- Conductor: Giuseppe Maletto
- Composer: Claudio Monteverdi
- Audio CD (April 14 2017)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Glossa
- ASIN: B06XDRZ2NB
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #56,178 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Claudio Monteverdi: Vespro della Beata Vergine
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On its onward journey across the major secular and sacred landmarks of Italian Renaissance polyphony, La Compagnia del Madrigale has now turned its attention to Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine and this new recording on Glossa presents this award-winning chamber ensemble in its prime and in the company of Cantica Symphonia and La Pifarescha, all under the direction of Giuseppe Maletto: a veritable cornucopia of present-day early music performers! The thorough-going approach taken to this collection reflects the long experience that these Italian musicians have had with such music and covers all areas of the performance: the polarity between psalms and sacri concentus, the pictorial madrigalisms in the text, whether to add plainchant or not, how to interpret the tactus signs, which instruments to use for the bassus generalis, and crucially, the choices relating to tempi and pitch. The answers to such questions can be gained from listening to this major new recording, but Giuseppe Maletto does – in the dialogue which he has with Marco Bizzarini, La Compagnia del Madrigale’s regular booklet essay writer – invite the listener, in this fast-moving world, to respect the spirit of the composer and recover the calm of another age. What emerges is a refreshing, but natural, response to one of the choral masterworks in the catalogue, a piece which reflects a sophisticated musical logic: a summa, avers Maletto, of deeply-absorbed Renaissance experiences projected more towards some far-off future than identifiable with the dawning Baroque.
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There were many passages where I felt an emotional response for the first time, and I was so overwhelmed at the end of the first Magnificat (a 7) that I had to stop the disc.
Performing forces are large but varied from 17 voices and 16 instruments in the Magnificats, 8 solo voices and organ in Laudate pueri. Use of Renaissance instruments (most notably some distinctive cornetti) imparts a brightness of timbre that I have not encountered in Alessandrini, Gardiner, McCreesh, Parrott, or Pluhar. The work is performed according to the printed order, without any reordering or interpolations to correspond with a hypothetical liturgical context. This is of no consequence. Obtain this disc at once and experience the overwhelming majesty of Monteverdi's vision. In the words of another reviewer whose work I admire greatly: Burn! burn! burn!
Voices, instruments and direction are of the very highest quality throughout. The performers consist of the singers of La Compagnia del Madrigale, the period instrument ensemble La Pifarescha, and both voices and instruments from Cantica Symphonia, all directed by Giuseppe Maletto. The choral sections are sung by around twenty voices, with about the same number of instruments. Vocal soloists, choir and players are superb without exception, and the resulting sounds and comparatively broad tempi enable the performers - and listeners - to revel in Monteverdi's rich sonorities.
Solo vocal passages are beautiful throughout; the two soprano soloists, Rossana Bertini and Francesca Cassinari, are fabulous – and, for that matter, so are all the others including tenor and director Maletto.
Some features of the second disc are especially worth noting. The 'Sonata sopra Sancta Maria' is, again, very much on the slow side but exceptionally beautiful. The six soprano voices sing with perfect purity; the instrumental embellishments, especially from the cornetti, are a delight, and the piece carries a rich cumulative power. Unusually for 'Ave maris stella', none of the ritornelli are scored for brass instruments here. But the latter return with a vengeance for the first, seven-voice version of the Magnificat, their ritornelli ringing and majestic. I greatly appreciated having both the six- and seven-voice Magnificats performed, in contrast to the majority of other versions which choose either one or the other. The six-voice setting, scored for singers and organ alone, is a wonderful piece, and in fact Maletto's approach to broader tempi pays off superbly in both works.
One result of these choices is that we have more than two hours of music in this set. This is in itself a welcome aspect, all the more so since it is all delivered with such heart and commitment, marking the whole performance with a truly devotional quality. Recorded sound is superb, in a splendid ambience. Booklet notes are also excellent, and include enlightening discussion on Monteverdi's intentions for his music and on choices in performing style. Texts and translations are, of course, provided.
Altogether this is an outstanding recording of Monteverdi's great sacred masterpiece, different from most others in the ways described, but superbly conceived and directed, as well as offering singing and playing of the very highest quality. It's an entirely convincing performance, both moving and deeply satisfying musically, and it well deserves a place among the very best versions in the catalogue.