Monteverdi: Gloria in excelsis Deo; Dixit Dominus II; Memento Domine David

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COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Sacred Music, Vol. 3
WORKS: Gloria in excelsis Deo; Dixit Dominus II; Memento Domine David
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson, Rebecca Outram (soprano), Daniel Auchincloss, Rogers Covey-Crump (high tenor), Charles Daniels, James Gilchrist (tenor), Peter Harvey, Robert Evans (bass); Choir of The King’s Consort, The King’s Consort/Robert King
Monteverdi’s sacred music has been somewhat neglected, and so it is good news to see these volumes appearing so rapidly. The first gave us selections from his big 1641 collection, the Selva morale, and the second mostly from some small anthologies published by Calvi in the 1620s. This new release returns to the Selva morale for the magnificent Gloria for seven voices probably written in 1631 to celebrate the end of the plague in Venice, and takes most of the other items from collections published between 1618 and 1625. It would be difficult to praise these performances too highly. They are so sure-footed – especially in the beautiful but dangerously fragmented melodies of Salve Regina II, and the unsettling time changes of Laude Jerusalem I. If one must quibble, then the first Nisi Dominus setting could have been shaped more imaginatively, and the solo part of Ecce sacrum sung with more ornamentation (perhaps in the embellished version published by Mittel in 1651), but even in these pieces the balance and acoustic is very nicely adjusted and managed. As for the great seven-voiced Gloria, the clarity and sheer élan here defeat close rival performances by William Christie and Konrad Junghänel (both on Harmonia Mundi). Anthony Pryer