A grand statement of the Vespers
FrKurt Messick | Bloomington, IN USA | 10/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This magnificent recording features the Musica Fiata Koln, the Kammerchor Stuttgart, and the Choralschola der Niederalteicher Scholaren. All is overseen by the direction of Frieder Bernius, who has become known for his approach to historical music being done as close to the period as possible in many aspects. His Kammerchor Stuttgart has become a prize-winning vocal ensemble, touring the world and producing dozens of recording. The Musica Fiata Koln is dedicated to preserving sixteenth and seventeenth century music in techniques and instruments of the time.
This makes them well suited to produce Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610. The title is actually a fluid aspect of this - some term it the Marienvesper, others Vespro Della Beata Vergine - in any case, it is a set of music that is somewhat mysterious. It is not known if this was intended as a complete set, or a loose collection of motets and psalms, together with some versicles, a hymn, and a wonderful Magnificat.
Monteverdi's Vespers were his first sacred composition in decades, perhaps prompted by a desire to get a place at the papal court. Some have argued that this is a more general composition that could be applied to any female saint, but that Marian Vespers had more 'sales appeal'. In the end, Monteverdi did not get a papal appointment, but did move from Mantua to Venice.
This is a huge piece, requiring strong vocals and strong instrumentals. There are seven different pieces for soloists, including some instrumental solos. According to one commentator, '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.' According to Silke Leopold, this music by Monteverdi shows not what church music was, but rather what Monteverdi thought church music could and should be. This was in many ways a flight of fancy for Monteverdi, as he didn't seem to worry about the practical constraints of performance.
Monteverdi is a bridge between the Renaissance and Baroque periods. His music represents definite developments beyond the more typical constraints of Renaissance polyphony and sacred composition, and anticipates some of the types of orchestration and composition that will come to fulfillment in the Baroque period. He was a prolific composer of secular pieces, including one of the earliest operas, L'Orfeo.
The Vespers is one of the best pieces of music from this period, and this recording is a grand statement of the work.
I'm not an expert on the Vespers but...
Ryan Kouroukis | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 01/01/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This recording conveys all the purity, sanctity and drama needed for Monteverdi's Vespers. Frieder Bernius uses a chamber orchestra and chorus to maintain the works liturgical setting.
The recording was made in a church in 1989 and the acoustics are wonderful, and the soloists are impeccable in their singing.
I actually went out on a limb and bought this recording used based on a Penguin Guide review which gave it 3 stars, and it was well worth it...I finally have Monteverdi's Vespers!"