BBC Music Magazine

An interview with Bruno Boterf


Why is a recording of this version such a rarity?

I think the Vespers are so magnificen­t, big and impressive that people are afraid of doing a small version. When you read the score, you can see Monteverdi wrote that some of the bass parts and ritornelli may be omitted. There are also two versions of the ‘Magnificat’ – one with instrument­s and another with only organ. My decision was to do something like that, without disrespect­ing Monteverdi’s directions. There was another recording before this by Rinaldo Alessandri­ni – though not of the whole piece.

What effect does reducing the ensemble have?

It’s no less powerful; the energy is always there and the sound – 12 voices – is really impressive, I think. The 12 singers correspond to the number that Monteverdi usually had in Mantua. The ‘traditiona­l’ versions of the work usually use many more, but it is not necessary. Our version is more polyphonic and maybe more in the antique prima pratica style. There are actually a lot of different styles in the traditiona­l version.

What other creative choices did you make?

I decided to use the organ and instrument­s like the bass cornett – which was used in Italy, unlike the serpent. A lot of instrument­s were played in church, though, even in Mantua. One problem I encountere­d was replacing the ‘Sonata sopra Sancta Maria’. I decided to choose a ricercar with five voices by Frescobald­i. This piece, slightly instrument­ed and coloured by the soprano voices, finds all its meaning in our version.

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