Monteverdi Vespers (1610)

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Programme

The English Concert launches their new partnership with Garsington Opera with a trio of performances of Monteverdi’s stunning Vespers (1610) under Laurence Cummings.

This atmospheric choral masterpiece was the composer’s first sacred work and one of the most ambitious and extensive to be composed before Bach. Written three years before becoming maestro di cappella at St Mark’s in Venice, its brilliant display of style, rich choruses and moving arias showcase Monteverdi’s genius as the ‘Father of opera.’

Featured Artists

The English Concert
The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble
Garsington Opera Chorus

Laurence Cummings conductor
Mary Bevan soprano
Sophie Bevan soprano
Benjamin Hulett tenor
Robert Murray tenor
James Way tenor

What’s interesting about this programme

Because Monteverdi writes modally, he applies most of his compositional genius to surface details rather than to harmonic developments. This means that two things: firstly, we have our ears constantly tickled by his melodic ingenuities and imitative inventions; secondly – and this is where the supercharged moments of the piece occur – when, after a through exploratiuon of one mode Monteverdi makes sudden changes course, we feel the new harmonic area as a visceral, fundamental and powerful shift. When, for instance, Monteverdi shifts abruptly to Bflat major for “Benedicta es” in Audi Coelum we feel the change of mode as a moment of absolute benediction, no matter whether or not we understand the composer’s exploitation of modes.

THere is a great deal of scope for improvisation in this piece, both for singers and instrumentalists. This means that we can perform (and listen to) the work countless times and never hear the same performance twice – meaning that the Vespers always feel alive, vital and on-the-edge. Furthermore, the many moments of direct imitation and echo give the performers plenty of chance to react to and build on each other’s ornamental flourishes as they attempot to delight and even outdo each other.