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Live from the Barbican Hall, Vespers of 1610 by Claudio Monteverdi with „The Sixteen” Ensemble, conducted by Harry Christophers.

Wednesday, 15 May 2024 , ora 11.18

It's not often that we get the chance to hear live the sacred works of Claudio Monteverdi. Thanks to the European Union of Radio, on Wednesday, May 15th, we can enjoy "The Sixteen" Ensemble's concert, led by Harry Christophers, held at the Barbican Hall in London. Founded 45 years ago, it's one of the most valuable and admired choirs in the UK, covering a wide stylistic range from medieval polyphony to contemporary music, focusing on the Renaissance and Baroque repertoire - over 600 years of music presented to a diverse audience.

The 18 voices are accompanied by a period-instrument orchestra, which appeared alongside the concert series dedicated to Henry Purcell's music and Handel's oratorios. This time, we have the opportunity to listen to Claudio Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, which Harry Christophers describes as "some of the most valuable pages ever composed, combining profound expression with unparalleled musical beauty." He discusses one of the Italian author's techniques - dictum recitar cantando - the style of sung speech, which he explores to the fullest in his version with his ensemble, "to bring these astonishing pages back to life for the 21st century audience".

Claudio Monteverdi spent his most beautiful years in Mantua in the service of a respectable but very demanding duke, a great patron of the arts. Here, he composed Vespro della Beata Vergine, published in Venice in 1610, shortly before La Serenissima invited him to become their choir master at the Basilica San Marco. Perhaps these Vespers, or even the grandiose Missa In illo Tempore, gave him this opportunity, although he would have responded with modesty, "non sum dignus" ("I am not worthy"). In other words, beyond the impressive series of madrigals and L'Orfeo, thefirstsignificantwork in musichistory, Monteverdi composed motets, masses, and psalms in the Renaissance style. After establishing the seconda prattica profile, he returns in these Vespro della Beata Vergine to low-pitched polyphony, to the prima prattica, embracing both the art of the past and that of the future. He didn't turn his back on polyphony, but gradually, he adjusted the language, anticipating something that would represent the essence of the Baroque - accompanied monody, even contributing to its birth.

As for "The Sixteen" Ensemble, they recorded Claudio Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610 on disc, perform edit on a tour across the UK in 2019, and are returning on the stage of the Barbican Center in London for a new concert on Wednesday, May 15th, starting at 9:30 PM.

Marina Nedelcu
Translated by Tania-Ana Lupu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu