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Monteverdi, 1610 Vespers, Gabrieli Consort and Players, Paul McCreesh (released on November 14, 2006)
This month, the restless innovator Paul McCreesh (cited at Ionarts previously for his recovery of Gluck's Paride ed Elena and recordings of Saul and the St. Matthew Passion) released a recording of the 1610 Vespers with his Gabrieli Consort and Players. As Monteverdi probably intended choir directors who used his 1610 Vespers publication to do, McCreesh has selected from and reordered some of the pieces. McCreesh arrives at his solutions from extensive and intelligent analysis, partially explained in the interview with Prof. Tim Carter (author of Monteverdi's Musical Theater, recently reviewed by Barbara Russano Hanning in Journal for 17th-Century Music) in the liner notes. (However, the reference to an "introit" in a vespers service -- presumbably meaning the introductory versicle Deus in adiutorium -- is an error, albeit a minor one.) McCreesh admits that he does not make performance praxis decisions because he believes the result is "authentic," so the listener has only to be convinced by the sound or not.
Paul McCreesh, conductor
McCreesh has inserted some pieces for organ, by other composers from the period, which adds some instrumental interest. The tuning of the organ will curl your hair until you get used to it. The musical complaints I have revolve especially around the performance of the Gregorian chants in this recording, which seem to have all vitality drained out of them, sung by a schola of little subtlety. In the same vein, I can see the intellectual points of McCreesh's preference for a different proportional relationship between the sections in duple and triple meter. However, the result, triple-meter sections at a much slower tempo, has the same effect of sucking the life out of the music.
Monteverdi, 1610 Vespers (with both Magnificats and Missa In illo tempore), The King's Consort, Robert King (released on June 13, 2006)
Essentially, the Mass provides the other panel of Monteverdi's compositional diptych, the mastery of the old polyphonic style to go with the more daring new techniques in the Vespers. So, it is nice to have them together in one recording. The singing here is also generally quite good, especially in the solo passages. In particular, the 6-part Magnificat, not as familiar as the preferred 7-part version, is a delight. Occasionally, the whole choir pleases less, especially the stridency of treble and alto lines, and there are some tuning problems. The instrumental playing is flexible and virtuosic, including remarkable performances from the cornetto players, praiseworthy because the instrument is so difficult and potentially so ugly.
Monteverdi, 1610 Vespers, Kammerchor Stuttgart, Music Fiata, Choralschola Niederalteich, Frieder Bernius (released on September 14, 1989)
Monteverdi, 1610 Vespers, Apollo's Fire, Jeannette Sorrell (released on June 15, 1999)
Archiv 00289 477 6147 / Hyperion CDA67531/2 / Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 7760-2-RC / Eclectra ECCD-2038