Mantua: Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610) by Claudio Monteverdi

April 2010

Apr 23 2010 8:00 pm
St. Patrick's Seminary
Menlo Park CA

Apr 24 2010 8:00 pm
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
Berkeley CA

Apr 25 2010 3:00 pm
Grace Cathedral
San Francisco CA

(NB - the Sunday concert will begin at 3:00 rather than our usual 4:00 time.)

Lecture by Monteverdi Scholar Prof. Jeffrey Kurtzman 45 minutes before each performance.

click to enlarge

The year 2010 marks the 400th anniversary of one of the most significant publications in music history. With his famous Vespers of 1610 Monteverdi consciously melded the competing styles of old and new that fueled the great musical debate of the new century. Based on ancient psalm tones, the polyphonic settings of the Vespers liturgy offer a kaleidoscopic tour through the new musical styles that were evolving at the time. Magnificat is excited to be joining with the early wind ensemble The Whole Noyse to present this glorious music in the context of a vespers liturgy for the Feast of Annunciation.

Listen to Magnificat perform Pulchra es from Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers:

Monteverdi - Pulchra es


Perhaps the best-known music from the 17th century to modern audiences, the opening response, psalms, hymn, and concerted Magnificat included by Monteverdi in his 1610 publication are now most often performed as if they formed an independent whole apart from the liturgy they were intended to amplify; a suite or pastiche of sacred pieces. While it is not impossible that individual motets from the collection were performed outside a vespers liturgy during Monteverdi's life, the functional nature of the collection is clear from its contents and ordering; the composer has assembled polyphonic settings of the common elements of Vespers for feasts celebrating the Blessed Virgin.

The music that has come to be known as "The Monteverdi Vespers" is in fact only part of a collection published in Venice in 1610 that includes a six-voice parody mass based on a motet by Gombert and five settings of non-liturgical texts in addition to the polyphonic settings of the texts for vespers common to feasts of the Blessed Virgin. Of the five "sacred songs," four are in the most modern style of monodic writing, while the other is an equally up-to-date eight-part instrumental sonata built around a chanted Marian litany. These pieces were apparently intended to be performed after the psalm while the antiphon was repeated quietly by the officiant. This practice of substituting a piece of music for the proper antiphon was frowned upon by ecclesiastical authority, but seems nevertheless to have been extremely common in 17th century Italy.

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Catherine Webster, soprano

Jennifer Ellis Kampani, soprano

Christopher LeCluyse, alto

Paul Elliott, tenor

Alan Bennett, tenor

Hugh Davies, baritone & celebrant

Peter Becker, bass

Rob Diggins, violin

Jolianne von Einem, violin

John Dornenburg, violone

David Tayler, theorbo

Katherine Heater, organ

The Whole Noyse

Stephen Escher, cornetto & recorder

Richard Van Hessel, sackbut & recorder

Sandford Stadtfeld, sackbut

Herbert Myers, curtal & recorder


Ernie Rideout, sackbut