An enduring masterpiece of early Baroque sacred music, Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine (known in English as ‘Vespers’) was the most ambitious religious or vocal work to be written before the time of J.S. Bach, calling for a large chorus, soloists and orchestra and employing an innovative array of musical forms. Contrasting the contemplative cantus firmus underpinning the entire work (Dixit Dominus, Laetatus Sum) with moments of dazzling theatricality (Nisi Dominus, Deus in Adiutorium), Monteverdi looks to the future of dramatic music whilst staying true to the work’s Gregorian bloodline.
Under the guidance of director Federico Bardazzi, Ensemble Felice bring their scrupulous scholarship to the many interpretative decisions to be made, as the order of movements and much of the orchestration is left to the performers’ discretion. Grounded in research into the historical context and practices surrounding the work, Bardazzi has chosen to structure it by placing motets between the prescribed sequence of psalms. The quietude of the motets provides a wonderful contrast to these often grandiose choral movements, and the placing of the Sicut erat towards the end makes a fitting climax to the entire work. Ensemble Felice also come with a full compliment of Monteverdi’s intended orchestral forces including a 30-strong choir, full orchestra and specially invited brass ensemble La Pifarescha. Working closely with the non-metric Latin text, the ensemble use changes of character, rhythm and metre to maximise its expressive potential. With performances on period instruments, authentic renditions of Gregorian chants and an attention to detail that even retunes concert pitch to its more historically accurate version, this is a faithful recording of a supreme work.
Dedicated to Pope Paul V, Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 is one of the great masterpieces of the early Baroque. The score features an amazing variety of styles – grand choral and instrumental, solo motets, two settings of the Magnificat, duets and trios in the latest monodic style, and above all, a sense of theatre, which might be explained by Monteverdi’s composition of two operas at around the same time, L’Orfeo and L’Arianna.
Monteverdi’s Vespers are performed regularly nowadays, and count among the iconic choral masterworks of the Renaissance/Baroque. This festive new recording by the Ensemble San Felice, conducted by Federico Bardazzi, features authentic instruments (cornettos and trombones!) and a line of excellent Italian vocal soloists.
Contains extensive liner notes on the preparation of the recording written by the director himself.
Contains ensemble biography and full sung text in Latin.
Recorded in Italy in 2011.