Isabella Leonarda

Feminale of Music

A picture of the composer Isabella Leonarda

The sonatas of composer Isabella Leonarda are among the first instrumental works written by a woman.

On September 6, 1620 Isabella Calegari was born in Novara, Italy, later with the surname Leonarda. Details of her biography are few and far between, probably because she entered the Collegio di Sant'Orsola Monastery in 1636 and spent most of her life there. She was taught by the conductor of the Novara Cathedral, Gasparo Casati (1610–1641).

Her compositional oeuvre comprises 200 individual pieces, including mainly solo motets, which were published in 20 of her own collections in the second half of the 17th century. The only instrumental compositions left by Isabella Leonarda and one of the first published by a woman in Bologna in 1693 are the 11 trio sonatas and a solo sonata from Opus 16. Isabella Leonarda died in Novara in 1704 at the age of 84.


Sonata duodecima op.16, published by Radio Romania Timisoara: Rachel Podger & Daniele Caminiti recorded at Timisoara Early Music Festival 2019

Ad arma, o spiritus, published by Ars Lyrica Houston 2017, video and audio produced by Runaway Productions LLC, recorded on 12/11/2017, Zilkha Hall / Hobby Center For The Performing Arts. Matthew Dirst, Sydney Anderson, Alexandra Smither, Cecilia Duarte, Kurt Johnson, Stephanie Raby, Barrett Sills, Michael Leopold, Jesus Pacheco

Sonata No 12, published by Eugenio Solinas (baroque cello): Sarah Bleile (baroque violin), Eugenio Solinas (baroque cello) and Andrew Wang (harpsichord) recorded by BFX on 5 June 2018 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Berkeley

J'TE PRÉSENTE #3 - Isabella Leonarda, published as part of the project female baroque by Le Concert de l'Hostel Dieu in 2019 and 2020 by Mia Mandineau on the YouTube channel »L'Opéra et ses zouz«: Aude Walker-Viry, violoncello, Nicolas Muzy, theorbo, Franck-Emmanuel Comte, harpsichord and conducting


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