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  Alia Vox Heritage -
  AVSA9855 (2 discs)
  Monteverdi: Vespro della Beata Vergine - Savall
  Claudio Monteverdi: Vespro della Beata Vergine

Montserrat Figueras
La Capella Reial
Jordi Savall
Track listing:
  Classical - Vocal
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 4 show all

Review by JJ January 10, 2008 (8 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Against all expectations, Claudio Monteverdi’s religious work is less important than his profane. “This fact,” according to Adelaïde de Place, “is rather surprising in that his official responsibilities, especially in Venice where he held the position of chapel master at the Saint Marc Basilica, we know today were mainly centered around sacred art. What’s more, it seems that Monteverdi’s natural penchant for profane music and theater were often thwarted by his obligations.” The “Virgin’s Vespers” dating from 1610 bundled together a bouquet of the Italian composer’s compositional building blocks, with a writing style both from the past and another more modern. In a new collection called “Heritage”, Jordi Savall is re-releasing his early recordings on SACD in a most worthy DSD remastering. The first to be released is the Monteverdi we encounter with tenfold joy, thanks notably to a restored recording offering us a still more beautiful setting than the CD of yore. This initiative is to be saluted, and lets us imagine the treasures to come from a rich and precious catalogue. The Vespers according to Savall are a must for any music library, and more so today with this majestic reissue. An absolute must!

Jean-Jacques Millo
Translation Lawrence Schulman

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Review by Jakob September 19, 2008 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is surely one of the most fascinating and satisfying recordings since the inverntion of digital recording. Everyone who will listen to it will know that my words are true!
First of all, one must say that the recorded work itself is a true precious. Monteverdi´s Vespers are truly magnifient and have no equal in this period.
Then the performance is also truly masterly, Jordi Savall´s ensembles are well prepared, very homogene and moving, with a rather "esotheric" than "gorgeous" sound, but that goes well along with the compositions who are mostly of elegiac nature.
The singers - to name only Montserrat Figueras, Maria Cristína Kiehr ans Guy de Mey - are all Early Music specialists, but the provide us also with a very sensual, warm sound which is just a pleasure to listen to - just try the sparkling and prickling athmosphere of the Soprano 1 - Soprano 2 duet "Pulchra es, amica mea" - and you´ll know what I mean.
As we all know, a masterly performance doesn´t seem to be enough on a recorded disc - the sound of the disc is also very important, and that´s because the SACD exists actually. And with this 2-disc set, recorded already in 1988 but re-mastered and transferred to SACD, you have the seldom case of the just perfect sound. It lies not in my abilities to praise Michel and Maria Bernstein, the original engineers, and Nicolas de Beco, the re-masterer 2007, enough - just put on your headphones or turn on your loudspeaker system and "dive" into the bright and warm acoustics of the Palast Church of St. Barbara in Mantova, Italy, captured only by a couple of microphones. There´s no elso to say - just listen! You will be enchanted.

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Review by beardawgs January 17, 2008 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Jordi Savall is set to re-release his pre Alia Vox catalogue in the Heritage series. If it is to judge by this first outing we're in for a treat and it looks like Savall, as much being European's greatest early music authority also knows where to stop in fiddling with old recordings and not to 'upgrade' original stereo into multi-channel using some more or less 'sophisticated' process. Apart from giving us all a chance to revisit some glorious old recordings in improved sound, it's good to to be reminded how visionary he was good 20 years ago in understanding period performance practices we take for granted nowadays. And what a line up of talent he assembled - among others Paolo Pandolfo, Stephen Stubbs, Andrew Lawrence-King and Rinaldo Alessandrini... and that is just in the orchestra. Twenty years on and Savall's old Vespro sounds fresh and exciting as ever and it's still a front runner among some fine recordings made in the meantime. Quite an achievement in early music field where things and fashions are changing fast - just look what happened to some old Harnouncourt's or Norrington's recordings.

This is very much performed as an ensemble piece, regardless of the variety or vocal or instrumental forces required for each individual item of the original Monteverdi's collection. Savall's forces are probably the most homogeneous band of singers and musicians ever to tackle it and I'm sure that if he is to record it again with some of his star performers it wouldn't sound so appropriately devotional. This performance is by and large the sum of its parts, not a collection of individual items put together.

A lot of water has gone under the early music bridge since 1988, but this recording stud the test of time magnificently. Comparisons with more recent King's recording are inevitable, Monteverdi: Vespers, Magnificat - Robert King but let's not split hairs - where King is more individual and probably have more character in every single movement, Savall brings out the devotional and religious undertones to the fore, even if he smoothes out some of the imminent differences this music carries with it. I wouldn't want to live without either of the two anyway.

Just a word about the sound and repackaging - the original recording was made with two B&K 4009 omnidirectional microphones and the natural acoustics of basilica Santa Barbara in Mantua are rather well preserved. Again, a bit more sonic, perspective and dynamic variety among individual chamber and tutti items wouldn't go amiss, but the recording as it is serves the purpose of the homogeneous performance. New digi-pack wrapping from Alia Vox is of a customary high standard with original notes from Savall and a couple of very informative essays. All in all, this release is more than just a 'heritage' document and, as always with any recording of Monteverdi's music, it is just one of many possible legitimate and successful interpretations.

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Works: 1  

Claudio Monteverdi - Vespro della Beata Vergine