Monteverdi Vespers

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Monteverdi Vespers

  • Vespro della Beata Vergine, 'Vespers'

It's surely a healthy sign of the times that this, the first version of Monteverdi's Vespers to appear on CD, should be a performance that effectively reconstructs the work as a liturgical act, using modest vocal and instrumental forces such as Monteverdi would probably have employed himself. Iain Fenlon has already sung the praises of this recording, and I need to little more than act as an echo-tenor; it is a fascinating and fine interpretation, worthy of sincere recommendation. Admittedly you will find more dramatic readings elsewhere, and the pace of the work is very different from that of the standard recorded and concert performance, being less end-oriented and constantly broken by plainchant antiphons, prayers and responses. But its quiet sincerity is its chief virtue, and this makes for a subtly devotional experience rather than a theatrical one.
My only reservations concern the recorded sound, which is slightly metallic in quality and does not realistically convey the spatial lay-out of the performers, nor simulate the wide open spaces of a church. I was also disappointed by some of the edits, which stand out clearly on CD (listen for example to the unfortunate ''spiritui san-cto'' in the echo-tenor's part at the very end of the Magnificat). Small grouses, you may say, and I accept that they will not necessarily spoil your appreciation of the performances themselves. But how wonderful it would have been to hear this music in a crystal-clear, resonant acoustic space, as though one had stolen into a church and by chance witnessed this celebration of Vespers echoing through the nave as living liturgy!'

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