Sunday, 13 January 2008

32. Claudio Monteverdi - Vespers (1610)


Title: Vespre della Beata Virgine 1610
Performer: Taverner Consort, Choir & Players
Director: Andrew Parrott
Year: 1984
Length: 1 hour 40 minutes approx.


This is our first example of Monteverdi's sacred music and it was also his first major religious publication. Monteverdi brings to this many of his qualities as a secular composer, be it his love for the words, sung in a way that you can discern each individual word while not sacrificing ornamentation and Monteverdi's characteristic bright instrumentation.

To see why Monteverdi is great you have only to compare the Gregorian sections to the sections that are embellished by Monteverdi's particular genius. This being said it is a very long collection of music which can soon blend into itself.

Still there are particular stand-outs here, whether it be the epic-sized Magnificat at the beginning of the second CD in this collection or the beautiful short Responsorium which consists of the second track. A very interesting insight into the other side of Monteverdi which also confirms the superiority of his secular compositions.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

The Vespers is a monumental work of music, calling for a choir large enough and skilful enough to cover up to 10 vocal parts in some movements and split into separate choirs in others while accompanying seven different soloists during the course of the piece. Interestingly, solo parts are included for violin and cornetto, but the ripieno instrumentation is not specified by Monterverdi. Additionally, Monteverdi did not specify a specific set of plainchant antiphons to insert before each psalm and the concluding Magnificat. This allows the performers to tailor the music according to the available instrumental forces and the occasion of the performance (the particular feast day's liturgy would have included suggested antiphons that could be chanted before Monterverdi's psalm settings).

Monterverdi's unique approach to each movement of the Vespers earned the work a place in history. The work not only presents intimate, prayerful moments within its monumental scale, but it also incorporates secular music in this decidedly religious performance and its individual movements present an array of musical forms - sonata, motet, hymn, and psalm - without losing focus. The Vespers achieves overall unity by building each movement on the traditional Gregorian plainchant for each text, which becomes a cantus firmus in Monteverdi's setting.

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