For Easter: Music by Stradella and Purcell, Words by Christina Rossetti and Anne Brontë

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

This is a revamped post from Easter past with music and words reflecting my three published novels: Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle SpiritA House Near Luccoli and its sequel To A Strange Somewhere Fled.

This year I’ve added a poem by Christina Rossetti, subject of my work-in-progress novel portrait of her, The Dove Upon Her Branch.

An Easter Carol
by
Christina Rossetti

Spring bursts to-day,
For Christ is risen and all the earth’s at play.

Flash forth, thou Sun,
The rain is over and gone, its work is done.

Winter is past,
Sweet Spring is come at last, is come at last.

Bud, Fig and Vine,
Bud, Olive, fat with fruit and oil and wine.

Break forth this morn
In roses, thou but yesterday a Thorn.

Uplift thy head,
O pure white Lily through the Winter dead.

Beside your dams
Leap and rejoice, you merry-making Lambs.

All Herds and Flocks
Rejoice, all Beasts of thickets and of rocks.

Sing, Creatures, sing,
Angels and Men and Birds and everything.

All notes of Doves
Fill all our world: this is the time of loves.

 

Lucis Chamber Choir performing the world premiere of Russell Hepplewhite’s setting of Christina Rossetti’s Easter Carol in St Mary’s Church, Bathwick.

 

Here is Anne Brontë’s poem/hymn Believe Not Those Who Say/The Narrow Way, which was put to the tune Festal Song by William Henry Walter.

Believe not those who say
The upward path is smooth,
Lest thou should stumble in the way,
And faint before the truth.
To labor and to love,
To pardon and endure,
To lift thy heart to God above,
And keep thy conscience pure.
Be this thy constant aim,
Thy hope, thy chief delight,
What matter who should whisper blame
Or who should scorn or slight.

Read the full poem here
(it includes one of Anne’s most quoted lines:
But he, that dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.

 

 

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a recording of Anne’s words put to the music. I did find an organ instrumental of Festal Song and it’s easy to “hear” how her words fit in.

Anne wanted to make the music she loved compactly portable, even without access to a pianoforte, available for performances in her head, preferably so, for then her fingers were agile and her voice wasn’t weak.
~ Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit

 

 

“My music began. A mixture of harmonious voices, poetry & fine instrumentalists.”
Alessandro Stradella ~ A House Near Luccoli

Alessandro Stradella’s sacred cantata for solo alto and instruments Crocifissione e morte di nostro signore Gesu Cristo – the Crucifixion and death of our savior Jesus Christ.
Performed by Baroque and Renaissance Choral

 

Purcell performed the music with his eyes & a delicate finger in the air.
~ To A Strange Somewhere Fled 

Choir of Clare College Cambridge singing Purcell’s Hear My Prayer

 

Blessings for Easter and Passover

 

Copyright 2018 by DM Denton

 

 

Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Influencing Hearts and Conversations – A Birthday Celebration

I can’t let the day pass without ‘mentioning’ (in this updated re-post) that it is Alessandro Stradella‘s birthday (April 3, 1639, near Rome), the mesmerizing figure at the center of my first published novel, A House Near Luccoli.

Stradella_pe_pe resized

Illustration by DM Denton©

In the seven and a half years since its publication, I have certainly noticed more interest in and attention on Stradella and his music. In January of 2016, BBC Radio 2 broadcasted How to Flee From Sorrow* – Behind (Stradella’s) lovely, well-ordered music was a life bursting with ambition and starved of security. The program’s musical director was Alberto Sanna, musicologist and violinist, who has released the first-ever complete period-instrument recording of Alessandro Stradella’s beautiful yet neglected Two-Part Sinfonias.

*The entire program is not currently available, except as occasionally re-broadcast on BBC Radio 4, but teasers are available here and here.

Click here for a wonderful and insightful piece about Stradella – “Wild man of the Baroque” – by the program’s writer, Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Presentation2 with Cantata Cover and Villa Doria background picmonkey1

Since 2016, the Festival Barroco Alessandro Stradella has been held in September in Stradella’s birthplace of Nepi, Italy. Click here for the program from 2018.

The composer’s arrival at a house near Luccoli in April 1681 put a cat among pigeons.

