Monteverdi: Vespro della beata vergine da concerto (1610)

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COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
WORKS: Vespro della beata vergine da concerto (1610)
PERFORMER: Roberta Invernizzi, Monica Piccinini, Anna Simboli (soprano), Sara Mingardo (contralto), Francesco Ghelardini (countertenor), Vincenzo di Donato, Luca Dordolo, Gianluca Ferrarini (tenor), Pietro Spagnoli, Furio Zanasi (baritone), Antonio Abete, Daniele Ca
CATALOGUE NO: 111 OP 30403
The first thing to say about this version of the famous 1610 Vespers is that it avoids the splashy ‘massiveness’ of those recordings that assume the work should fill the role of a great concert piece in the grand spaces of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. This is a move in the right direction since it was composed well before Monteverdi even arrived in Venice. As for the liturgical context, Rinaldo Alessandrini has decided not to introduce any plainsong antiphons, though the evidence is that antiphons would have been included. In this he differs from the versions by Philip Pickett (Decca L’oiseau-lyre), Harry Christophers (Hyperion) and Andrew Parrott (Virgin) – though to no great musical detriment. One unusual feature of Alessandrini’s approach is that he changes speed frequently. He thinks the many different styles in the work justify this. But just because, for example, the phrase structures of the ‘Ave Maris stella’ music derive from secular dances (which is how they are played) Monteverdi’s final expressive intent might nonetheless have been different within this sacred context. Anyway, the soloists make the most of these local expressive opportunities: Monica Piccinini produces in ‘Pulchra es’ a lovely ‘white’ chamber music sound, while Pietro Spagnoli in ‘Audi coelum’ gives us a full operatic vibrato. Such variety is fine, except in ‘Duo seraphim’ where the duetting is marred by a mismatch between the competing styles of the singers. These features tend to put Alessandrini’s version behind the equally musical but consistent (not to say cheaper) version by the Scholars Baroque Ensemble on Naxos (reviewed November 1995). Anthony Pryer