and I think it should be played by many more ensembles.”

Pianist and harpsichordist Joseph Lecher

Listen to this wide-ranging conversation about the composers, emotion in baroque music and performance style, improvisation in baroque music, and more. Two baroque specialists have come to Las Cruces as guest artists, theorbo player Hector Torres and baroque violinist Diego Villamil. The concerts are Friday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the El Paso Women’s Club, and on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Las Cruces. A pre-concert lecture on Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi will be given by Kathleen Key one hour before each concert.