Who was Johannes Ciconia?

Works by Johannes Ciconia performed by La Morra.

Works by Johannes Ciconia performed by
La Morra.

On Friday 14 June, early music specialists La Morra explore the life of Johannes Ciconia through music. Over the years La Morra have built a reputation for innovative and well-researched programming, so we ask ‘Who is Johannes Ciconia and why him?’

Born in France but brought up in Italy, Johannes was a composer and music theorist in the late Middle Ages, from around 1370 to 1412.

His father shared the same name as did three other men in his village. As well as causing confusion for historians, this could have caused a good few Spartacus moments (‘I’m Johannes Ciconia.’ ‘No, I’m Johannes Ciconia!’). He is an enigmatic figure in music history and there is much mystery surrounding his life.

Johannes’s music is fascinating and despite cloudy areas in his biography, his compositions can provide some interesting clues. Pieces like Una Panthera which seem typical of Northern Italy appear side-by-side with compositions seemingly closer to the French Ars Nova.

Although he had connections to the Cathedral of Padua, some sources suggest that he would have also been well-known in Florence, yet there is barely any mention of his work in the Florentine records of the era. The majority of speculation lies around his travels; his music suggests that this was a man who travelled the breadth of Italy, possibly across borders, and absorbed various musical styles along the way.

So who was Johannes Ciconia and why is La Morra paying tribute to him? I guess we’ll find out on Friday 14 June.

Take a listen to La Morra’s lively performance of Ciconia’s Musique Profane from the album Ciconia: Opera Omnia.

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