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Historical background

When violinist Angèle Dubeau came up with the project in 1997 of recording a CD dedicated to Vivaldi’s works, it was clear that the experience would above all be focused on attaining excellence. Just as the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà is a string ensemble for piano uniquely composed of women, bringing together some of the finest musicians in Canada. The excellence, precision and force of each artist as well as the good-companionship that unite them give an exceptional quality to the ensemble’s technique and contribute to the contagious pleasure that radiates at each concert.

L’Ospedale della Pietà

In the XIVth century, the Pietà hospice was raised on the Esclavons Quay not far from St. Mark. This hospice, one of the four major hospitals of the city at the time of Vivaldi, was created by Brother Pieruzzo, in his mission to save the orphans and illegitimate girls who were abandoned in the streets of Venice. In charitable institutions such as La Pietà, the Scuole was gradually annexed and young women would receive singing and music lessons. A witness of the great quality of their musical education, English traveler Edward Wright, wrote in 1720: “Every Sunday and holidays these hospices’ chapels present vocal and instrumental concerts performed by young women: they are set in a gallery and although not ordained, are hidden to the eyes of the public by a trellis fence. The young women master the organ as well as other instruments. The execution is astonishingly sharp, many of them have excellent voices.”

The works heard during these concerts were by the “Maestro di Coro”, an eminent composer who was responsible for teaching the secrets of the instrumental and vocal arts to these young women, the figlie del coro. It is in 1703, the same year he was ordained priest, that Vivaldi began teaching at La Pietà with numerous activities: music teacher, conductor, composer, instrument buyer. His presence at La Pietà was spread out over more or less 35 years, with some brief interruptions, but we can still safely assume that most of his work we know now was originally composed for the Ospedale concerts. When listening to the instrumental work of the “Redhead Priest”, concertos for one, two or three violins, oboes or other wind instruments, concerto for a small string ensemble, we cannot doubt the mastery and high instrumental virtuosity, the young women from La Pietà possessed.