This version of Monteverdi's Vespers from Italian Switzerland was well received on CD; it is interesting to have it now on DVD. The film has an unpretentious quality, homely and devotional. It preserves a live performance at the St. Lorenzo Cathedral in Lugano and was produced by Televisione Svizzera Italiana-TSI. Sub-titles are limited to the those of the items, but complete words with translations are given in the better-than-average booklet, and individual items can be called up from the menu.
There is always a problem with filmed concerts; visual content is limited and static, so cameramen often roam around churches for eye-catching images too restlessly. Not so here. The views here are fairly basic, but perfectly satisfactory; I was unsure at first about their reliance on extreme close ups - do we need to see sweat pouring under TV lights or to be shown that one of the tenor soloists wears a deaf-aid? Gradually you do get used to it and almost come to feel that you know the singers and players as individuals - the solo singers are clearly identified with initials against the tracks.
This experience with DVD is more like being at the concert itself than is the case with more sophisticated productions; you follow the words in the programme (well worth doing so with Monteverdi, whose expressiveness is closely related to the text), sometimes look up to watch the performers on screen, but not all the time. I liked this.
The music is amazing, and marvellously varied, drawing on secular and dramatic elements alongside elaborate polyphony. This is a well prepared 'historically informed' performance with the members of Concerto Palatino & I Barocchisti on authentic instruments; no great voices, but good, idiomatic singing and playing under the inspiring conductor, Diego Fasolis.
The sound is suitably reverberant, but I found I needed to switch off my extra speakers and rely upon straight stereo, when it sounded better. It was also fine on my computer.
Copyright © 2003, Peter Grahame Woolf