The Vespri Solenni per la Festa di San Marco recorded here are not a newly discovered work by Claudio Monteverdi, but a re-creation of how a large Vespers service might have sounded in St. Mark's cathedral in Venice in the years after Monteverdi arrived there as music director in 1613. The music was not actually recorded at St. Mark's, but at his former place of employment, the Basilica of Santa Barbara in Mantua, where the Vespers of 1610 were likely first performed. It's a more-than-adequate substitute inasmuch as some of the music is drawn from those Vespers; other choral pieces come from the collection entitled Selva morale e spirituale that was published later on. Finally, some motets of Monteverdi and instrumental pieces by other composers replace repeated sections in the service. An informative DVD exploring the Mantua venue (with entertaining diversions into such topics as what might have been eaten there) is included, and conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini handles a variety of soloists well in the more madrigal-like pieces. Alessandrini has been unparalleled in putting across how Baroque audiences would have heard music in their own time, and there are points where he does it here. Note, though, that Alessandrini adopts the fashionable one-voice-per-part approach, with a small instrumental ensemble. This may be wrong in this repertory; an English traveler described the music in St. Mark's this way: "Sometimes there sung sixteene or twenty men together, having their master to keepe them in order; and when they sung, the instrumentall musitians played also. Sometimes sixteene played together upon their instruments, ten Sagbuts, foure Cornets, and two Violadegambaes of an extraordinary greatness; sometimes tenne, six Sagbuts and foure Cornets; sometimes two, a Cornet and a treble violl." Older recordings with big choirs may come closer to realizing this sound, but those enamored of the contemporary approach will find a typically well-executed example here.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2