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CD Review

Claudio Monteverdi

Vespri Solenni Per La Festa Di San Marco

  • Selections from Vespers (1610)
  • Selections from Selva Morale (1640)
  • Bonus DVD:
  • L'umano e il suo divino (The Human and the Divine), Alessandrini conducts Monteverdi, A film by Claudio Rufa
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
Naïve OP30557
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Naïve is a label that does wonderful things musically, but occasionally their projects come off as a touch bizarre. There was that Prokofieff/Stravinsky disc with the seemingly random violin pieces attached, and now we have this curious hodgepodge of a Vespers disc. It begins with the opening of Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers, and from there breaks into Gabrieli fanfares, anonymous antiphons, and lots of genuine Monteverdi. I confess; I can't find the accompanying booklet that explains all this, but you don't need the liner notes to be drawn in by the captivating nature of the "work".

The truth is, this works very well. I can't imagine any actual festival of the time doing this for real, but this project was obviously taken very seriously. Each piece flows very naturally into the next, and the whole thing really does feel impressively cogent. Rinaldo Alessandrini is a marvelous conductor of this music, and his agile and nearly dancing direction gives each section tremendous character. Concerto Italiano sounds terrific, with especially pleasing brass and vocals. Should you enjoy early music, you'll find this an adventurous and even challenging disc, as you decide for yourself if this captures Monteverdi's intentions and spirit.

The sound is wonderfully natural, and the booklet is chock full of useful information. You may or may not care. Even without it, I can say that this is a sincere effort to help us understand the music of this era, and a tribute to over three decades of excellence from this conductor and his various forces. Maybe it is a little strange, but it's a serious and obviously intelligent undertaking that demands your attention.

The "bonus" DVD shares the same strengths and idiosyncrasies as the CD. The first half hour is mostly music. Seeing Alessandrini and his forces in action is nice to have, though not for all tastes. The next segment is a group of musicians sitting around a dinner table discussing Monteverdi in Italian. Subtitles are available in English, Italian, and French. It is fascinating from a music history perspective, but probably not everyone's idea of a good time. Then there is some more music with the conductor walking around Italy. All in all, it's a strange "film" that doesn't seem to have a clear target audience. Buy this for the CD; it's a keeper.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman