MONTEVERDI: Messa a Quattro voci et salmi of 1650; CAVALLI: Magnificat – The Sixteen/ Harry Christophers – Coro

A terrific start to a new two-part series.

MONTEVERDI: Messa a Quattro voci et salmi of 1650 (Vol. 1); CAVALLI: Magnificat – The Sixteen/ Harry Christophers – Coro Cor 16142, 71:29 ****:

After Monteverdi’s death in 1643 at the age of 76, his publisher thought highly enough of some of his unpublished pieces to put them out in print. Though his two large collections of secular (Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi) and sacred (Selva morale et spiritual) music from the last five years of his life represent a major summing up of 30 years of work as the choirmaster of the Doge’s chapel at San Marco, this overflow of creative work that didn’t make it to the printed page is evidently as worthwhile and moving as anything he ever wrote.

The collection emanated from the composer’s own stock of manuscripts, and contain a variety of psalm settings, vespers, a litany, and a mass. You might notice that the very title of this collection is “mass”, and none is to be found on this disc; that’s because The Sixteen have committed to two discs from this collection, and the Mass will be available on Volume 2.

Many of these works include instrumental accompaniments, and some are purely choral. There are some fine works for three voices, and some for as many as seven. More than most Monteverdi collections, this one has a decidedly “chamber” feel to it, and the variety is striking, giving us a good indication as to how disparate the composer’s late works were, and his interest in many types of ensemble activity.

The Sixteen are marvelous as usual, and these radiant performances will confirm Monteverdi addicts (of which I am one) in their dedication to the art of one of the greatest composers ever, and surely solicit newcomers willing to take the plunge. The wonderful acoustics of St. Augustine’s Church in Kilburn, London, make the experience complete.


Cavalli: Magnificat
Monteverdi: Dixit [Dominus] Primo; Confitebor tibi Domine, SV194; Lauda Jerusalem a 3, SV202; Nisi Dominus I à 3 voci & duoi violini; Laudate pueri Primo à 5 concertato; Laetaniae della Beata Vergine a 6 voci; Beatus vir a 7, SV195

—Steven Ritter

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