Three other great recordings
Robert King (conductor) Robert King’s vision of the Vespers formed during a gap-year project, shaped over the months he spent transcribing Monteverdi’s published partbooks. He refined it in 2004 for a spectacular BBC Proms performance and, with
The King’s Consort, recorded his edition two years later at St-jude-onthe-hill in Hampstead Garden Suburb. Instrumental colour, contrasts of tutti and reduced vocal scoring, plus impassioned solo singing from, among others, Carolyn Sampson and James Gilchrist, help make this the best ‘choral’ version. (Hyperion CDA67531/2) Rinaldo Alessandrini (conductor) Rinaldo Alessandrini and his Concerto Italiano forces offer a potent antidote to the polished sounds of former British choral scholars in Monteverdi. Their dramatic reading, made in 2004 with one singer per part, embraces much recent scholarship and even plays with it to highlight the difference in sound between the Magnificat for Seven Voices in downward transposition and the Magnificat for Six Voices at written pitch. I love the baritonal heft and lavish ornamentation of Furio Zenasi’s
‘Nigra sum’, emblematic of a genuinely heartfelt and imaginative performance. (Naïve OP 30403) Andrew Parrott (conductor) The Taverner Consort’s recording, made in All Saints’ Tooting almost 35 years ago, signalled a revolution in Vespers performances. It sets Monteverdi’s music in the context of a liturgical reconstruction of Second Vespers for the Feast of the Blessed Virgin (15 Aug). Emma Kirkby and
Tessa Bonner turn ‘Pulchra es’ into the stuff of desert island dreams. The choir appears only in five movements, leaving the ethereal solo consort to deal with the other ensemble pieces; instrumental doubling is limited to that specified by Monteverdi. (Erato 561 6622)
And one to avoid…
Recorded live at the Metz Arsenal in 2010, L’arpeggiata’s Vespers is strikingly individual and daringly virtuosic. In the booklet notes, conductor Christina Pluhar admits that tempos are a matter of choice, and her superfast speeds here give the impression that the musicians were aiming to catch the last train to Paris. L’arpeggiata’s vocal athleticism skates over words and could just as easily be applied to a recital of the phonebook.