Monteverdi: Vespro In II. Vesperis in Festis B. Mariae V; Magnificat secondo à quattro voci; Motets

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COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: Opus
WORKS: Vespro In II. Vesperis in Festis B. Mariae V; Magnificat secondo à quattro voci; Motets
PERFORMER: Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
CATALOGUE NO: 111 OPS 30-150 DDD
This stunning disc begins with Vespers, not Monteverdi’s own collation of 1610 but music selected from collections published thirty years and more later. The scale is smaller – the elegant proportions of solo voices with colourful continuo rather than the familiar vocal and instrumental choirs, and plainchant antiphons replacing the earlier solo motets. The following Magnificat is more severe still, alternating plainchant with four-part voices self-consciously demonstrating the composer’s skill in archaic Palestrinian counterpoint. In total contrast, the disc ends with eight motets ranging from vividly descriptive six-part psalm settings to erotic solos from the Song of Songs.

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Concerto Italiano meet these contrasting demands superbly, crisp in ensemble, energetic and fluent – the vivid word-painting of ‘Lauda Jerusalem’ flashes past the ears. Individual voices are full of personality in the impassioned solo and duo motets such as ‘Laudate Dominum’, with spectacular ornamentation over its near-ostinato continuo, and a bounding graphic bass. Yet they blend richly elsewhere, not least because of their exemplary flexible intonation – hear the calm sonority evoking ‘sleep’ in ‘Nisi Dominus’. Recording balance leaves nothing to be desired in the ideal acoustic of a room in an Italian villa. A Monteverdi experience not to be missed. George Pratt