I Fagiolini perform Monteverdi: The Other Vespers

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COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
ALBUM TITLE: Monteverdi: The Other Vespers
WORKS: Dixit Dominus II; Confitebor tibi Domine; Beatus vir; Laudate pueri; Laudate Dominum; Ut queant laxis; plus works by Palestrina, Castello, Donati, Frescobaldi, Gabrieli, Usper and Viadana
PERFORMER: I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingworth
CATALOGUE NO: 483 1654


I Fagiolini isn’t the only group to have approached Monteverdi’s swansong collection of sacred music by way of an astutely assembled Vespers framework. Concerto Italiano’s 2014 delve into the 1641 Selva morale e spirituale fashioned a liturgy for the feast of St Mark. Robert Hollingworth, taking his cue from the ecstatic ear-witness report of a Dutch tourist in 1620 Venice, honours St John the Baptist with an adroitly chosen line-up.

The pillars of Monteverdi’s core settings are adorned with a sumptuous liturgical tapestry including instrumental items such as Bjarte Eike’s airborne account of a Sonata for violin by Castello, and Catherine Pierron’s cogently-argued Frescobaldi Toccata. Most arresting of all is the Ave Verum respray by Bovicelli of a Palestrina madrigal whose highly embellished top line is reassigned by Hollingworth to a ‘cornetto muto’ – Gawain Glenton freewheeling mellifluously above the four male voices. The result spookily seems to anticipate by almost four centuries the evocative collaborations between saxophonist Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble. Indeed Glenton’s effortless virtuosity is par for the course in a disc that encourages dizzying vocal pyrotechnics and flights of ornamental fancy. The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble lends pulchritudinous polish to an eight-part Sonata by Francesco Usper (following a fervently sonorous 14-part Magnificat by Giovanni Gabrieli); and, full of madrigalian intensity, Ignazio Donati’s Dulcis amor Iesu!, lacerates.

Just occasionally, putting into practice his current thinking, Hollingworth’s tempos can sound a touch didactic, but this is a glorious addition to the Monteverdi 450 celebrations. And all hail I Fagiolini in its 30th birthday year!


Paul Riley