BBC Music Magazine

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We suggest works to explore a er Monteverdi’s Vespers


While Monteverdi was plying his trade in Mantua and Venice, his contempora­ry Girolamo Frescobald­i held the post of organist at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Though best known for his keyboard mastery, Frescobald­i was also required to turn his hand to choral music, resulting in works such as the sparkling Missa sopra l’aria della monica. (Il Teatro Armonico Christopho­rus CHE01932)

You can’t miss Monteverdi’s impact on the music of his pupil Francesco Cavalli, who came to St Mark’s as a treble in 1616 and, 52 years later, became maestro di cappella himself. His 1656 Magnificat follows the concertato style of the Vespers, its double choir, basso continuo and independen­t string parts giving the work a rich texture reminiscen­t of the polychoral tradition in which he was raised. (The Sixteen; Coro COR16142)

Barbara Strozzi, a pupil of Cavalli, was a prolific composer of vocal music in Venice in the mid-17th century. Although she wrote almost entirely for secular occasions, her songs are firmly rooted in the Seconda practica method that Monteverdi pioneered – Lagrime mie for soprano and basso continuo abounds with the ornamentat­ion and word-painting that are typical of the style, not least in the opening passage whose descending melody deftly depicts the flow of tears. (Fons Musicae Querstand VKJK1303)

Heinrich Schütz – who, like Monteverdi, studied under Giovanni Gabrieli – is often credited with bringing the progressiv­e northern Italian style to Germany. His Psalmen Davids reflects the influence of his Venetian counterpar­ts in its lengthy solo passages and detailed instructio­ns for the use of instrument­s. He also sculpted his music around the meaning of the words, allowing for irregulari­ties in phrasing, in contrast to the more traditiona­l German approach that encouraged metric regularity. (Oxford Camerata Naxos 8.553044)

The powerful chromatici­sms associated with Carlo Gesualdo are particular­ly in evidence in his Tenebrae Responsori­a, published a year after the Vespers in 1611. In this set of sacred madrigals, Gesualdo highlights the passages concerning Christ’s suffering with starkly unprepared dissonance­s – a technique also used by Monteverdi. (Hilliard Ensemble ECM 843 8672)

Barbara Strozzi’s descending melody de ly depicts the flow of tears

 ??  ?? Chromatic craftsman: Gesualdo’s music uses dissonance to great effect
Chromatic craftsman: Gesualdo’s music uses dissonance to great effect

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