Monteverdi: Vespers; Magnificat a 6; Missa ‘In illo tempore’

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COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Monteverdi
WORKS: Vespers; Magnificat a 6; Missa ‘In illo tempore’
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson, Rebecca Outram (soprano), Daniel Auchincloss, Nicholas Mulroy (high tenor), Charles Daniels, James Gilchrist (tenor), Peter Harvey, Robert Evans, Robert MacDonald (bass); The King’s Consort & Choir/Robert King
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 675312
This valuable addition to the catalogue combines not only all of the items of Monteverdi’s Vespers, but also the other great work originally printed in the same 1610 publication, the Missa In illo tempore, an astonishing and virtuosic display of traditional counterpoint. Furthermore, The King’s Consort bring great experience to this repertory: this is the fifth volume of their collected edition of Monteverdi’s sacred music, and they presented the Vespers live at the Proms in 2004.

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Like most performances these days, this one does not attempt to reconstruct a liturgical service around Monteverdi’s Vespers setting, and it observes the usual downward transpositions in the Lauda Jerusalem and the Magnificat settings. Rather unusually it does employ quite a large mixed choir (25 voices), which produces a thrilling, monumental sound in the Nisi Dominus and Magnificat settings, but seems rather ponderous and solid in the Missa In illo tempore. The resonant acoustic sometimes adds to the impenetrability of the sound. In the Vespers the choir is crowned by an excellent team of soloists, and the instrumentalists add panache and verve, particularly in the Sonata sopra ‘Santa Maria’. Taken all together this double CD is an excellent issue but, for the Vespers and Mass separately, there are probably preferable single recordings. It would be hard to beat the leaner, livelier and cheaper version of the Vespers by The Scholars Baroque Ensemble on the Naxos label, and the Mass comes in more reflective mode on Hyperion performed by The Sixteen under Harry Christophers. Anthony Pryer