Harpsichord and Genoa with books.jpg with text 2 white

She smelled a candle burning, but it didn’t light the short hall. In the main room a window was open, with the settee moved closer to it, Signor Stradella a masterpiece resting there. One dark leg was stretched and falling over the back of the couch, a ruffled hand on its knee; the other bent to the floor and, even without stocking and shoe, appeared ready to walk away. He had also undressed to his shirt still buttoned high and wrinkled softly because it was made of the finest linen. A slight breeze blew his hair over his face. As he realized her burdened entrance, his right shoulder pillowed a half-smile and he reached out lazily.

“Did you bring bavareisa?”

“What’s that?” She clumsily laid the tray down on the gray marble hearth, not wanting to bend with her back to him.

Cioccolata and caffè.”

“We don’t have coffee. It’s too expensive.”

“I’ll pay for it.” He swung into sitting, hunched and rubbing his neck. “I’m getting one of my headaches.”

“It’s the weather.” Donatella offered him a drink.

He accepted it, the tips of his fingers friendlier than they should have been. “A veil over the sun, like a woman at Messa.” He tasted it. “Ah. Fresco.”

“Squeezed this morning. Nonna says it’s good for clearing the voice.”

Cara Nònna.” He raised his glass, then emptied it with a kiss on its rim. “I’ve heard she was very rebellious. I wonder you didn’t become the same.”

“I wasn’t meant to.”

“How do you know?”

“Because it didn’t happen.”

She was still holding the folder.

“I believe that’s why you’ve come?”

He moved slowly to make space on the table where his inventions were layered and sprawled, so many at once. By the time she placed the copy there he was sitting once more, leaning forward, his head in his hands.

“You can let me know.” She felt intrusive. “I’ve never seen you at Maddalena before.”

He rose, admitting his rudeness. “I was testing the sound for a wedding there.”

“It must be a special one.”

“Ah. I’ll make it so.” His teeth showed. “Così.” He leaned over the table, the side of his face long and angled, eyelashes still and mouth taut, the first page flipped for the second, the second for the third, every one after that as unremarkable.

“I’m untrained.”

He looked at the first page again, his index finger, chin, and muted hum following the stanzas. “Ah. You see. Just a little more space here and this note a little higher, the words not quite aligned.”

Her hope of impressing him was gone.

“No, no.” He showed sensitivity to being misunderstood. “Even my last copyist, a priest, cursed my sloppiness.”

“I did my best.”

“Ah. Anyway, there are many arie in the serenata, besides duetti and trii and sinfonie. I need copies of each by—you saw the date; barely a month away. Before that for rehearsal.” He closed the folder, falling back on the settee. “And only so-called musicisti in Genova, too quick or too slow or distracted by ambizione. Will you do more for me?”

She had to consider. His reputation. Her motivation. She couldn’t sign her name to the work, freely spend any payment, or even show some pride. Sneaking around, her aunt would eventually find out and put a stop to it anyway.

“Is that cake?”

“Yes.”

“For the flies?”

“Oh.” She rescued the plate.

He took a slice, eating it almost without chewing. “As we live dangerously opening windows.” He reached for another, nodding for her to take what was left.

“All right,” she answered.

Bene allora.”

“I mean … I will help you.”

Mangia.”

“Oh, yes.” She broke a corner of the last piece on the plate.

He got up to pour her a glass of limonata, staring as her lips, covered in crumbs, finally took a sip.

~ From A House Near Luccoli

Despite the circumstances that dictated the ending of the novel, Stradella continues to influence hearts and conversations in its sequel To A Strange Somewhere Fled.

Casee's Book Photo on Dark Blue Background with Text_pe

Excerpts from To A Strange Somewhere Fled

She made her mark as unexpectedly as before, becoming more and more involved with its swirling and sliding and dotting, rising and falling with her shoulders and satisfaction. She was definitely possessed by a melodic hum and laughter in her head, the tease of a draft on her neck, and the surprise that she hadn’t forgotten how to serve a master. She knew he was smiling as she checked her work, a mistake here and there repentantly fixed, page after page turned into another chance to show that, in theory and practice and ways she didn’t need to understand, she was worthy of his presence.

Yes, it felt like he was there, pacing the room and wringing his hands as he realized he couldn’t change anything.  She could, with his permission. What else allowed her to hear a note held longer or twilled higher, a crescendo misplaced, or toccata written more for poetry than a harpsichordist’s dexterity? What would have put such ideas in her head, except the desire of one who had touched her with his variations?

