Lucrezia Borgia’s Daughter

Princess, Nun and Musician | Motets from a 16th century convent

Musica Secreta & Celestial Sirens
Directed by Laurie Stras & Deborah Roberts

Obsidian Records is pleased to announce a new collaboration with Musica Secreta and Celestial Sirens.

Far from being silent, Renaissance convents were among the most active musical institutions in Europe. In this ground-breaking CD, Musica Secreta delves into the mysterious world of early sixteenth-century convent music.

The discovery of anonymous motets in a book entitled Musica quinque vocum motteta materna lingua vocata (1543) has pushed back the date of the earliest known polyphonic music for convents by 50 years. The book also raises tantalising questions about the motets' authorship.

New research suggests that some of these motets were composed by the abbess of the convent of Corpus Domini in Ferrara, Suor Eleanora d'Este, a woman of prodigious musical skill with a unique lineage. She was the daughter of Lucrezia Borgia, a woman cast by popular history as a notorious femme fatale; often portrayed as beautiful and power-hungry, Lucrezia was married to a succession of wealthy men. The convent offered a very different way of life for her only daughter, however, and these unique motets offer a vision of the 16th century convent as a place for religious celebration, contemplation and exceptional music-making.

These motets were recorded for the first time in the summer of 2016 for Obsidian records, performed by Musica Secreta and Celestial Sirens and directed by Laurie Stras and Deborah Roberts.




In the press

We were overwhelmed by the response to Lucrezia Borgia’s Daughter: Princess, Nun and Musician. The disc reached number 2 in the UK specialist classical charts, and it’s been featured on iTunes and Apple Music as “Music You Need to Hear”. Find some of our favourite features and reviews below.

“The music is of such quality and the singing of such beauty and refinement that we’re not likely to care so much who wrote it: the mystery perhaps makes it even more compelling–truly ethereal.”
- Classics Today | Artistic Quality: 10 | Sound Quality: 10

“These unexpectedly sensual motets form an immaculate collection of convent music that is both unrelentingly beautiful and fully captivating throughout.”
- Gramophone Magazine

“As a choral nun, Leonora would have spent more time singing than sleeping each day and, unlike the music performed by the all-male ducal and papal choirs, this music would have been familiar to people living in the 16th century.”
- Feature on Classic FM

“The participating ensemble [...] sounds just as a convent choir would have done, using 16th-century techniques, including transposition and instrumental accompaniment.”
- Country Life

“The music – for five equal voices (of unspecified sex) – is astonishingly beautiful and yet strange, radical even. These works had lain unsung and unloved for almost four centuries, mostly because they were anonymous. These days, anonymity suggests that whoever created the book, music, painting or whatever was not important enough, or the product is not good enough, for anyone to care who made it. But in the 16th century, anonymity was also an important way for members of the nobility to disguise their participation in commercial ventures that were considered beneath them (which is why Gesualdo, a prince, published his madrigals anonymously).”
- Feature by Laurie Stras in The Guardian

“This recording took my breath away with its sheer depth of music making combined with such an exciting historical premise.”
- Revoice Magazine

“Lucrezia Borgia's daughter composed fabulous music. [...] Divine is the word.”
- Sarah Dunant, author of In The Name of the Family

“The sound, as one might expect, is quite different from that of mixed-voice Renaissance polyphony and it’s really quite special. The singing by the combined forces of the Musica Secreta and Celestial Sirens ensembles is simply spectacular.”
- CD Hotlist

Leonora d’Este and Raffaella Aleotti: The Women of Renaissance Ferrara
- Composer of the Week on BBC Radio 3


From the artist