Cantata: Lagrime mie
Barbara Strozzi (1619-after 1667)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 4 Tracks 23-27
She was not here when I was younger. It seems ironic that this piece, a lament for love suppressed by authority, could be kept away from adoring ears by misogynistic scholars. Fortunately, times change. Perhaps as Strozzi's audience changes this cantata finds new relevance. This tune, written by a woman, is sung by a woman expressing a painfully frustrated love for a woman. Though it would not have appeared this way to Strozzi or her contemporaries, we, who no longer encounter castrated singers or ignore women, have other faults to be reminded of.
The disconsolate narrator is not shy of dissonant pitches and frequent leaps. Strozzi did not hold these in reserve. What she did use conservatively is the consonant, diatonic writing that appears a few bars into track 27. The effect is enough to break your heart.
What I like about this remarkable piece is the opening refrain. Strozzi gives the singer room to fixate on one pitch at a time. Briefly, the pitch is repeated with increasing speed. It has the despondency of a ball dropped on a hard surface. Cut loose, it bounces and, as its energy decreases and the height of each bounce is less, the sound of it hitting the floor accelerates.
Also read Candace A. Magner's history of Barbara Strozzi