Monteverdi: Vespers/Savall

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 10

Jordi Savall’s Monteverdi Vespers returns at mid-price in a clumsily packaged folding paper album whose design makes it impossible to get at the text and booklet without having to find a way to balance the entire package, including the CD that’s not playing, in your hands. Probably the best thing to do is to fold the booklet all the way around back and hold the resulting package gently, trying not to crush the flimsy paper spine of the album. Savall’s performance deserves better, as it’s one of the more enduring versions available. Recorded in St. Mark’s Venice, the site that Monteverdi envisaged in writing the work, La Capella Reial de Catalunya and a generally splendid band of soloists present the work reverently, but with the necessary excitement and fervor, and the sound of St. Mark’s has been magnificently captured by the engineers. My only musical objection is the fact that the chants are not banded separately. Though chant would, of course, have been part of any real Vespers service, Monteverdi didn’t include any or specify which ones to use, and I prefer to play the music as he wrote it, without plainsong. It’s a minor issue. Many listeners will find the Mediterranean warmth of this performance–the dark, natural vibrato of the singers and players–far more appealing than the pure “white” sound of groups such as those led by Gardiner, Parrott, or Pickett (though these three do have the more disciplined choral forces). I’m glad that this lovely recording is back in the catalog at a more attractive price. It was one of Savall’s greatest achievements for Astrée. [6/13/2000]



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This One, Herreweghe (HM), Gardiner (Archiv)

CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI - Vespro della Beata Vergine, 1610 (Vespers)


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