This autumn we're joined by some of the most exciting performers in the world of early music: the vocal ensemble I Fagiolini, their director, Robert Hollingworth and the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, and with them, we'll be singing one of the most dazzling works in the baroque repertoire, Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers. The Vespro della Beata Vergine may have been written as a job application for positions in Rome and Venice, and it’s certainly easy to imagine the Vespers as Monteverdi’s musical CV. In the 14 movements, he sets out all the newest musical developments, using instruments, dances and virtuosic solos alongside the older polyphonic style to create something that was completely new in religious music. Rather than stick to a particular liturgical format, Monteverdi mixes up different motet and psalm texts to show off his compositional mastery: there is magnificent 8- and 10-part choral writing in the psalm settings and wonderfully sensual solo writing in the motets, including the love poetry of the Song of Songs and angelic voices calling to each other from heaven. Sancta Maria ora pro nobis is traditionally sung by a children’s choir, and we’ll be welcoming young singers from Durham Johnston School Chamber Choir and Durham County Youth Choir to share with us in the amazing experience of singing Monteverdi in Durham Cathedral.
Although the Vespers are traditionally associated with St Mark's Basilica, we should remember that of course Monteverdi was not there when he wrote them: he was still working the court in Mantua, writing music for much more intimate spaces, so we'll be singing in front of the tower in Durham Cathedral, enabling us to highlight more of the detail in Monteverdi's writing, whilst bringing you closer to the music.
Monteverdi’s music calls for an exotic orchestra of early instruments, including cornetts, sackbuts, dulcian, theorbo and recorders, and for this performance we’ll be accompanied by the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble and the Monteverdi String Band.
Visit our Musician pages to find out more about all the musicians who'll be joining us
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