CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Sacred Music
CD 1 and CD 2
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567–1643)
Vespro della Beata Vergine
(1610) [105:31]
CD 3 and CD 4
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567–1643) and his contemporaries FANTINI, MARINI, ROVETTA, SCARANI, USPER:
Mass of Thanksgiving (1631) - Solemn Mass for the Feast of Sancta Maria della Salute from Selva morale e sprituale (1641) [77:28]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567–1643): Venetian Vespers from Selva morale e spirituale (1641) [63:00]
CD 5
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567–1643)
Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi (1638) from Book 8 [58:25]
Taverner Consort, Taverner Choir and Taverner Players/Andrew Parrott
full listing of tracks and performers etc. at end of review
VIRGIN CLASSICS 9669652 [5 CDs: 314:35]

Experience Classicsonline

These five discs comprise a beautifully performed Monteverdi collection of mainly sacred music from the late Renaissance and early Baroque. This is a compilation of recordings made between 1982 and 1991.

I found it extremely difficult to understand the annotation which seemed poorly laid out. The knotty essay proved an especially hard nut for me to crack. Identifying, understanding and negotiating my way around the works proved just as exacting. Sadly, the label appears not to have grasped that Latin scholarship and musicology are not contemporary pastimes for the mainstream listener. In my view texts are indispensable for listener understanding and enjoyment. I was disappointed to find that they are not provided.

The first two discs comprise Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine (Vespers for the Blessed Virgin) sometimes known as the Marian Vespers. The work is from 1610 and bears a dedication to Pope Paul V. The Vespers are based on Biblical texts and are used as part of the Roman Catholic liturgy for feasts dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Monteverdi travelled from his home in Mantua to the Vatican in Rome and presented in person a volume of sacred music including the Marian Vespers. It served as an impressive sugar-coated job application.

For this recording Andrew Parrott has chosen not to perform the Marian Vespers (1610) in the strict in which they appear in their original publication. Parrott has constructed a version in a liturgical context by including a plainchant antiphon prior to each of the five psalms and other appropriate liturgical chant. Also included before each psalm are instrumental pieces; three are concerti and two are instrumental sonatas composed by Giovanni Paolo Cima. For his single Magnificat (a canticle, known as Song of Mary) Parrott has selected the grander of the two available settings. Parrott’s chamber-music version pares the score back to one singer per part without the intensity of a weighty choral sound. In addition Parrott has reduced the pitch of the Magnificat and Lauda Jerusalem down a fourth serving to the equalise the range of the score.

In the Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610) I was struck by the signature-like highly melodic brass fanfares overlaid by Gregorian chant. Emma Kirkby’s interpretation of the Concerto - Pulchra es is captivating. A singer in her prime Kirkby conveys purity and beauty of tone, blending splendidly with partner soprano Tessa Bonner. Tenor Nigel Rogers in the Concerto - Audi coelum provides affecting singing of extraordinary quality. The substantial Magnificat is a glorious piece. It is hard to imagine finer singing. The intonation feels just perfect. I enjoyed the performance of Tessa Bonner in the Sonata sopra Santa Maria. She’s a soprano in fine voice, bright, moving and expressively reverential.

Disc three and the opening section of disc four contain the Solemn Mass for the Feast of Sancta Maria della Salute (1631) by Monteverdi and his contemporaries Girolamo Fantini, Biagio Marini, Giovanni Rovetta, Giuseppe Scarani and Francesco Usper. The Solemn Mass known as the Mass of Thanksgiving was written for the great ceremony of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to express gratitude for the delivery of the City of Venice from the plague to be given at St. Mark’s Basilica on 21 November 1631.

In this liturgical reconstruction of the Mass of Thanksgiving (1631), the Gloria a 7, the Ab aeterno ordinata sum and several other pieces are taken from Monteverdi’s Selva morale e spirituale. This collection of forty or so assorted pieces of sacred music was published in Venice in 1641 serving as a summation of Monteverdi’s achievements over nearly three decades as maestro di cappella at St Mark's Basilica.

