An anonymous collection of motets published in 1543, Musica quinque vocum motteta materna lingua vocata may have been composed by a princess, Leonora d'Este, the daughter of Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, and Lucrezia Borgia. According to research by Laurie Stras, who, with Deborah Roberts, directs Musica Secreta and Celestial Sirens on this 2017 release from Obsidian, the collection is connected to the convent of Corpus Domini in Ferrara, where Leonora was a nun and a musician, and quite possibly the director of the convent choir and its chief composer. Leonora was the owner of several keyboard instruments, and her musical knowledge and abilities were praised by Francesco della Viola and Gioseffo Zarlino. Furthermore, the uncredited motets may point to a composer who was a noble, a woman, and a nun -- all likely causes for anonymous publication in 16th century Ferrara. The music's sophistication and consistency, as well as its originality, suggest an experienced musician well-versed in convent music, and the scholarship pointing to Leonora's authorship makes this album a fitting celebration of her unsung work and devotions. The combined voices of Musica Secreta and Celestial Sirens, ranging from teens to mature women, re-create the varied textures and timbres of a nuns' choir, and the sparse instrumentation of organ and bass viol provides support in the lower voices. The recording in Bishop Edward King Chapel at Ripon College is quite transparent, though the resonant acoustics lend a wonderful lushness to the group's sound.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson