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

The Music of Friends: Cadences and Temperaments

The term “The Music of Friends” to describe chamber music (1550 to 1750, music characterized by the location of its performance: outdoors, on stage, in church, or in private quarters), was, per Wikipedia, first used by Richard Walthew in a lecture published in South Place Institute, London, in 1909.

Keeping true to A House Near Luccoli, much of the foundation of To A Strange Somewhere Fled relies heavily on music as expression. The cadences and temperaments of compositions are reflected in Denton’s pacing as well as her confidently executed freedom of narrative … revelations are made, characters introduced, and emotions uncovered with unexpected swells and surges of expression.
~ from review by Casee Marie Clow, Literary Inklings

The musical players of To A Strange Somewhere Fled 

Henry Purcell (10 September 1659 – 21 November 1695)

220px-Henry_Purcell_by_John_Closterman

Purcell by John Closterman

It was during my research for A House Near Luccoli that I came upon the claim, noted in the introduction to Purcell Studies edited by Curtis Price, that Henry Purcell had openly regretted Alessandro Stradella’s death and, because of the Italian’s “great merit as a musician”, forgiven his fatal indiscretions.  True or not, it stirred me to somehow bring the celebrated English composer into fictional Donatella’s continuing story, and on reading Roger North’s assertion that the high point of his musical experience was entertaining the ‘divine’ Purcell, I was even more inspired to do so.

Henry Purcell was as obscure a figure as Alessandro Stradella in terms of how little about his personal life was recorded. Despite his legacy of being a uniquely English composer, he enjoyed and sometimes emulated the Italian style. He met his end at a younger age than Stradella and in a way that left as much conjecture as to why. Was it chocolate poisoning, the result of pneumonia brought on by being locked out of his house by his wife after a night of drinking, or ‘just’ tuberculosis?

He came from a very musical family. His father, who died when Henry was a small child and his uncle, who became his guardian, were members of the Chapel Royal. His brother Daniel was also a composer. Henry had been a child chorister; his earliest known work was probably completed when he was ten or eleven.

The English maestro enters the pages of To A Strange Somewhere Fled at age twenty-four, already appreciated for his celebratory, church, theatrical, instrumental, and incidental music, and overcoming the constraints of the English language to write songs that perfectly complemented the poetry they were inspired by. In 1683 he was an organist for Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal and about to publish his first collection and be appointed royal instrument keeper.

He was a man of sorrows as well as joy—of six children born to him and his wife, only two survived to adulthood—his copious creations defining him as the scarce accounts of his life never could.

The Italians

After the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, Italian composers and performers arrived in England to find a welcome and work, some in the court of Charles II where lively, lavish, and constantly evolving entertainment was encouraged, while others visited for brief or extended periods or settled into being employed in or outside of London in churches and theaters and for private concerts.

CHARLES II DANCING AT A BALL AT COURT, C.1660. HIERONYMUS JANSSENS (1624-93). ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST / © HM QUEEN ELIZABETH II 2013

Charles II dancing at court. C.1660. Hieronymus Janssens (1624-93). Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2013

Carlo Ambrogio Lonati (c.1645–c.1712)

calonatiIl Gobbo della Regina, the hunchback composer, violinist, and singer who initially made an appearance in A House Near Luccoli, was probably born in Milan but little is known of his early life. Lonati first made friends, music and trouble with Alessandro Stradella while both were in Rome under the patronage of Queen Christina of Sweden, and went to Genoa ahead of Stradella where he also preceded him as impresario of the Falconi Theater.

There is evidence that Lonati was in London—seen with a famous female singer—sometime between 1686 and1688.  Ordered out of Genoa after Stradella’s murder in February, 1682, and leaving gaps in his activities and whereabouts for some time afterwards, it’s conceivable he traveled to England before the visit made notable because of the company he kept. His abrupt intrusion on Donatella’s new life was, in the course of writing To A Strange Somewhere Fled, as much of a surprise to me as it was to her.

 

Pietro Reggio (1632 -1685)

Pietro Reggio song set

 

There is much mystery surrounding the life of the “slovenly and ugly”, to quote diarist Samuel Pepys, composer, lutenist, and singer, Pietro Reggio, who was probably from Genoa as he was referred to as Pietro Reggio Genovese. Reggio was employed in Stockholm by Queen Christina before her abdication and subsequent move to Rome where Stradella and Lonati encountered her. Eventually, Pietro traveled to France, and, if the inscription on his tombstone is accurate, to Spain and Germany. He had moved to England by 1664, where Pepys and another writer, John Evelyn, were entertained in very different ways by him. Whereas Pepys wasn’t overly impressed by “Seignor Pedro” who played the theorbo and sang Italian songs, Evelyn included Reggio’s singing in his description of the “rare music” he enjoyed after dinner one evening.

