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VESPERS (Vespers della Beata Vergine 1610)
Eleven SATB soloists; Coro Della Radio Svizzera, Lugano;
Ensemble More Antiquo; Concerto Palatino; I Barocchisti
Directed by Diego Fasolis
ARTS Authentic 47594-2 2 CDs [97:35]
e-mail: UK distributor is Complete Record Co

This is such a very good recording, in performance and sound (just the right amount of cathedral-like reverberation) of Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, available at such a bargain price, that it should be snapped up without any hesitation.

Monteverdi's music not only embraced elaborate traditional polyphony but also an advanced concerted style in which elements from his secular madrigals and operas lend colour and drama to the text as in these Vespers. [Listen, for instance, to the dramatic elements of the Fourth Antiphon, the tripping/dance rhythms of the 'Sonata sopra Sancta Maria', or the syncopated-like brass figures of the Deposuit of the Magnificat.] In fact as Michael Kennedy has observed, "Monteverdi's place in the history of Renaissance music can be justly compared to Shakespeare's in literature…he transformed every genre in which he worked by imaginative use of available styles rather than by revolutionary means."

The work dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary (known today as the "Marienvesper") carries the following title (in English): "The Mass dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary for six voices, church choir and vespers for several voices with some spiritual chants suitable for chapels and royal chambers." Monteverdi dedicated the printed version to Pope Paul V, the distinguished Pope of the counter reformation. David Brandenburg, in his erudite notes, says: "…the Marienvesper is a work of unusual expressiveness, which on the whole can be attributed to its core containing worldly music: within it Monteverdi uses an instrumental movement from his opera Orfeo (the toccata to Domine Deum adiuvandum), and particularly in the sections with few voices, he uses methods to express words, usually only found in opera or madrigals, the virtuosity of which to this day, has reached the limits of the possible."

The work is spread over 2 CDs, the second of which is devoted to the Magnificat, the Versiculum and the concluding Oratio. CD 1 has the Antiphons and Concertos (the latter for a mix of up to four solo voices). The standard of singing is excellent, revealing all the beauties of Monteverdi's multi-part choral and solo voice writing. To mention a few of the movements in such an inspired work would seem invidious but some memorable highlights, for me, personally, are: the wonderfully ornate Antiphona I: Dixit Dominus for six solo voices and choir and orchestra; the beautiful Antiphona II: Psalmas 112, part a cappella; part organ accompanied - so gloriously architected; the beauty of the intertwined singing of the two sopranos Marinella Pennicchi and Anna Simboli in Concerto: Pulchra es; and the majesty of the Capitulum and Hymnus with its ringing brass choirs. From the Magnificat, I would mention: the imposing opening 'Magnificat anima mea'; the already mentioned 'Deposuit', the exquisite intermingled and echoing singing of tenors Sandro Naglia and Luca Dordolo in the 'Et exultavit'; plus the divine glory of the concluding 'Sicut erat'.

Recommended strongly

Ian Lace

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