Raphaël Pichon and his ensemble Pygmalion join forces with a brilliant group of soloists to present Monteverdi’s monumental Vespro della beata Vergine in a setting as resplendent as the music they are performing: Versailles’s Chapelle Royale.
By the early 1600s, Monteverdi had spent two decades composing secular music as a member of the Gonzaga court in Mantua. His innovative new style—including his incredible breakthrough of creating some of the first operas in history—had brought him great acclaim, but by 1608 he had begun looking for a change of scene, applying for posts as maestro di cappella in Mantua and at the Vatican.
This change in direction came to print in 1610 when Monteverdi published his Vespro della beata Vergine (“Vespers of the blessed Virgin”). Drawing on all the experience and ingenuity gained during those years with the Gonzagas, he created a 14-part collection of sacred music that weaves together the Catholic Mass, the evening prayer service of Vespers, and other liturgical texts associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary to create one brilliant and versatile chef d’œuvre. Widely considered one of the most significant large-scale sacred works before Bach’s B Minor Mass, the Vespers’s fascinating mixture of textures and styles—from cantus firmus and Venetian canzone to madrigal style and sacred concerti—give it a vitality and power that fascinate and delight listeners through the generations.
The Vespers also seem to have been a good career move for Monteverdi himself: just three years after their publication, he got the job of a lifetime: maestro di cappella (music director) of Venice’s historic Basilica di San Marco!
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Part VII: Consolation