Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Music of tribute

We've all been told many times that classical music's focus on dead composers is an oddity of the modern period, and in previous times art music was contemporary music. Indeed, I'll tell you that very same thing myself, one more time. Not that we shouldn't listen to four-centuries-dead Monteverdi. He's awesome, and we should listen to him even more. Only we should listen to Kate Moore and Lydia Kakabadse as well. Anyway.

I'm not sure if this is sociologically significant, but something interesting happened after the death of Claudio Monteverdi in November 1643. In 1650 Monteverdi's pupil Francesco Cavalli published a posthumous collection of music, a tribute to his teacher. It was called Messa a quattro voci et salmi, and it included sacred music not included in Selva morale e spirituale of 1641, the last sacred collection published by Monteverdi in his lifetime. Monteverdi was well-loved in his lifetime, and there was plenty of interest in his music after the great master's death. Cavalli slipped in a piece of his own, a 10-minute Magnificat that matches his teacher's work.

Surprisingly, not all of this music has been recorded, which I find astounding. Every little bit of Monteverdi seems special to me, and there's nothing below a very high level on this disc, the first volume in Harry Christophers' new series with The Sixteen. This is choral singing of a high standard, with able support from "the continuo team", as Christophers calls the instrumentalists in his entertaining note on the 5-day recording session at St. Augustine Church in Kilburn,  London. The Sixteen recorded "in the round":
Everyone was in eye contact so that each subtle nuance and invention could be passed aurally and visually from one to another with great ease. 
There's a relaxed feeling in this music that comes from the recording setup, the obvious work taken by these musicians to become comfortable with the intricacies of Monteverdi's music, and the trust between musicians that is required to make great choral, or any kind of music.

Here's a behind the scenes look at the recording, from The Sixteen's YouTube channel:

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