Sunday, February 26, 2017

Vespers: Vespro della Beata Vergine

Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir, the English Baroque Soloists and the Pages du Centre de musique Baroque de Versailles perform Monteverdi's "Vespro della Beata Vergine."

In 1964 Gardiner founded the Monteverdi Choir for a performance of the Monteverdi Vespers (1610) at King's College Chapel, Cambridge. A specialist of Baroque ensemble, the Choir has become famous for its stylistic conviction and extensive repertoire, encompassing music from the Renaissance period to Classical music of the 20th century. They often appear with John Eliot Gardiner's orchestras, the English Baroque soloists and orchestra Révolutionnaire et Romantique.

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, singer, and Catholic priest. He is considered a crucial transitional figure between the Renaissance and the Baroque periods of music history. Monteverdi wrote one of the earliest operas, L'Orfeo, which is the earliest surviving opera still regularly performed.

From the notes on the video:
The historical interest of this work is almost as great as its inherent qualities. Vespers are part of the daily Offices, or Canonical Hours, of the church, music for the Offices including psalms (with antiphons), hymns, and canticles, as well as chanted lessons (with responsories). 
Although inspired by the Church Office, Monteverdi's Vespers in many ways transcends the original concept, perfectly exemplifying the transition between austere Renaissance polyphony and sheer Baroque splendor. Monteverdi makes his characteristic contribution to sacred music in a bold, almost operatic, style, complete with daring stereophonic and echo effects, and includes a suite of instrumental dances, concerti sections for both voices and orchestra, and a love song. 
Completed in 1610, the Vespers was written for the court of the Gonzaga family in Mantua, where Monteverdi was employed from 1590 to 1612, and dedicated to Pope Paul V. But the composition's true home is undoubtedly the cathedral of St. Mark in Venice, where Monteverdi was appointed maestro di cappella in 1613. Indeed, the Vespers could well have been conceived with its echoing spaces, galleries, balconies, organ, and choir lofts in mind.
The location of this performance is the magnificent Versailles Chapelle Royale.
Construction of the Royal Chapel was completed in 1710 at the end of the reign of Louis XIV. It was the fifth – and final – chapel built in the Palace since the reign of Louis XIII. The design was presented to the king by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1699.
The "Vespro della Beata Vergine" were written as a kind of demonstration piece: an example of what can be done setting texts in different styles, particularly the new theatrical style (the foundation of opera) of which Monteverdi was a great pioneer,"Ted Libbey writes. "Instead of hearing the flowing, closely knit counterpoint expected from a composer like Palestrina of the preceding generation, you hear something that's half opera and half dance. It's a marvelous mélange of styles."

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