LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Vespro solenne: Lauda Jerusalem; Magnificat
PERFORMER: Cantus Cölln/Konrad Junghänel
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901706
Every CD has to have a selling-point and this one is billed as ‘Venetian Solemn Vespers for the Birth of Louis XIV’. We do know that in 1638 the French Ambassador to Venice commissioned for the occasion a solemn Mass and a Te Deum from Giovanni Rovetta, the assistant maestro di cappella to the great Monteverdi, but there is no mention of Vespers. For such a CD we might have expected to get the impressive ceremonial Mass which survives in Rovetta’s Op. 4 collection of 1639, but instead we are given these pieces which, we are told, ‘give us a good idea’ of solemn music from Venice at this time.
Even so this is impressive stuff. ‘Lauda Jerusalem’ is particularly fine and attracts a suave and delectable performance, as does the marvellous echo duet of ‘Beatus vir’. Only in the Magnificat does the slightly heavy continuo-playing threaten to overwhelm the vocal soloists. In general, though, Konrad Junghänel brings off another stylish and musical performance. And, along the way, he offers us a fascinating glimpse into just how accomplished some of Monteverdi’s contemporaries were – not only Rovetta but also Buonamente, whose jewel-like sonatas are performed between the psalms. Anthony Pryer