Free Santa Croce Concert Honors Women Musicians

The late founder of the Desidero da Settignano choir and orchestra, Johanna Knauf, conducting a concert

The Desiderio da Settignano Choir and Orchestra is hosting a concert in the Santa Croce Basilica this Wednesday, June 15 at 9:15 pm. The program, created and inspired by the late founder Johanna Knauf, offers free admission to listen to works by Fanny Hensel Mendelssohn and Louise Farrenc. 

Female composers of the 19th century, Mendelssohn and Farrenc’s talents were appreciated by Johanna who founded the Desiderio da Settignano Choir in 1989, offering anyone the opportunity to experience music regardless of where they are in their musical journey. Fourteen years later, an orchestra based in Settignano quickly started to gain significance among the musical panorama of Florence.

Under the guidance of Johanna, and hundreds of people from different origins, social class, ideas, and musical knowledge, it became one large classical ensemble: the Desiderio da Settignano Choir and Orchestra. 

The group will be performing “Oratorium nach Bildern der Bibel” by Fanny Hensel Mendelssohn, older sister of the more famous composer, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartoldy. Born in Berlin, the family possessed many musical talents, specifically in piano, though due to the cultural principles at the time, at least six songs composed by Fanny were credited to her brother. 

The Desiderio da Settignano Choir and Orchestra will also be performing Symphony No.1 by Louise Farrenc, who held a position in at the Paris Conservatory in 1947 as a piano teacher. Her work is highly esteemed: she was first and only woman on the staff at the Conservatory throughout the entire 19th century, and successfully demanded equal pay among her male peers a decade into her career. 

The evening is conducted by Patrizia Scivoletto, an interpreter of the important musical legacies left by Johanna and features the choir’s soloists: Elena Cecchi Fedi (soprano), Barbara Zingerle (mezzo-soprano), Davide Ciarrocchi (tenor) and Paolo Pecchioli (bass).

An Association representative commented “The concert in Santa Croce open to everyone expresses the spirit of Johanna, who loved to give through the power of joyous music, love and harmony, inviting the public to move beyond barriers between people with the power of the heart.”

(Milla Elizabeth)