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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monteverdi's Vespro Della Beata Vergine, 1610, in a Bright New Recording

Claudio Monteverdi's 1610 Vespro Della Beata Vergine (da concerto, composto sopra canti fermi sex vocibus et sex instrumentalis) has, after 400 years, become one of the staples of the Western Cannon, a masterpiece of extended sacred music. The Choir of New College Oxford under Edward Higginbottom has given us a freshly minted recording (Novum 1382, 2CDs), honoring the 400th anniversary of the work's first publication. 400 years! May something of what we do now musically be so remembered in 2410!

The work itself is a beautiful example of Monteverdi's writing for massed choir and small chamber ensemble. Choral counterpoint and homophony join with expressive solo vocals and instrumental interludes. Listening today one is struck by the asymmetrical phrasing that corresponds to the choral text, and the richly varied setting.

The Choir of New College Oxford distinguishes the recording by utilizing a boy's choir for the upper vocal lines, which gives the sound a special resonance.

It is a masterful performance, one of the very best. If you have no Monteverdi in your collection or, like me, you have a good deal, no matter. This one is a great addition to your library either way.

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