Performance does not come better than this.
J. Price | Canberra, ACT Australia | 12/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've been performing early vocal music for more than a decade now, and for these late pieces of Monteversi, this is the best permance you could want or even find.The performance is at the cutting edge of scholarship for the time, and Andrew Parrot may well do things slightly differently nowadays, but here the perfornace is fresh, crisp, tightly controlled and fully expressive of the texts.The soloists are the "standard" stunningly excellent Tavener Consort and Players, with all the virtuosity, vocal brilliance and interpretation you expect from Emma Kirkby, David Thomas and all the rest.You're reading this review, so you're interested or curious in the disc. Buy it."
Radical but not fundamentalist
Leslie Richford | Selsingen, Lower Saxony | 12/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Claudio Monteverdi?s sacred music is more than the ever-present ?Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary? which he published at the beginning of his long period of service at St. Mark?s Cathedral in Venice. The ?Selva Morale e Spirituale?, published in 1640, reflect probably far more accurately the music that Monteverdi performed over the years in Venice. Andrew Parrott has selected five psalms, a hymn, a motet, a Magnificat and a three-voice Salve Regina to demonstrate something of the ?sound? of the later Monteverdi. But although Parrott is a ?radical? (i. e. he goes back to the roots and does thorough historical research into the music he wishes to perform), he is not a ?fundamentalist? (i. e. he does not sacrifice the beauty of the music to purely historical considerations). In this instance, he comes to the conclusion that, for the most part, the music should be performed by soloists assisted by a choir at certain points. And he admits that the sopranos would have been, in Monteverdi?s day, ?castrati? rather than boy trebles or falsettists; as this sound simply cannot be reproduced today, Parrott opts for (typically British?) vibratoless female soprano voices. He also has the alto part sung by a high tenor. The whole is accompanied on period instruments: three seventeenth-century violins, modern copies of an archlute and a theorbo, an organ and a violone (a kind of seventeenth-century double bass).
For some reason, EMI has missed out this last instrument in its credits, although Andrew Parrott expressly mentions it in his notes and it can be quite clearly heard alongside the organ. As for the other participants, they are really quite the crème de la crème of the English early music scene at the beginning of the 80?s (the recording was made in the Temple Church in the City of London in December, 1982). The soloists are the divine Emma Kirkby, here sounding as beautiful and pure as ever; high tenor Roger Covey-Crump, also known for his perfomances with the Hilliards among others; famous tenor Nigel Rogers; and the somewhat gruff bass David Thomas, whose voice could sometimes be something of a problem, but who fits in nicely to the ensemble here and is certainly above reproach with regard to his knowledge of historical performance practice.
The Taverner Consort consists of eight singers of equal reputation: Tessa Bonner, Evelyn Tubb, Emily van Evera (Andrew Parrott?s wife), Charles Daniels, Joseph Cornwell, Andrew King, Richard Savage and Richard Wistreich. Many of these names are repeated in the credits as they re-occur in the listing of the Taverner Choir; the ensemble as a whole includes almost all of the regular participants in the Consort of Musicke.
The instrumental ensemble is also full of renowned soloists: John Holloway, Alison Bury, Francis Baines, Anthony Bailes, Nigel North, John Toll. This is musicianship on the highest level, with lovely singing and playing almost making me wish I could have lived back in the 17th century and heard the original singing! The only slight drawback to this CD is the slightly cavernous sound in the empty Temple Church. But if you are a Monteverdi or early choral fan and this disc is available, buy it!