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Monteverdi: Vespers / Lasserre, Akademia

Release Date: 12/31/2007 
Label:  Zig Zag   Catalog #: 2031101  
Composer:  Claudio Monteverdi
Conductor:  Françoise Lasserre
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Akademia Vocal EnsembleAkademia Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MONTEVERDI Beatus vir I. Gloria à 7. Confitebor III. Voi ch’ ascoltate. Laudate pueri I. Salve Regina. Chi vol che m’innamori. Deus tuorum militum. Laudate Dominum I. Dixit II Harry Christophers, dir; The Sixteen CORO COR 16087 (66:46 &)

MONTEVERDI Selva morale e spirituale Gabriel Garrido, dir; Read more Ens Elyma AMBRONAY AMY 001 (4 CDs: 256:03 &)

MONTEVERDI Solemn Vespers of St. John the Baptist & Françoise Lasserre, dir; Akadêmia Ens; La Fenice ZIG-ZAG TERRITOIRES ZZT 2031101 (74:09)

& ROVETTA Laudate pueri NERI Sonata

Konrad Junghänel’s set of Selva morale e spirituale ( Fanfare 25:3) was the occasion for a rundown on the way Monteverdi’s large collection of sacred music has been dealt with on records. First there was the broad collection of sacred music, including this 1641 publication, on eight LPs directed by Michel Corboz (later issued on CD). Next a series of discs was cited that assembled various sets of Vespers from the collections. After that, Robert King began to duplicate Corboz’s comprehensive approach to Monteverdi’s sacred music, but after four discs he had included only 17 of the 40 pieces from this publication (see 28:5; the fourth disc was never reviewed here). Yet in the meantime three collections of the Selva morale e spirituale have appeared, and now Harry Christophers has started another with the first disc of a promised set. The three intervening issues, each a box of three or four discs, were directed by Françoise Lasserre on Zig-Zag Territoires, Gabriel Garrido on Ambronay, and Claudio Cavina on Glossa. Lasserre grouped the pieces into three sets of Vespers, omitting the “moral” (devotional) pieces; the third disc, reissued as a single, is reviewed here. Cavina’s has not been received for review, but it also grouped the pieces liturgically, omitting the non-liturgical pieces. Garrido alone includes for the first time all 40 pieces, including three hymns of duplicate meter that Junghänel omitted. (Corboz also omitted three duplicate hymns, but Junghänel included the three that Corboz omitted.)

On the basis of his Volume 1, what can we expect of Harry Christophers? Like Junghänel and Garrido, the two complete sets, he uses one voice to a part. (It appears that neither Lasserre nor Cavina do so.) He includes two non-liturgical pieces and a hymn, suggesting eventual completeness, but all the selections are arranged in random order. He uses the smallest instrumental ensemble heard here. I look forward to the rest of his series, for it’s a good start.

Lasserre’s single disc (the boxed set seems to be no longer available) offers the most elaborate set of Vespers, designated for the saint whose hymn is Ut queant laxis . The other two discs each had a set of Vespers, too, along with the Mass on one and the seven-voice Mass movements on the other. The digipak lacks any notes or texts, unfortunately, not typical of this label. By comparison with Christophers’ minimal instrumental complement (two violins as needed, plus continuo), Lasserre calls for more of the same as well as three sackbutts, but it is still a more modest ensemble than Garrido or Junghänel use.

Garrido’s grouping of pieces is similar to Junghänel, Lasserre, and Cavina. He has the Mass movements on one disc, then two sets of Vespers, and finally all the remaining pieces that didn’t fit elsewhere. One set of Vespers includes chant antiphons. Garrido has the largest ensemble, adding ripieno voices to the solo singers and a children’s choir in the concertato Mass. This last is made up of the seven-voice Gloria and three Credo movements, filled out with the Kyrie and the beginning and end of the Credo repeated from the four-voice Mass that preceded it on the disc. His instrumental forces are the largest of the three, even more players than Junghänel used. Garrido wins points for including all the hymns and structuring the four discs effectively. Tempos are variable. Garrido is fastest in Beatus vir I, while Christophers is fastest in Dixit Dominus II. Counting Junghänel and the ongoing Christophers, there are five sets to choose from, the four heard here all in the running.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber
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Works on This Recording

Vespro della Beata Vergine by Claudio Monteverdi
Conductor:  Françoise Lasserre
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Akademia Vocal Ensemble,  Akademia Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1610; Mantua, Italy 

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