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Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Vespro della Beata Vergine, 1610

CD 1
Deus in adjutorium [2’09]
Psalm 109: Dixit Dominus [9’56]
Concerto: Nigra sum [4’41]
Psalmus 112: Laudate, pueri, Dominum [7’48]
Concerto: Pulchra es [4’26]
Psalmus 121: Laetatus sum [8’10]
Concerto: Duo Seraphim [6’52]
Psalmus 126: Nisi Dominus [5’39]
Concerto: Audi coelum [10’20]
Psalmus 147: Lauda, Jerusalem, Dominum [6’10]
CD 2
Sonata sopra "Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis" [7’06]
Hymnus: Ave maris stella [10’50]
Antiphon: Virgo prudentissima [1’09]
Magnificat a 6 [23’23]
Magnificat a 7 [24’12]
Ensemble Vocal et Instrumental de Lausanne/Michel Corboz

Rec. Notre Dame de Valentin, Lausanne, 13-15 April 1966 ADD
WARNER APEX 2564 61429-2 [66'16'' + 67'15'']

It is surely a good thing that so many recordings of such a large variety of ‘art’ music are now available from labels which set out to sell music rather than artists, and consequently can sell discs at budget prices. Naxos has led the field in this regard producing consistently good new recordings of music which otherwise would not find the broad market it deserves. On occasion they have reached superlative heights, the recordings of the organ works of Weckmann and of the Membra Jesu Nostri cantatas of Buxtehude are both extremely compelling.

Another approach to this market employed by a number of labels has been to re-release older recordings and sell them with minimal booklets at low prices. Harmonia Mundi has does this very successfully using older recordings from their own catalogue. This Apex release of the 1610 Vespers of Monteverdi also falls into this category. Recorded in 1966 this is a ground-breaking and much heralded first recording by Michel Corboz and his still-active Ensemble Vocal et Instrumental de Lausanne for Erato. They use a mix of cornetti and otherwise modern instruments. The quality of the performance is undeniably high, the soloists excellent, and the overall sense of a ‘questing spirit’ still compelling. Especially interesting is the highly inventive organ continuo playing from none other than a young Guy Bovet. Of course the problems encountered when performing ‘Vespers’ today are considered within a very different set of parameters than in 1966, especially as regards issues such as temperament, forces (here the choir seems rather large, the continuo group rather small), playing and singing techniques (for example application of vibrato by both singers and string players, and especially vocal ornamentation), tempi, (and more especially tempo relationships where the meter changes), rhythmic drive etc. To judge this recording by today’s standards of course is a pointless exercise but to my ear the rather woolly sound and lack of focus render this an interesting study in the performance practices of forty years ago rather than a recording likely to grab the first-time listener. This is a pity, especially as, by including both Magnificats, this represents good value. Apex’s concept is good, but to meet a really mainstream audience today, a forty year recording of this work is simply too old.

Chris Bragg


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