Program: Monteverdi A Due Voci Pari

"Ellis and Webster have the agility, the accuracy, and the focused sound for this music, in which any of those three qualities being lacking spells major trouble. Agility, for example: Ellis' coloratura in the solo motet Exulta filia Sion (Rejoice, daughter of Zion) and Webster's in the third Salve Regina from the Selva morale were marvelous." San Francisco Classical Voice review of Magnificat's program "A Due Voci Pari"

A showcase for Magnificat's sopranos Catherine Webster and Jennifer Ellis Kampani, this delightful program features music for a pair of sopranos and a pair of violins with continuo. The program offers examples from all of Monteverdi's major publications along with instrumental music by two of his colleagues in Venice - Biagio Marini and Dario Castello. The program requires a total of seven musicians.

Listen to Catherine Webster and Jennifer Ellis Kampani in a live performance of Monteverdi's Zefiro torna:

Monteverdi - Zefiro torna

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Given his importance as a composer of operas dominated by monody, it is somewhat surprising that Monteverdi left relatively few free-standing solo madrigals. During his own lifetime, Monteverdi’s most famous composition was surely Arianna’s lament, sadly the only part of his 1608 opera to survive, thanks to its independent publication and the composer’s own re-workings of it. The lament appeared as a five-voice composition in his sixth book of madrigals in 1614 and later, with Latin text and transformed to a plaint of Mary at the Cross as the Pianto della Madonna. In contrast to the melancholy mood of the Lament, Exulta, filia Sion, is an exuberant and virtuosic work for soprano with string ritornelli that appeared in a collection of the works of various composers in 1629.

Listen to Jennifer Ellis Kampani in a live performance of Monteverdi's Exulta filia Sion:

Monteverdi - Exulta Filia


A very different mood is captured in another highlight from the program, the tender Si dolce è 'l tormento from a 1624 collection.

Listen to Catherine Webster in a live performance of Monteverdi's Si Dolce è 'l Tormento:

Monteverdi Si Dolce è 'l Tormento


If Monteverdi left very few works for solo voice, he more than compensated with numerous duets, a repertoire that includes some of his most beloved works.  Magnificat's program includes Pulchra es from the 1610 collection of vespers music, O come gentile and O viva fiamma from the Seventh Book of Madrigals, Mentrevaga Angioletta from the Eighth, and Zefiro torna from the Scherzi musicali. Also on the program are Monteverdi's magnificent setting of the psalm Confitebor and the Marian antiphon Salve Regina. Each of these works reflects the blurring of stylistic distinctions between sacred and secular during the first half of the century, particularly in the echo effects in the latter. Salve Regina incorporates the text from another motet from the composer's famous vespers collection, Audi cœlum.

In addition to the music for sopranos, the program also includes examples of the virtuoso violin music that was flourishing during Monteverdi's time in Venice. A native of Brescia, Biagio Marini was engaged as a violinist at San Marco under Monteverdi in 1615. During the course of his long career he worked in courts  across Europe before returning to Venice at the end of his life. Little is known of Dario Castello, though it is likely that he and other members of his family were employed as musicians at San Marco. He published over two dozen sonatas for violin before his untimely death during the plague of 1630.

Listen to an excerpt of Castello's Sonata "La Foscarina" from a live recording by Magnificat:

Castello La Foscarina (excerpt)


free music download from Magnificat

free music download from Magnificat

free music download from Magnificat

free music download from Magnificat



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