This year marks the 450th birth anniversary of Claudio Monteverdi, baptised on May 15, 1567 in SS Nazaro e Celso, Brescia. The precocious young Monteverdi published his first collection, the three – part Sacrae cantiunculae at the age of 15 presaging a prolific output of operas and madrigals and sacred music.
Monteverdi’s name is synonymous with the collection of sacred music referred to as The Monteverdi Vespers, a work, which, according to I Fagiolini’s Robert Hollingsworth, “has dwarfed Monteverdi’s other church music, which he probably continued to write throughout his life.”
Addressing this oversight, commemorating Monteverdi’s birth anniversary and I Fagiolini’s 30th anniversary, Hollingworth and I Fagiolini have released a new recording on Decca, The Other Vespers, containing Monteverdi’s lesser known sacred works, much of them from the 1641 volume of works. These were composed later in his life after 23 years at St Mark’s in Venice and are entitled Selva morale e[t] spirituale – ‘the moral and spiritual wood’. It contains a Mass, music for Vespers and solo-voice motets.
With The Other Vespers, Hollingworth aims to “draw attention to the sheer brilliance of these works, encouraging choirs and listeners into the woods (moral and spiritual) in search of a fuller picture of Monteverdi.”
The 9 singers and 6 instrumentalists of I Fagiolini are joined by the English Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble and eight singers of The 24, from the University of York. The ensemble contains historically appropriate instruments which include the chitarrone, dulcians, and cornettos, playing at a pitch of A 440.
Hollingworth has adopted a traditional structure for these Vespers, adding a spark of interest by putting forward some new ideas on performance practice and adopting the 17th century northern Italian practice of replacing the repeats of antiphons with other matched musical items. “For these items,” writes Hollingworth, “we have chosen particularly intriguing substitutes by Monteverdi’s contemporaries…Bovicelli and ….Donati.” Hollingworth has recorded the first reconstruction of the cornetto muto alongside four male voices of I Fagiolini, in the Palestrina/Bovicelli Ave verum corpus. There are instrumental fantasias by Castello and Frescobaldi and choral music by Palestrina and Viadana, including Gabrieli’s Magnificat in 14 parts for three choirs.
The CD liner contains Hollingworth’s insights, the full Latin text with English translation, performer biographies and performance images. The album was recorded in November 2016 at St George’s Church in Chesterton, Cambridge, England.
Available April 28, 2017.