Those who do achieve that status usually fuse their radical vision of the future with a sound understanding of the past. There can be few more obvious proponents of that ability in music than Claudio Monteverdi, and the sounds he created in his Vespers alone would comfortably prove it. The Vespers was published in a volume that contained other music by Monteverdi too—most significantly a Mass setting based on material by his predecessor Nicolas Gombert. Pages later in the Vespers, the composer created new-sounding sonorities and textures and new ways of responding to written texts.
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Transcription follows Transcription In the choral section Monteverdi indulges in the most shameless word-painting, allied with abrupt dynamic changes and colourful figuration. Indeed the entire piece is an extrovert celebration of the most outgoing, expansive and worldly kind. Volgendo in ciel per immortal sentiero Le ruote del la luce alma e serena, Un secolo di pace il sol rimena Sotta il Re novo del Romano Impero.
Turning in heaven along their immortal path the wheels of serene and beneficent light, the sun brings back a century of peace under the new king of the Roman Empire.
Now bring me the deep cup of the great Ebro, full and garlanded, which running to my heart from vein to vein takes from the soul every mortal thought. Venga la nobil cetra: il crin di fiori Cingimi, 0 Filli. Bring the noble lyre: bind my hair with flowers, O Phyllis.
I shall strike the stars, singing of the glorious deeds of my king. And you, ladies and maidens, who through your beauty walk proudly amidst immortal honours, move your nimble feet to my beautiful music. Move your nimble feet to my beautiful music, your fair and graceful tresses bound with roses, and leaving the rich bed of the Danube, let the water-nymphs too join the dance. Storms and showers should flee on such a fine day at the gentle murmur of perfumed breezes.
Let the world resound, echoing my song of the splendid and exalted works of Ferdinand. He armed himself and travelled the shores on his winged steed, and lying on the hard ground rested his head on his mailed arm.
High towers and proud city walls he scattered to the winds, and made the field red with blood, leaving all other glories dark to the world. Biber used woodwind instruments very rarely. He wrote a great number of compositions for strings and brass, but this piece, for 2 sopranos, 2 recorders, 2 oboes and continuo is one of the few works giving such emphasis to winds.
It was written for the Feast
Monteverdi: Vespro della Beata Vergine, 1610, etc. (2 CDs)
Claudio Monteverdi: Exultent caeli
“Exultent Caeli” all’Abbazia di Sant’Antimo