CD: Monteverdi: Vespers of 1610

(Archiv, two CDs)

Paul McCreesh is not the first conductor to attempt to create a liturgical context for Monteverdi's Vespers - the pioneer in that, on disc, was Andrew Parrott, in a recording that's still available on the Virgin Veritas label. But McCreesh does it all so naturally that his use of plainchant and the insertions of instrumental movements by other late renaissance composers, as well as an organ improvisation, merely enhance the impact of Monteverdi's extraordinary compendium of choral music and bind it into an organic unity.

The performances are so musically judicious in their scale and instrumentation and so evocatively recorded (in the chapel of Tonbridge School) that is hard to quibble with much, but though the Gabrieli Consort disguise their English roots more successfully in Monteverdi than some of their homegrown counterparts, there could be a rawer, more Italianate tang to some of the singing, and a more dramatic, theatrical edge. The Vespers were, after all, assembled around the time Monteverdi was composing the first ever operatic masterpiece, Orfeo.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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