Welcome to Harmonia Uncut, the podcast that brings you modern performances of old music. I’m Wendy Gillespie, inviting you to join me to listen to part of a performance of the famous Monteverdi Vespers of 1610. We’re listening to the Green Mountain Project, Dark Horse Consort, and Chant Schola on January 3, 2019 at the Church of St. Jean Baptiste in New York City, where an all-star cast of 40 collected to bring Monteverdi’s music to life.
The Monteverdi Vespers encapsulates many of the most pressing performance issues that continue to exercise us, presenting performers with choices to make at every turn, from temperament to tempo, continuo realization to organ registration. Pitch level, instruments, transpositions, vocal style, pronunciation of Latin – all these decisions have to be made before rehearsal can begin.
Let’s hear a couple of excerpts from this performance, starting with one that highlights the instrumental participation. Obviously, the performers have decided to use women’s voices on the top of the Sonata sopra Sancta Maria Ora pro nobis, and it might be less obvious, but both the cornetto parts are taken by women, not to mention a whole lot of other instrumental parts. In Monteverdi’s time, this probably would not have happened. How much does it matter? Can you tell that the cornetti are being played by women? Aren’t they FABULOUS?
MUSIC: Sonata sopra Sancta Maria Ora pro nobis
The Green Mountain Project, (Has the ensemble’s very name said “Monteverdi” to you yet?), Dark Horse Consort (those are the cornets and sackbuts), and the Chant Schola collaborated on this performance of Claudio Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers.
The hymn Ave maris stella (Hail, star of the sea) is one of the oldest sung to the Virgin. It takes on a magical incarnation in the hands of Monteverdi, with each verse scored differently and the various verses framed by an instrumental ritornello. The first and last verses have eight vocal parts, a rich and solemn texture, the inner verses using smaller forces.
MUSIC: Ave maris stella
That was the Ave maris stella from Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers. You’ve gotten to hear a whole lot of the instrumentalists in this performance, so let’s end by giving the vocalists their chance to shine in the Magnificat. The performers have chosen to do the 7-part Magnificat transposed down a fourth from the written pitch, as has become the accepted way of interpreting the special clefs found at the beginning of each part.
We’ve been listening to a live performance of the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 from January of 2019 by the Green Mountain Project, Dark Horse Consort, and Chant Schola. Many thanks to artistic director Jolie Greenleaf for making this recording available to us.
We’d be interested to hear what you think about anything you’ve heard on this podcast. You can find Harmonia on Facebook, or leave a comment or question any time by visiting harmonia early music dot org. I’m Wendy Gillespie. This has been the Harmonia Uncut podcast. Thanks for listening and come again.