I found the Mass of Thanksgiving (1631) felicitous and rich in variety and expression. The Gloria a 7 is especially engaging and impressively sung. I loved the Ad Graduale: Sonata a 3 instrumental music which encompasses the meditative as well as brisker more upbeat moods. The contrasting and complex writing of the Credo a 7 combines into a satisfying whole. Passionate and eloquent for male voices, a personal favourite setting is the Prefatio: Sanctus a 4 with its beautifully shaped vocal line. I loved the solo organ part at 0:59-1:36 played by John Toll.

With its glorious soaring trumpets the Ad Elevationem: Sonata a 8 is a wonderfully varied instrumental piece. The Audi caelum: (Salve Regina con dentro un eco) is a most intense setting, combining passionate feeling with deep serenity. A rousing instrumental piece the Ad Recessionem: Sonata Imperiale II & Intrada is passionately communicated with the trumpets and drums adding an almost martial quality. Monteverdi’s signature fanfare theme is evident towards the conclusion.

Also contained on CD 4 is Monteverdi’s Venetian Vespers from the Selva morale e spirituale, 1641 collection of twelve pieces most likely intended for production at St. Marks, Venice. The Venetian Vesper Music is appropriate for the feast of Saint Theodore who was a patron Saint especially venerated in Venice. The usual five psalms settings are included in the Venetian Vespers and the most substantial piece is a Magnificat a 8 lasting thirteen minutes that was completed by Andrew Parrott.

Under Parrott’s direction the Venetian Vespers (1641) is secure, reverential and beautiful performed. This is singing and instrumental playing of the highest quality. The choir’s performance is quite heavenly with Emma Kirkby’s voice in splendid condition. I love the way the male voices blend so memorably in the Hymnus: Deus tuorum militum a 3. Emma Kirkby’s interpretation is moving in the Motet: Jubilet tota civitas; soloin Dialogo’. Compelling, with deep expressive feeling, Kirby’s voice is beautifully caught.

The fifth and final disc comprises a selection of songs from the secular Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi (Madrigals of love and war) from Monteverdi’s 8th book of Madrigals. This wide-ranging collection was compiled towards the last years of Monteverdi’s life and published in Venice in 1638. The Madrigali guerrieri e amorosi (1638) is an engaging collection strikingly sung. Director Parrott brings an abundance of spirit and expressive feeling to this highly rewarding music.

Throughout these mainly sacred works from Monteverdi the singing from Parrott’s Taverner Consort and Choir is of the highest standard; especially beautifully blended and often sublime. The performances from the Taverner Players are adept with impressive tuning. Recorded at several locations the sound quality is of a consistently high quality and evinces a splendid balance.

