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Monteverdi: Vespro della Beata Vergine / The Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner (filmed at the Chapelle Royale du Chateau de Versailles) [Blu-ray & DVD]

Notes & Reviews:

In 1610, Monteverdi gave his Vespers for the Virgin in Mantua before conquering the Basilica of Saint Mark in Venice. This was the first great sacred masterpiece of the Baroque. Following the brilliant Orfeo (1607), the Vespers borrow its opening fanfare and positioned Monteverdi as the leading composer of his time. J. E. Gardiner founded the Monteverdi Choir, one of the world's finest choruses, specifically for this work, which he conducted for the first time in 1964 and subsequently recorded twice. With the present recording, where the image ideally accompanies the music, J. E. Gardiner wanted to make more perceptible the spatialisation that characterized Venetian music, by using the specific architecture and different levels of the Chapelle Royale at Versailles.

Notes & Reviews:

Run Time: 105 min.
Region: 0
Picture Format: Blu-Ray and NTSC, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM Stereo


Monteverdi Vespro Della Beata Vergine John Eliot Gardiner
Claudio Monteverdi's life spanned the dramatic changeover in compositional style from the long, mellifluous melodies of the Renaissance period to the dramatic and dynamic style that typifies compositions of the Baroque era. This startling change occurred mainly between 1600 and 1610, after which the appearance of new Renaissance-style works dwindled steadily. Monteverdi adapted adroitly during this decade of what must have been a major upheaval in the musical world. He became adept at writing in two styles of composition; one reflects the heritage of Renaissance polyphony while the other utilizes the new basso-continuo technique of the Baroque. Many of his compositions show that he was extemely accomplished at combining these two seemingly incompatible styles. His early works, e.g. the opera "Orfeo" of ca. 1609, show a mixture of the two styles whereas his late masterpieces, e.g. "Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria" and "L'incoronazione di Poppea," contain few residual traces of the Renaissance era. His "Vespro della Beata Vergine" of 1610 exhibits both styles in a magnificent work that is frequently referred to simply as "Vespers." The term "Vespers" (evening prayers) is taken from the Hours of the Divine Office, a set of daily prayers of the Catholic Church which have remained structurally unchanged for 1500 years. Monteverdi's "Vespers" was the most ambitious work of religious music before those of J. S. Bach. This 100-minute piece for soloists, chorus, and orchestra contains both liturgical and extra-liturgical elements.
This presentation of Monteverdi's "Vespers" on an album from Alpha Classics is absolutely magnificent. The performance by the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, was filmed in the Chapelle Royale du Chateau de Versailles. The folding cardboard album contains two video discs, one in DVD-format and the other in Blu-ray format, and a booklet containing comprehensive program notes in English and French written by Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
I am a long-time aficionado of Romantic music who has until now virtually ignored the Baroque period. One performance of this DVD has completely convinced me that I must explore more of the music of this era.
Recommendation: buy this performance if you love early Baroque music; the video and sound quality are superb.
Ted Wilks
Submitted on 04/08/16 by Ted Wilks 
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