***

There was the appropriate silence before Lonati was as elegant and amiable with bow and violin as no other activity afforded him. With every stroke, nod and faraway expression, he was an echo of Alessandro, exacting the very best from the composition and the late composer’s nature, generous with his talent, uninhibited with his playing, making the music his own only as he adored it. His reminiscent virtuosity swept Donatella onto the waves of Le donne più bella like a ship with a steady breeze in its sails, Reggio’s archlute-continuo encouraging the rolling sensation.

***

It looked as though Master Purcell was trying to hide under the stairs. Roger inquired about his journey from London and he emerged to reveal that he had interrupted the trip with a night at Oxford and much drinking, and another at Rousham Park and even more feasting.

Donatella didn’t expect him to recognize her, but when Roger moved aside she became “that most courteous copyist who had also forgiven Stradella.”

“And I hope you’ll pardon me, Harry, but the guests will soon arrive and you need to tidy yourself and prepare.” Roger didn’t know he showed concern for anything but the plan for the evening ahead.

“Well, I am a little dusty.” Master Purcell winked in Donatella’s direction. “I wonder if Stradella was always impeccably turned out.”

They walked into the hall and Donatella wanted to tell him about the man she had known as reported but, also, in very different ways. Would Master Purcell believe Alessandro had been in need of friendship more than love, or that he had grown tired of making music for those who only listened to their own importance? Would it seem as ridiculous to say he would have rather roamed the streets, lost in the crowds and songs of Carnival, than found to be wanting in nobler society? She could describe him as flamboyant in disguise and excessive when it came to enjoying himself, yet he had the sense to be gracious in his manners, and even humble when it weighed in his favor and, especially, his purse. She might also reveal the unshaven, disheveled creature that growled with frustration and cursed the affairs that caused him more trouble than they were worth.

Surely, Master Purcell would rather hear about Alessandro’s genius and even his sacred purpose: how the music came to him like the archangel Gabriel, because he was highly chosen with or without the patronage of any prince or princess.


I “knew” Alessandro Stradella. I recognized his distinct voice, his swaying form, his infectious smile, and his wandering heart. I had witnessed the rise and fall of his talents, how his music had showered him with forgiveness if not fortune.

So I celebrate his birth!

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Three Lutes and a Violin

Having focused for the last eight plus months on my latest novel release, Without the Veil Between, Anne Bronte: A Fine and Subtle Spirit, I have neglected promoting my previous two novel publications, A House Near Luccoli and its Sequel To A Strange Somewhere Fled.

 

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Three lutes huddled against the emptiness of a corner, stepsisters born separately of rosewood, maple, and ebony, sharing an inheritance of long necks, heads back, full bodies with rosettes like intricately set jewels on their breasts. Theirs was harmonious rivalry, recalling a master’s touch and understanding. On the settee a leather case contained a violin resembling a dead man on the red velvet of his coffin, not mourned but celebrated by nymphs dancing through vines on the frieze high around the room.

from A House Near Luccoli, a novel imagining an intimacy with the 17th Century Italian Composer, Alessandro Stradella

Photo by Casee Marie Clow

What better time to return to the main protagonist in A House Near Luccoli, who is a haunting one in To A Strange Somewhere Fled. Having opened on September 1st and running through September 16th, an annual festival in honor of Stradella—Festival Barocco Alessandro Stradella di Viterbo e Nepiis happening in his birth place of Nepi, in the province of Viterbo, Lazio, central Italy. Here is a sample from the festival in 2016:

Alessandro Stradella, 1639—1682
Fascinating, Flawed, Forgiven, and Unforgettable

He was the epitome of the paradox of true genius, in ‘one breath’ making masterpieces and, in another, messes.

By the second decade of the 18th Century Stradella’s compositions were rarely performed, eclipsed by cloak-and-dagger operas and novels that portrayed him more as a libertine than serious composer. Of course, a little truth can spark and fuel lies. Whether acting on a patron’s whim or his own impulse, uncertainty and risk were inevitable for Stradella. It was his nature to embrace them. My intention was foremost, through specifics and speculation, to present Stradella as an enticingly fascinating if flawed human being and, without reservation, a gifted composer.

I focused on Stradella’s last year in Genoa (1681-1682), structuring my narrative with a succession of actual events, mainly musical, and initiating the fictional Donatella’s association with him through his need for a new residence and copyist.