Reggio made his living in London for a time, performing and teaching, and also had associations in Oxford where he may have resided. His claim to fame is a collection of songs he published in 1680, mostly based on the verse of Abraham Cowley (1618 -1667) who was among the leading metaphysical poets of the 17th century.

 

Nicola Matteis (? – after 1714)

Nicola Matteis by Godfrey Kneller, 1682

Nicola Matteis by Godfrey Kneller, 1682

Nicola arrived in England after 1670, apparently not interested in royal service or public appearances, because, as Roger North also indicated, he might have to perform with amateurs.  Despite his resistance, his popularity grew in the 1670’s and 1680’s. He is given credit for having changed the manner of violin playing from the French to Italian style, publishing Ayres for the Violin that provided detailed bowing instructions and directions for tempo and ornamentation. Still, his compositions were difficult and many were discouraged in their efforts to play them. John Evelyn was among those who praised Matteis’ vigorous style that made his performances so memorable.

 

Various Italian, English, Scottish, and French Musicians

Bartholomeo Albrici (1634 – ?), a composer native to the seaport of Senigallia in the province of Ancona in central Italy, taught and played the harpsichord. He spent time in Sweden with his brother, Vincenzo in service to Queen Christina, and traveled with him and their singer sister Leonora (1640’s – 1700?) to London in 1662 where they all were involved in the King’s Musick. Leonora was married to Matthew Battaglia (1640? – 1687), a musician to the Duke of York, later James II. Giovanni Battista Draghi (ca. 1640 – 1708) was an Anglo-Italian composer and organist invited to London by Charles II to help establish an opera house. That project was unsuccessful, but Draghi (nicknamed “Drago”) found other ways to contribute to the music of the court and remained in England for the rest of his life.

Besides Henry Purcell, other English musicians make themselves known in To A Strange Somewhere Fled, including Henry Aldrich, church musician, Canon of Christ Church and eventually Vice-Chancellor of  Oxford University; Henrietta Bannister, wife of John Bannister “the elder” and music tutor to Princess Anne, daughter of James II; Robert Carr, viol player; Charles Coleman “the younger”, possibly a lutenist and theorbist; Thomas Eccles, a violinist who was said to have played in taverns; Thomas Farmer, violinist at the Duke’s theater in London and in service to Charles II and James II; William Gregory “the younger”, lyra viol player, composer and member of the King’s Musick and the Chapel Royal; William Husbands, organist at Christ Church, Oxford; and William Turner, composer and singer who served at Lincoln and St. Paul’s Cathedrals, the Chapel Royal and with the King’s Private Musick.

Paisable music 2

 

Also helping to add a flourish to the midsummer concert in To A Strange Somewhere Fled were Scottish composer and singer John Abell, Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, whose English songs showed Italian influence; and French composer and recorder player, Jacques Paisable (“Peasable” as he was mockingly referred to), who performed at the Drury Lane Theater and married actress and singer Mary “Moll” Davis after she was dismissed as Charles II’s mistress—with a lavish pension and house as a parting gift—when the nubile Nell Gwyn came on the scene.

 

 

 

To A Strange Somewhere Fled cover back and front

Cover – back and front – illustrations by DM Denton

Master Purcell bowed to them all, the back of his wig matted and his coat creased, the ribbons undone on the bottom of his breeches, evidence of a mend here and there in his hose, and his ankles leaning out due to the wear on his shoes. As he straightened, his arms lifted until his hands were close together above his head, reminding Donatella of a priest celebrating the Eucharist, his congregation silent in preparation for the miracle they were about to receive.

~ From To A Strange Somewhere Fled, published by All Things That Matter Press.
The scene: midsummer’s eve concert at Wroxton Abbey.

This plot is as much about music as Donatella’s first story, which covered the time when she was a copyist for Stradella, but in this novel Donatella’s role as a performer is emphasized … Denton writes with a lyrical style which swells, fades, and swells again, creating a perfect setting through its tone as much as its meticulous description. Her words pull her readers to 17th century England like music from that era.
~ from review by Steve Lindahl, author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions and Hopatcong Vision Quest

… the secrets and the rhythm within these pages lifts the reader to appreciate the subtle yet daring intricacies of music, passion and life in 17th century England.
~ from review by Martin Shone, author of Silence Happens and Being Human

What an inspired and informed imagination to portray the young Henry Purcell. The author’s descriptions of music, particular musicians, and musical performances make this book a work of art itself. To A Strange Somewhere Fled is a virtuoso performance.
~ from review by Mary Clark, author of Tally: An Intuitive Life, Covenant and Miami Morning: A Leila Payson Novel

DM Denton Book Launch Pages: Book trailers, Synopsis, Reviews, Buy Links, and more all in one place!

