Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567 - 1643)
Missa in illo tempore
(1610) [29.10]
Salve Regina II [3.59]; Salve Regina III [4.23]
Regina Caeli [3.30]
Cantate Domino [1.54]
Giaches DE WERT (1535 - 1596)
Fantasio per organo
Vox in Rama [3.36]
Ascendente Jesu [5.20]
Adesto dolori meo [3.10]
Nicolas GOMBERT (c.1495 - c.1560)
In illo tempore loquente Jesu
Odhecaton/Paolo da Col
rec. September 2011: Basilica di Santa Barbara, Mantua, Italy
RICERCAR RIC322 [64.35] 
When Monteverdi published his Vespers of 1610, the publication included not only vespers but a mass. Whilst the vespers tend to get performed regularly, the mass has had less exposure. Monteverdi's style is vastly different in the mass than in the vespers. The vespers are firmly in the most modern style, the seconda prattica but the mass is in a more traditional, not to say old fashioned prima prattica.
Whilst the Mass and Vespers of 1610 are associated in people's minds with Monteverdi's appointment to St. Mark's in Venice they were written whilst he worked in Mantua. Their existence probably owes something to Monteverdi's situation there.
When the Duke of Mantua, Guglielmo Gonzaga, built a new basilica in Mantua, the Basilica of Santa Barbara, to act as a family temple the maestro di cappella was Giaches de Wert. De Wert had been born in Flanders and was very much a Gonzaga ‘company man’, having previously held Gonzaga-associated posts. De Wert was still in office when Monteverdi arrived in Mantua in 1590. Monteverdi was initially employed as an instrumentalist and subsequently produced copious amounts of madrigals and the operas Orfeo and Arianna.
De Wert died in 1596. Monteverdi never became maestro di cappella of the basilica even when the post became vacant. One of the reasons may have been that Monteverdi was not associated with sacred music, his last sacred publication had been in 1582 when he was still studying in Cremona.
So Monteverdi's publication of the Mass and Vespers in 1610 was probably an audition piece, a statement to demonstrate that his sacred music was as advanced as his secular.
The mass, Missa in illo tempore, is a six-part affair which is a parody based on Nicholas Gombert's motet In illo tempore in turn composed some seventy years earlier. In style Monteverdi chose to use the prima prattica in a dense imitative manner. The ordinary of the mass was relatively neutral in style and so was suitable for the more old-fashioned polyphony. Monteverdi eschewed writing in the more recent homophonic style of Andrea Gabrieli instead wrote in the flowing polyphonic style preferred by his teacher, Marc'Antonio Ingegneri.
On this disc the ensemble Odhecaton have recorded the mass in the Basilica of Santa Barbara in Mantua. The church preserves two galleries half way down the nave, one of which has the organ by Costanza Antegnati which was installed in 1565. It is from these galleries that the choir performs, with the microphones in the body of the church nicely picking up the acoustic.
Odhecaton are an all-male ensemble of some sixteen singers who perform the mass with organ and instrumental accompaniment. They make a lovely warm, rich and dark sound. Using male voices at a slightly low pitch gives the piece a fascinatingly deep texture. Monteverdi shows himself wonderfully apt at the older style.
The mass is performed with three of Monteverdi's motets, two Salve Regina settings and a Regina Caeli, all three recently re-discovered. They are set for three voices and organ. These are delightful and firmly in the seconda prattica.
The choir follows this with four of De Wert's pieces. First comes fantasia which enables us to hear the historic organ. Then three motets: Vox Rama from 1581, a wonderful five-part setting of Jeremiah set in a stark, dark and dramatic manner. This is followed by Ascendente Deus, also from 1581 which includes some delightfully tricky rhythmical passages. Then there is Adesto dolori mei, more restrained than the other two, printed in 1566. De Wert wrote surprisingly little sacred music so it is rather interesting to have these performances.
They conclude with a fine performance of Gombert's original motet on which Monteverdi's mass is based.
The choir give strong, well shaped performances and are quite naturally placed within the Santa Barbara acoustic. It has to be admitted that one of the counter-tenors does have a rather prominent voice, but given the disc’s other charms this is something that I can live with.
The booklet includes informative articles about the music and about the recording process along with full texts and translations.
Monteverdi's Missa in illo Tempore has not had that many outings on disc. It is included in Robert King’s survey of the complete Monteverdi sacred music on Hyperion, a set which should be on any Monteverdi-lover’s shelves. This new disc has the advantage of being recorded in the Basilica of Santa Barbara by an interesting ensemble.  

Robert Hugill

see also review by Johan van Veen (June 2012 Recording of the Month)
Strong, well shaped performances, naturally placed and performed by an interesting ensemble.