Read my entire guest post at The Seventeenth Century Lady about Alessandro Stradella and the novels that were born out of my by-chance (or not) first encounter with him here …


Synopsis of A House Near Luccoli

It is over three years since the charismatic composer, violinist and singer Alessandro Stradella sought refuge in the palaces and twisted alleys of Genoa, royally welcomed despite the alleged scandals and even crimes that forced him to flee from Rome, Venice and Turin.

By 1681 Stradella’s professional and personal life have begun to unravel again, losing him a prime position at Genoa’s la Teatro Falcone and residence on the city’s street of palaces, la Strada Nuova. Stradella is offered a respectable if slightly shabby apartment in a house near la via Luccoli and yet another chance to redeem his character and career. He moves in with a flourish met with curiosity and consternation by the caretakers who are also tenants, three women, including Donatella, who, like the city she lives in, hides her longings, propriety the rule not cure for what ails her.

Even before I had completed A House Near Luccoli, I sensed I might carry Stradella’s inimitable spirit and music forward into a sequel. That plan was encouraged by Henry Purcell’s reported reaction to Stradella’s untimely death.

To A Strange Somewhere Fled also drew from my very personal experience of living in the Oxfordshire village of Wroxton and Wroxton Abbey, an away-from-London refuge for Francis North and his brother Roger North, both amateur musicians and important figures in the court of Charles II.
Read more about To A Strange Somewhere Fled 

A House Near Luccoli (Book Trailer)

 

A House Near Luccoli and To A Strange Somewhere Fled

are available in Paperback, for Kindle devices and app, and as Audio Books

at amazon.com

 

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you

Revisited for International Cat Day: Escaping Ziegfeld, A Kindle Short

It’s

 International Cat Day

A pur-fect opportunity to remind

my blog visitors and readers that

all my author profits

from my Kindle Short Story

Escaping Ziegfeld

will go to

Second Chance Sheltering Network, Inc., a wonderful animal rescue organization through which I adopted my kitty-boys, Yoshi and Kenji last year.

The story is only

$.99 on amazon.com

(I will also donate $1 – $5 for every review
posted on amazon and/Goodreads)

also available at

amazon uk

amazon canada

Available in other countries, too

For Kindle devices

OR

Download free app to read on your pc, laptop, tablet, or phone

Cover artwork and design © Copyright by DM Denton

The fingering and pedaling of the Mozart piece required her absolute attention. What could be more important than effecting the appoggiaturas, the upper half of her torso leaning and lifting like a dancer, her elbows slightly bent, her wrists almost imperceptibly rolling side to side, her fingers always in touch with the keys and lightly en pointe?

Irene had been a little unnerved by the Italian’s ice-blue eyes, but how could he compete with the possibility of her following in the footsteps of Lillian Lorraine, the Dolly sisters, Marilyn Miller and Fanny Brice?

This short story, inspired by my maternal grandmother, Marion Allers DiCesare,  has been ruminating in my imagination for a long time.
Read more here: Picking Flowers off Wallpaper.

Yoshi and Kenji thank you!

Thank you to Deborah Bennison of Bennison Books for offering her editing expertise and refined literary eye and sensibilities towards the publication of Escaping Ziegfeld.

Illustration from Escaping Ziegfeld Copyright © 2018 by DM Denton

 

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Guest Post: New Novel about Hildegard of Bingen

Thrilled to host author P.K. Adams, who “talks” about her upcoming release The Greenest Branch, A Novel of Germany’s First Female Physician (Hildegard of Bingen Book 1)

I first heard about Hildegard of Bingen (c.1098-1178) in a history of music class in college. Her chants are sublime and, as I fell in love with them, I started to read more about their composer – the first woman in the Western world to do so.

It turns out Hildegard did much more than that – she was a pioneer in many fields thus far reserved as a man’s domain. One such field was medicine. She was a skilled herbalist who applied treatments in a way most medieval physicians did not, namely by observing the outcomes of the cures rather than relying on ancient texts for guidance, irrespective of whether they worked or not.

As I researched Hildegard’s life, two things began to puzzle me in the (admittedly sparse) historical accounts. One is that she was enclosed at a young age (possibly as young as eight or ten) at a very strict women’s convent, where the residents lived in enforced poverty and isolation from the world. In such a place, historians tell us, she lived for the next three decades.