House+cover+front[2]A House Near Luccoli

 

 

 

f0da9-strange2bsomewhereTo A Strange Somewhere Fled

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01©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.

 

Marriage Brokering 17th Century Style

Why would a talented up-and-coming composer, patronized by a Queen and other highly placed individuals, engage in marriage brokering?

To find out “Ms Stuart Requests … the pleasure of your company” – and so do I – at my guest post on “history with a heart” author Alison Stuart’s lovely blog.

This image from Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress is a little teaser …

Marriage Image - from William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress

And here’s another: Marriage broker – someone who arranges (or tries to arrange) marriages for others, usually between strangers and for a fee.

To see what Alessandro Stradella was up to

a ‘few’ years before A House Near Luccoli

please read on …

Alison and I thank you for the pleasure of your company!

And while you’re over there, please check out
Alison’s novels on her Bookshelf Page

 

 

Modest or Unmannerly, Which Instrument Shall She Play? Guest Post

Thank you to Alison Stuart and all at Hoydens and Firebrands – “Roaring Ladies Who Write About The Seventeenth Century” – for hosting me on their fascinating blog!

Hoyden is a boisterous girl.

Firebrand is a person who is passionate about a particular cause, typically inciting change and taking radical action.

Modest or Unmannerly, Which Instrument Shall She Play? by DM Denton

Music was such an integral part of 17th century life and Hoydens and Firebrands are delighted to welcome DM Denton with a fascinating post on women and music in the seventeenth century. Diane is the author of two books set in the 17th century in which the central protagonists are musicians.  

Woman playing viol par traverso_pe_pe

In the 17th century a refined young woman might want and even be encouraged to cultivate her musical ability and prove some accomplishment through singing and accompanying herself instrumentally—as recreation not occupation, of course. Considering her need to impress a suitor, show her figure off in the best possible way, express the sweetest tones of her personality and gentle capability of her character, which instrument should she play?

I graciously encourage you to read on ….

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

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 tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.

The New Lodger, Azaleas, and a Musical Snippet

Copyright 2013 by DM Denton

Copyright 2013 by DM Denton

The azalea flower was suggestive of the new lodger, with a passion for color itself, spraying out from its dramatic center like a cat’s whiskers for effect and purpose, rising stealthily through the shade to reach for the wind as much as the sun. After a nap and persuading her grandmother to try a little broth, Donatella spent the afternoon where buzzing wisteria and honeysuckle blurred the angles of walls also stepping up with budding hibiscus and geraniums to larger terracotta pots of bay and lemon trees surrounding a sunny plateau. A city sky was more available there than in the street, flat baskets drying basil, a rusty ironwork table and several chairs reminding how lunch or supper used to be taken for granted.

A House Near Luccoli Front View color adjusted cropped resizedFrom Chapter Three of A House Near Luccoli, published by All Things That Matter Press, my novel imagining an intimacy with the legendary 17th century Italian composer, Alessandro Stradella.

I recently followed an early music ensemble on Twitter called The Sonnambula Viol Consort. This consort is based in New York City. It’s director, Elizabeth Weinfield, contacted me through my website to thank me for connecting, and for my interest and work on Stradella. She also let me know of some Stradella concert activity that has been happening recently at Columbia University , sponsered by Artek Recordings, which included a lecture by foremost Stradella biographer, Carolyn Gianturco (who has read my novel and engaged me in some interesting email conversations as a result). It is so good to see Stradella being celebrated again!

Here is a snippet from Stradella’s Giovanni Battista, a rehearsal for the recent concert referred to above.

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.

Historical Novelists’ 4 Day Book Fair April 12 – 15

Welcome to my ‘table’ at the

bookf

and to

A House Near Luccoli

Cover Artwork by DM DentonCopyright 2012

A House Near Luccoli focuses on chance encounters, beautiful music, and the paradox of genius through an imagined intimacy with one of the most legendary and undervalued figures of Italian Baroque music.

Published by All Things That Matter Press

Available at

Amazon.com

Barnesandnoble.com

in Paperback, Kindle, and NOOK Book editions.

Soon to be released as an audio book!

