Claudio Monteverdi: Vespro Della Beata Vergine

There are reportedly many recordings of Monteverdi’s Vespers of the Blessed Virgin, but the unique thing about this new album is that it was produced following the performances of “a scenic interpretation” with the Spanish stage director Calixto Bieito.
We’ve got no idea what “a scenic interpretation” is, mind, unless it involves dressing up the musicians and taking them to play in Venice, which would be a cool gig to get.
In fact, this could be the most important vesper ever composed and have whole books written about it, but as far we can say it’s just a pleasant liturgical programme, perhaps best listened to after watching the news and getting all stressed.
It is clearly a complex piece, with lots of voices and instruments and it’s varied in sound, around the basic restriction that it was meant to be performed in a church – it was published in Venice, with a dedication to Pope Paul V dated 1st September, 1610.
Musicologists have debated (it really does have books written about it) whether it was written as one work – even a compendium for services from which a selection could be made – or is an assemblage of older pieces.
Googling it, we found a quote from an Oxford University Press book that said: “It seems as if Monteverdi was intent in displaying his skills in virtually all contemporary styles of composition, using every modern structural technique.”
Wikipedia reports that he might have written it in hope of getting a better job, which is possibly key: the variation and richness are possibly because he wanted it to be not just a piece of music for church but a calling card of how good he was.
This is out now on CPO 555314-2.

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