This, to me, is hard to believe. The psychological and intellectual toll such privations would exact on a child would be extremely damaging. Yet Hildegard re-emerges in contemporary chronicles, around the age of forty, as an accomplished physician, writer, and composer, and a diligent student of nature. She is already well-known in the Rhineland, and her theological writings are about to catch the attention of Pope Eugenius III. She is also preparing to leave the abbey of St. Disibod, where she had been enclosed, and start her own foundation.

Sculpture of Hildegard of Bingen by Karlheinz Oswald, 1998, in front of Eibingen Abbey near Rüdesheim in Hesse, Germany

Clearly, something happened during those decades that allowed her curiosity to be fostered, her intellect to develop, and her creativity to flourish. There is no reliable record of her early life beyond the few basic facts of her provenance and enclosure, and that is what inspired me to imagine what that life may have been like.

The Greenest Branch is a fictionalized account of the early life of Hildegard of Bingen, but it is rooted in what we know about her and the world she inhabited. It is a world, needless to say, that is not conducive to female empowerment. That she managed to accomplish so much is a testament to her fierce intelligence, strength, and determination.

The second book in the series, titled The Column of Burning Spices, traces the second half of Hildegard’s long and eventful life. It will be released in early 2019.

The Greenest Branch is available on pre-order on Amazon US  and Amazon UK  and will be released on June 18, 2018.

 

P.K. Adams is a Boston-based historical fiction author, whose debut novel The Greenest Branch is the first in a two-book series based on the life of Hildegard of Bingen, Germany’s first female physician. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia and a master’s degree in European Studies from Yale. When not reading or writing, she can be found hiking, doing yoga, and drinking tea (though usually not at the same time).

 

Please check out her website: p.k.adams that includes history, writing and guest blogs, and more information about her and The Greenest Branch.

Thank you to Patrycja for this fascinating look into Hildegard of Bingen and for bringing this extraordinary woman to life in The Greenest Branch. I have pre-ordered my copy and I hope you will do the same!

I also thank her for hosting me on her blog to promote my latest publications.

Please note: I would like to open my blog to more guest posts (at least one per month) by but not limited to authors of quality historical and literary fiction, as well as poetry anthologies. Perhaps you are an avid reader who has a blog, does reviews, or has thoughts on literary or historical persons, periods, or events. Not necessary, but I would appreciate if I could do a guest post on your blog in exchange. I reserve the right to refuse anything I deem not in keeping with the intent, spirit, ethics, and quality of this blog and my own work.

If you are interested in guest posting, please contact me.

 

Escaping Ziegfeld: A Short Story

My new short story

Escaping Ziegfeld

is now available

Only $.99 on amazon.com

amazon uk

amazon canada

Available in other countries, too

(all profits to be donated: see details at the end of this post)*

For Kindle devices

OR

Download free app to read on your pc, laptop, tablet, or phone

Cover artwork and design © Copyright by DM Denton

The fingering and pedaling of the Mozart piece required her absolute attention. What could be more important than effecting the appoggiaturas, the upper half of her torso leaning and lifting like a dancer, her elbows slightly bent, her wrists almost imperceptibly rolling side to side, her fingers always in touch with the keys and lightly en pointe?

Irene had been a little unnerved by the Italian’s ice-blue eyes, but how could he compete with the possibility of her following in the footsteps of Lillian Lorraine, the Dolly sisters, Marilyn Miller and Fanny Brice?

This short story, inspired by my maternal grandmother, Marion Allers DiCesare,  has been ruminating in my imagination for a long time.
Read more here: Picking Flowers off Wallpaper.

*I will be giving all profits from Escaping Ziegfeld to Second Chance Sheltering Network, Inc., a wonderful animal rescue organization through which I adopted my now one-year-old kitty-boys, Yoshi and Kenji, last spring.

Thank you to Deborah Bennison of Bennison Books for offering her editing expertise and refined literary eye and sensibilities towards the publication of Escaping Ziegfeld.

Hope you will read and enjoy Escaping Ziegfeld, and, if so inclined, post a review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Illustration Copyright © 2018 by DM Denton

I invite you to visit my amazon author page for all my publications:, including three novels, three kindle short stories, and an illustrated poetry flower journal.

Thank you for your visit, encouragement, and support.

 

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Happy Birthday, Alessandro Stradella!

Reposting … a day late. Forgive me Maestro!