Michael Cookson

Full track listing:
Monteverdi: Vespro della Beata Vergine, 1610
1. Versiculus Canto gregoriano: Deus in adiutorium meum intende
2. Responsorium : Domine ad adiuvandum me festina
3. Antiphona I Canto gregoriano: Assumpta est Maria in coelum
4. Psalmus I: Psalmus 109: Dixit Dominus
5. Concerto: Nigra sum
6. Antiphona II Canto gregoriano: Maria Virgo assumpta est
7. Psalmus 112: Laudate pueri
8. Concerto: Pulchra es
9. Antiphona III Canto gregoriano: In odorem unguentorum tuorum currimus
10. Psalmus III: Psalmus 121: Laetatus sum
11. Sonata a 2 per violino e violone
12. Antiphona IV Canto gregoriano: Benedicta filia tua Domino
13. Psalmus IV: Psalmus 126: Nisi Dominus
14. Concerto: Audi coelum
1. Antiphona V Canto gregoriano: Pulchra es et decora, filia Hierusalem
2. Psalmus V: Psalmus 147: Lauda Jerusalem Dominum
3. Sonata a 3 per violino, cornetto e violone
4. Capitulum Canto gregoriano: In omnibus requiem quaesivi
5. Hymnus: Ave maris stella
6. Versus et responsorium Canto gregoriano: Exaltata est sancta Dei Genitrix
7. Antiphona VI Canto gregoriano : Hodie Maria Virgo coelos ascendit
8. Magnificat
9. Sonata sopra Sancta Maria
10. Oratio Canto gregoriano: Dominus vobiscum
11. Versus Canto gregoriano: Dominus vobiscum / Benedicamus Domino
12. Concerto: Duo Seraphim
13. Antiphona Beatae Mariae Virginis: Salve O Regina
14. Versus et responsorium Canto gregoriano: Ora pro nobis
15. Oratio Canto gregoriano: Dominus vobiscum
16. Conclusio Canto gregoriano: Divinum auxilium maneat semper nobiscum
Monteverdi and his contemporaries - Monteverdi, Fantini, Marini, Rovetta, Scarani, Usper
Mass of Thanksgiving (1631) - Solemn Mass for the Feast of Sancta Maria della Salute
in thanksgiving for the delivery of the City of Venice from the Plague, Basilica of St Mark 21 November 1631.
A liturgical reconstruction, including Monteverdi’s 7-part Gloria and other works from Selva morale e sprituale (1641).
1. Introïtus
2. Intrada, Toccata & Sonata Imperiale I: Girolamo Fantini: Modo per imparare a sonare di tromba, 1638
3. Kyrie a 4: Monteverdi: Selva morale e spirituale, 1641
4. Gloria a 7: Monteverdi: Selva morale e spirituale
5. Oratio
6. Epistulum
7. Ad Graduale: Sonata a 3: Giuseppe Scarani: Sonate concertate, 1630
8. Evangelium: Credo
9. Credo a 7: Giovanni Rovetta: Messa, e salmi concertati, 1639
10. Crucifixus / Et resurrexit / Et iterum: Monteverdi: Selva morale e spirituale
11. Et in Spiritum Sanctum: Giovanni Rovetta: Messa, e salmi concertati
12. Ad Offertorium: Ab aeterno ordinata sum: Monteverdi: Selva morale e spirituale
13. Prefatio: Sanctus a 4: Monteverdi: Selva morale e spirituale Consecratio
14. Ad Elevationem: Sonata a 8: Francesco Usper: Compositioni armoniche, 1619
15. Pater Noster: Agnus Dei a 4: Monteverdi: Selva morale e spirituale
16. Pax Domini
17. Ad Communionem: Canzon quarta: Biagio Marini: Sonate, symphonie, 1629
1. Ite missa est
2. In loco Deo gratias: Audi caelum: Salve Regina con dentro un eco: Monteverdi: Selva morale e spirituale
3. Ad Recessionem: Sonata Imperiale II & Intrada: Fantini: Modo per imparare a sonare di tromba
Venetian Vesper Music
From Selve morale e spirituale, 1641
4. Psalmus 109: Dixit Dominus a 8
5. Psalmus 110: Confitebor tibi Domine a 3
6. Psalmus 111: Beatus vir a 6
7. Psalmus 112: Laudate pueri a 5
8. Psalmus 116: Laudate Dominum a 5
9. Hymnus: Deus tuorum militum a 3
10. Magnificat a 8 (completed by Andrew Parrott)
11. Motet: Jubilet tota civitas; solo ‘in Dialogo’
12. Salve Regina a 3
Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi, 1638, from Book 8
1. Altri canti di marte e di sua schiera
2. Ninfa che scalza il piede e sciolto il crine
3. Chi vol haver felice e lieto il core
4. Hor che ‘l ciel e la terra e ‘l vento tace
5. Lamento della Ninfa:
Non havea Febo ancora
6. Altri canti d’Amor, tenero arciero
7. Su, pastorelli vezzosi
8. Vago augelletto che cantando vai
9. Ballo: Volgendo il ciel per l’immortal sentiero
Taverner Consort, Taverner Choir and Taverner Players directed by Andrew Parrott
Emma Kirkby (soprano), Nigel Rogers (tenor), Emily Van Evera (soprano), Rogers Covey-Crump (alto part), Andrew King (tenor), Peter Long (tenor), David Thomas (bass), Evelyn Tubb (soprano), Charles Daniels (tenor), Joseph Cornwell (tenor), Richard Savage (bass), David Thomas (bass).
rec. March 1983 and March 1984, All Saints Church Tooting, London (CD1 and CD2); May 1988 London (CD3); May 1988 London and December 1982 Temple Church, London (CD4), February 1991, Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton University, New Jersey, USA. DDD