Vespro della Beata Vergine Vespers for the Blessed Virgin , SV , is a musical setting by Claudio Monteverdi of the evening vespers on Marian feasts , scored for soloists, choirs , and orchestra. It is an ambitious work in both scope and variety of style and scoring, and has a duration of around 90 minutes. Published in Venice with a dedication to Pope Paul V dated 1 September as Sanctissimae Virgini Missa senis vocibus ac Vesperae pluribus decantandae, cum nonnullis sacris concentibus, ad Sacella sive Principum Cubicula accommodata "Mass for the Most Holy Virgin for six voices, and Vespers for several voices with some sacred songs, suitable for chapels and ducal chambers" , it is sometimes called Monteverdi's Vespers of Monteverdi composed the music while musician and composer for the Gonzagas , the Dukes of Mantua. The libretto is compiled from several Latin Biblical and liturgical texts.
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A towering masterpiece of the early Baroque — at once intimate and grand, prayerful and dramatic, exalted and sensual. Don't miss this highlight of the classical music season. There will be no preconcert lecture on Saturday, April 2. Born in Cremona on May 15, , Claudio Monteverdi displayed musical talent at an early age. He published a collection of three-part motets when he was only 15, and his first book of madrigals—issued by the Venetian publishing house Gardane—helped him obtain a position in the court of Duke Gonzaga in Mantua, where he eventually became maestro di cappella.
An exchange between theorist Giovanni Maria Artusi and Monteverdi sparked a controversy that spoke volumes about an aesthetic shift taking place in European music. According to Artusi, musical form took precedence over text; there were important rules of composition that needed to be followed, and he criticized Monteverdi for breaking them.
Monteverdi was inspired not by words or music alone, but by the rhetorical potential of their union. While Monteverdi is restrained in his approach, his attention to expressive nuance is on display throughout. In its time, the Vespers was unprecedented in scale—seven solo singers, a chorus large enough to divide in as many as ten parts, and a varied and colorful orchestra.
As he was unhappy with his circumstances at the court of Mantua when the work was published in , scholars have speculated that its composition perhaps was the result of trying to find a different job in Venice or Rome—especially as Monteverdi dedicated the work to Pope Paul V. In , Monteverdi in fact won the post of maestro di cappella at San Marco in Venice, and we can be reasonably certain that this remarkable sacred work played a role in his engagement. As is common today, these concert performances of the Vespers omit the antiphons altogether.
Monteverdi composed his Vespers to fit all of the major feasts associated with the Virgin Mary. Many decisions are left to those who perform the Vespers. Instruments are only specified in certain movements, leaving the conductor or editor to determine the composition of the orchestral accompaniment throughout most of the work.
Some movements can be sung by the chorus or played by solo instruments. There are four versions of the concluding Magnificat—one for six voices, one for seven, and then each version transposed down a fourth. Modern performances and recordings of the Vespers therefore vary, sometimes quite significantly. The Vespers can be divided into two main types of music.
Monteverdi uses the chorus for all texts that are strictly liturgical, setting them using the appropriate chant as a cantus firmus, or structural foundation. In so doing, he both displays his prowess with traditional sacred compositional techniques and shows how they can be merged with modern expressive sensibilities. Expressive in their own right, these movements become even more intimate when contrasted with the massed sound of the choruses. The only true instrumental piece is the Sonata sopra Sancta Maria, in which the sopranos sing a variant of a plainsong phrase from the Litany of the Saints while the instruments scurry around them in virtuosic flourishes.
In , Carl von Winterfeld—one of the founders of historical musicology—published transcriptions of a few excerpts, and a few Italian editions of the Sonata sopra Sancta Maria were issued in the first decades of the 20th century. Toggle navigation Approximate running time: 90 minutes. There will be NO intermission. Sponsor: The Negaunee Foundation Media sponsor: Deus in adjutorium IV. Laudate pueri XII. Ave maris stella.
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