April 3rd was the 379th anniversary of the birth of the Italian composer, Alessandro Stradella: inspiration for and subject of my novel, A House Near Luccoli, and haunting its sequel, To A Strange Somewhere Fled

If you’re interested in knowing more about this once famed, talented, legendary, long neglected Baroque Music figure, I hope you will read on. Also check out the page on this blog devoted to the novel and Stradella … and on my website.

Alessandro Stradella, April 3, 1639 – February 25, 1682

When and how was I first introduced to Alessandro Stradella?

I first heard Stradella’s story and—knowingly—his music while driving to work in 2002 and listening to a Canadian classical music radio station show called In the Shadows. By the time I arrived at work, I could only remember his first name. Later I googled composers named Alessandro, scrolling down all the entries for Scarlatti to finally find a very few mentions of … Alessandro … Stradella!

In time I found out why Stradella, a celebrity in his time who produced a body of work that set him alongside the greatest Baroque masters, was, at best, a footnote in music history. Unfortunately, in the decades and centuries after his death, Stradella’s alluring story took on an almost exclusively cloak-and-dagger slant in novels and operas, eclipsing his importance as a composer until his music was rarely performed. Only recently, thanks to a dedicated biographer and cataloger and some enlightened musicians, that has begun to change.

One of the most beautiful distinctions of the sun is to disburse the mine of its golden splendors not only over the nearest countries but also to the most remote lands.
~Alessandro Stradella, from his dedication of La forza dell’amor paterno, Genoa 1678

How did my interest in Alessandro Stradella grow to the point of wanting to write about him?

Copyright 2017 by DM Denton

From the first I was drawn to him because of the contradiction between the discipline of his work and recklessness of his behavior. It evoked a special connection for me, for I had personally seen the potential of talent and purpose sabotaged by incautious, even self-destructive behavior. The more I learned about Stradella’s triumphs and failures, and all the hard work and missteps in-between, the more I became fascinated by a personality at once charming and creative, intelligent and indulgent, cultivated and itinerant—an adventurer who made a few messes but also many masterpieces along the way.

Finally, in the summer of 2005, I really met Stradella in the intimacy my imagination created: observing him behind the scenes in great and small ways, surrendering to his charisma, and enjoying his self-determination while exploring why he so often put his career and life at risk. I often thought how much easier it would have been if there were more details available about his appearance, personality and the events of his life, but I also realized his obscurity offered an opportunity to discover him in less public ways: through his letters, even his handwriting, and especially his music that knew the rules but pushed the boundaries.

Before her was a gracious creature, especially his hands composing in mid-air and his eyes shifting slowly in observation and expression … without music’s influence he might not wander like a prince among his subjects, though who could think that was all there was to him?
~from A House Near Luccoli

Is the house near Luccoli of the novel’s title an actual residence?

There is the possibility that the last place Stradella lived in Genoa was a house near the Luccoli district. The house was most likely owned by Guiseppe Maria Garibaldi, one of the Genoese noblemen who supported Stradella. I couldn’t find any specific details regarding this house—such as its exact location or whether it still existed—but for the purpose of the novel I put it on the map and set to ‘building it’ based on what my research and imagination came up with. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to create a domestic setting for the developing relationship between Donatella, my fictional female protagonist, and Stradella; one that allowed the reader behind the scenes of his career and persona. The novel does, at times, escape such close quarters into the magnificence and mayhem of Genoa, but essentially remains an interior study of character and circumstance.

Their landlord, one of the Falcone’s managers, announced that Signor Stradella would be moving into their quiet world … It was assumed Signor Stradella would use the apartment for composing as well as sleep and light refreshments. Otherwise he would be out for tutoring and rehearsals during the day and church performances on Sundays, his evenings planned and unplanned with meals and diversions in more and less respectable settings.
~from A House Near Luccoli

What surprised me the most in my research for the novel?

One of the most surprising things was discovering Genoa as a fascinating place and perfect setting for the story I wanted to write. Up until then I knew it as Christopher Columbus’ birthplace, otherwise—if most travelogues of Italy were anything to go by—for passing through on the way to somewhere else or avoiding altogether. La Superba (The Superb One) is a vertical city, back-dropped by the Apennine Mountains, surrounding a bay looking out past its famous Lanterna (lighthouse) and the Ligurian Sea towards the eastern Mediterranean. It has splendid churches, palaces and villas. Also, in its medieval center, there’s a labyrinth of narrow caruggi (alleyways) full of poverty, danger and sudden beautiful entrances to half-hidden palazzi. It’s a conflicted place with, as Stradella’s chief biographer, Carolyn Gianturco, wrote, “a climate of public puritanism and private crime.” The novel is about human contradictions, too: Stradella’s, of course, but also Donatella’s. Genoa has been called “the most English city in Italy”, and so proved an apt location, as Donatella is a ‘daughter’ of both countries.