Over three years since the charismatic composer, violinist and singer Alessandro Stradella (1639 – 1682) 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, his professional and personal life have begun to unravel again. He is offered, by the very man he is rumored to have wronged, a respectable if slightly shabby apartment and yet another chance to redeem his character and career. He moves in to the curiosity and consternation of his caretakers, also tenants, three women whose reputations are of concern only to themselves.
Donatella, still unmarried in her mid-thirties, is plainly irrelevant. Yet, like the city she lives in, there are hidden longings in her, propriety the rule, not cure, for what ails her. She cares more for her bedridden grandmother and cats than overbearing aunt, keeping house and tending to a small garden, painting flowers and waxing poetic in her journal.
At first, she in awe of and certain she will have little to do with Stradella. Slowly, his ego, playfulness, need of a copyist and camouflage involve her in an inspired and insidious world, exciting and heartbreaking as she is enlarged by his magnanimity and reduced by his missteps, forging a friendship that challenges how far she will go.


Excerpt from A House Near Luccoli:

It was a Sunday morning when she tried to return the folder with the copy included. Golone wouldn’t have it, leaving the house in a hurry.  She might take advantage of Nubesta’s day off, as well, if Signor Stradella returned directly from whatever service his music attended while Despina napped after going to mass. Donatella trailed her aunt down small streets and across the square named for the closest church open to her faith even when she had none. For once she wished she wasn’t late. Santa Maria Maddalena was filled with music as sacred as its interior; a modest congregation settling amid its garlanded pillars and gilded moldings, nearer to heaven anticipated in the ceiling of the main altar. Her aunt looked for her to slide into their usual pew but Donatella’s skirt didn’t completely leave the aisle and she ignored a whispered objection more adamant as heads turned, putting herself forward as she never did except for communion.

It wasn’t her intention to be seen reverent in the ritual of silk and linen vestments and covers, golden chalice, paten and tall tapers, or kneeling nearer the graceful pain of the crucifixion, to be overheard less than fluent in echoes of Latin. She sat back and it was obvious why she was there: not for the usual madrigalists shielding the altar and taking direction from the pulpit, but an almost heretical performance in the small gilded gallery to her left, a stone rolled away, resurrection in the pleasured expression of strings and a man to whom every passion was necessary.

It wasn’t the place for bows except in prayer. Signor Stradella’s attention soon moved to the young lady by his side who had sung with sweetness, not strength.

On the way home one of the better houses was inviting. Despina sent her niece on, Donatella only minding the weight of her veil and skirt in the May shower that wasn’t unexpected either.

“Artemisia.”

She didn’t turn around.

By the time she hurried across the via Luccoli to face Saint George and the courage she lacked, the pavement was steaming and her resolve changing as quickly as the weather. Signor Stradella pushed the gate for her to go first, his rain-scented shrewdness surrounding her as he opened the front door.

“My aunt will be home soon.”

“Ah. We have a secret.” He slid his violin case from under his coat. At least they weren’t alone in the house, Cook singing without Despina there to mind, and Nonna calling. He tapped Donatella’s arm and asked how the assignment was coming along.

“It’s finished.”

Bravissima. Let me see.”

“We could use the breakfast room.”

“Or less prudenza.”

Nonna just wanted to know she was back. “And Signore Stradella?”

“I haven’t seen him today.”

“I think you have.”

“Well, for a moment—”

“In the rain?”

“Oh. I should change.”

“No. You look as you must,” her grandmother smacked her lips, “caught off guard.”

Besides the folder of music, Donatella carried up a tray of limonata and anise cake, another of Nonna’s suggestions.

“At last.”

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.

 

My Bio:
I am a native of Western New York State, where I currently reside. My writing life began as a child retreating into the stories and poems that came to me. Early on I developed an interest in history, especially European history, while myparticipation in and appreciation of music was encouraged through memories shared about my maternal grandmother, who was a concert pianist in Chicago in the 1920’s. Some of the most defining years of my adult life were while she was studying and living in rural England, in a yellow-stoned village with thatched cottages, a duck pond, and twelfth century church and abbey turned Jacobean manor house. In addition to writing, music, art, and cats, I am passionate about nurturing nature and a consciousness for a more compassionate, inclusive, and peaceful world.
A House Near Luccoli is my first published novel. I am currently working on a sequel set in late Restoration England, and have also published an illustrated poetry book, A Friendship with Flowers.
I recently did an interview with Unusual Historicals about the the writing of A House Near Luccoli and more.
I also invite you to visit my website: http://www.dmdenton-author-artist.com, where you can find more information on my publications, view her prose and poetry portfolio and artwork.
You can also find me on:
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Thank you to Francine Howarth for hosting this virtual book fair.
I encourage you to go to Romancing the Blog
where you will find links to the sites of all the other authors who are participating.

Have fun browsing the fair!




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.