MONTEVERDI: Vespers of 1610; Magnificat a 6 – Seraphic Fire and Western Michigan University Chorale/ Patrick Quigley – Seraphic Fire Media

by | Dec 21, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

MONTEVERDI: Vespers of 1610; Magnificat a 6 – Seraphic Fire and Western Michigan University Chorale/ Patrick Quigley – Seraphic Fire Media SFM 107 CDR 9000 119, 60:51 ****½:

There are two reasons to listen to this uniquely-orchestrated version of Monteverdi’s Vespers of the Blessed Virgin 1610.

The first one is that this recording is, according to conductor Patrick Quigley, an undeniably true one, assembled and played as Monteverdi’s original audience (probably) first heard it. Most other versions of this work have dressed it in late Baroque clothing, with a heavy orchestration more in keeping with 1710 rather than 1610. Here you hear mostly choral singing, punctuated by an occasional organ, lute, theorbo, or violin. Other more effusive recordings have chosen to be about a century away from authenticity.

The other reason is that it’s good. The Monteverdi who brought us nine books of splendid madrigals, the first opera with Orfeo, and the unforgettable L’incoronazione di Poppea did a good job on sacred music as well. The Vespers is monumental in scale, and requires its choir to cover up to 10 vocal parts in some movements and then split into separate choirs in others. Not an easy feat, but they manage to pull it off. The (non-specified) soloists do a decent job as well. Play this on a decent sound system and you will be impressed how well the individual voices emerge, and how vividly they sing. 

Also impressive –but on a much smaller scale and shorter in duration– is the “Magnificat a 6.” It’s not always as lively as the Vespers, but the polyphony is enjoyable and the singers render the melismas skillfully. The “Fecit potentiam, a 3 Voci” is cleverly rendered and the interplay with the organ is charming in “Esurientes, a due voci.” All of it is sung with palpable passion, conviction, and enthusiasm.

Congratulations to Seraphic Fire for relying on the human voice rather than thick instrumentation. It appears that it didn’t fail them.

— Peter Bates

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01