Of course Genova had a conceit she couldn’t have, knowing its purpose and hiding or flaunting its features of beauty. Once she saw all its wonders and woes from the esplanade of Castelletto, the mountains closer and the Lanterna further away. Perhaps she made out her house; if not its signature portal of Saint George and the Dragon, then a signifying shine on its roof’s slant. It was a prestigious place to live depending on how she looked at it, whether connected up to a parade of palaces, across divides or down crooked stairways to the port.
~from A House Near Luccoli

Was I tempted to write myself into any of the characters?

Copyright 2017 by DM Denton

I knew I was there from the opening lines, disguised and revealed in the character of Donatella. Like me, she is Italian and English, a writer and artist, gardener, companioned by cats, wrapped up in solitude, contradictions, moods, and memories, and addicted to music’s presence in her life. Certainly, I could understand her struggle with surrendering to Stradella’s charm, talent and impetuosity; how it felt to be amazed, flattered and bewildered by such an attraction; and that in the end so much and so little changed for her through knowing him. This was a very personal story for me to write. Even more so once it was published, life imitating art when Donatella’s quiet grief and onward journey became my reality, too.

There was no unloving him as he was, available and irresistible, artful yet authentic, larger than life but vulnerable. Making his acquaintance was unforgettable, seduction unavoidable, consequences bestowed like blessings.

She was an artist, seeing him gracefully off balance like the orchid she was painting, bending left and then right, one arm behind a hip and the other lifting and falling at the same time, neck slightly turned, head back, and face flowering into a smile and wink.
~from A House Near Luccoli

How did I write about music and am I a musician myself?

Copyright 2017 by DM Denton

I knew the most important thing to do was listen—constantly listen, Stradella’s music a soundtrack to the conceptualizing, researching, and writing of the novel until I was living with and even haunted by it like an invisible presence. Of course, I did refer to academic sources, and the notes on CD sleeves were also a great help. I used some musical terminology as it offered imagery the poet in me found too lovely to resist!

I have played the piano, guitar and Celtic harp, and sung a little. The pleasure I find in trying to translate music into words might come from my regret at not having pursued a musical career. I suppose writing about music is another way of participating in it. I found it very satisfying. I never set out to try to imitate, explain or even describe music, but somehow convey its elusive existence in the heart and spirit.

This question makes me think of the 1991 French movie about the 17th century composers Marin Marais and Sainte-Colombe, Tous les Matin du Monde that asks: “What is music?” Sainte-Colombe insists words cannot describe it—that it is the sound of the wind, a painter’s brush, wine pouring into a cup, or just the tear on a cheek. I agree that it is impossible to express the essence or the effect of music in words, but I hope my readers experience something of its beauty and power through what I have written, especially as it is inexpressible.

Copyright 2017 by DM Denton

“… I am glad to have had the opportunity of spending these many years uncovering the actual Stradella, a fascinating and lively man, who wrote excellent music of a personal stamp. Had circumstances given him the possiblity, he would surely have been surprised by my continued refusal to give up the often discouraging and elusive task; I like to think that he would have been pleased that I did not.”​
~Caroline Gianturco, Alessandro Stradella, 1639-1682: His Life and Music (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994):

A House Near Luccoli and its sequel To A Strange Somewhere Fled, are available on amazon.com in paperback, Kindle and Audio Book editions; and at barnesandnoble.com in paperback and NOOK Book editions.

Read the first chapters in these Kindle previews:
A House Near Luccoli
To A Strange Somewhere Fled (Scroll past the first chapter of A House Near Luccoli)

I am happy to report that there is an ever-increasing interest in Stradella’s music.

Alberto Sanna is “a musicologist and violinist from Sardinia, Italy, who specialises in early modern Italian music. ​He has released the first-ever complete period-instrument recording of Alessandro Stradella’s beautiful yet neglected Two-Part Sinfonias.

 

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