1 CD - 422 074-2 - (p) 1988

VESPRI DI SAN GIOVANNI BATTISTA - Reconstruction: Frits Noske

Giovanni Gabrieli Toccata - Turin, biblioteca Nazionale. MS - Excerpt (22)
1' 14" 1
Gregorian Chant
Deus in adjutorium - Domine ad adiuvandum - Versus/Responsorium
(1) 0' 40" 2
Gregorian Chant Elisabeth Zachariae - Antiphona I ad Psalmum CIX
(1) 0' 26" 3
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1577-1643) Dixit Dominus - Psalmus CIX (2,4-13,20-26) 7' 53" 4
Alessandro Grandi Hic est praecursor dilectus - Mottettus in loco Antiphonae I - "Il quarto libro de moteti a 2, 3, 4 e 7 voci" (Venice, 1616)
(2,4,22,35) 1' 37" 5
Gregorian Chant Innuebant Patri - Antiphona II ad Psalmum CX
(1) 0' 33" 6
Claudio MONTEVERDI Confitebor tibi - Psalmus CX
(3,8,10,12,13,20,22,25,26) 5' 40" 7
Giovanni Gabrieli Toccata in loco Antiphonae II - Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale, MS - Except (22)
(22) 1' 03" 8
Gregorian Chant Johannes Vocabitur - Antiphona III ad Psalmum CXI (1) 0' 28" 9
Claudio MONTEVERDI Beatus Vir - Psalmus CXI (11,15,17-19,20-22,25,26) 5' 47" 10
Dario Castello Sonata No. 5 in C in loco Antiphonae IV - "Sonate concertate [...] libro primo" (Venice, 1621)
(15,17,22) 3' 53" 11
Gregorian Chant Inter Natos - Antiphona IV ad Psalmum CXII
(1) 0' 22" 12
Claudio MONTEVERDI Laudate Pueri - Psalmus CXII (2,3,7,8,10,10,15,16,20,23,25,26)
7' 37"
Dario Castello Sonata No. 9 in C in loco Antiphonae IV - "Sonate concertate [...] libro primo" (Venice, 1621) ( 3' 02" 14
Gregorian Chant Tu Puer, Propheta - Antiphona V ad Psalmum CXVI
(1) 0' 29" 15
Claudio MONTEVERDI Laudate Dominum Omnes Gentes - Psalmus CXVI (2,4,7,8,10-13,17-26) 4' 08" 16
Natale Bazzino Angelus Gabriel Descendit - Dialogus in loco Antiphonae V - "Messe, motetti e dialoghi a 5 concertati" (Venice, 1628) (2,6-9,22,26) 3' 14" 17
Gregorian Chant Audite Insulae - Capitulum
(1) 0' 27" 18
Claudio MONTEVERDI Ut Queant Laxis - Hymnus (2,3,12,13,22,24)
3' 07" 19
Gregorian Chant Iste Puer Magnus - Nam et Manus - Versus/Responsorium (1) 0' 21" 20
Gregorian Chant Puer Qui Natus est Nobis - antiphona VI ad Magnificat
(1) 0' 42" 21
Claudio MONTEVERDI Magnificat
(2,4-23,25,26) 12' 15" 22
Claudio MONTEVERDI Laudate Dominum in Sanctis Eius - Motettus il loco Antiphonae VI
(8,20,23) 4' 01" 23
Gregorian Chant Dominus Vobiscum - Deus qui praesentem diem - Dominus Vobiscum - Oratio et Benedicamus
(1) 1' 59" 24

Monteverdi by "Selva morale e spirituale" (Venice, 1641)

Mieke Van Der Sluis, Sopran (2)
Evelyn Tubb
, Sopran (3)
Guillemette Laurens
, Mezzo-soprano (4)
Michael Chance
, Counter-tenor (5)
David James
, Counter-tenor (6)
Michiel Ten Houte De Lange
, Tenor (7)
John Elwes
, Tenor (8)
Jelle Draijer
, Bariton (9)
Harry Van Der Kamp
, Bass (10)

CHORUS VIENNENSIS / Hubert Dopf S.J., Director (1)


- Marie Leonhardt (12), Walter Reiter (13), Violins
- Marinette Troost (14), Viola
- Bruce Dickey (15), Willem Bremer (16), Cornetts
- Charles Toet (17), Wim Becu (18), Sue Addison (19), Trombones
- Wouter Möller (20), Violoncello
- Margaret Urquhart (21), Double-bass
- Bob van Asperen (22), Organ
- Siebe Henstra (23), Harpsichord
- Frans Robert Berkhout (24) Bassoon
- Fred Jacobs (25), Anthony Bailes (26), Chitarrone

Gustav LEONHARDT, Conductor


Luogo e data di registrazione
Utrecht (The Netherlands) - Dicembre 1987 & Marzo 1988

Registrazione: live / studio

Artist and reppertoire production

Rupert Fäustle

Recording producer
Mike Bremner

Balance engineer, tape editor

Erdo Groot

Recording engineer

Roger de Schot

Art direction

George Cramer

Prima Edizione LP

Edizione CD
Philips | LC 0305 | 422 074-2 | 1 CD - durata 71' 06" | (p) 1988 | DDD

Cover Art

The Baptism of Christ in a Landscape (17th Century) by Salvator Rosa (1615-1673).

Recorded in co-operation with the Holland Festival Oude Muziek, Utrecht.

RESTORED TO LITURGICAL ORIGINS - Monteverdi's Vespers of St. John the Baptist
In the spring of 1620, the young amateur composer Constantijn Huygens, who during his long life (l596-1687) was to become a true uomo universale, joined a diplomatic mission sent by the States General of the Netherlands to the Venetian Republic. During thejourney he kept a diary, written in French, which includes the following note: “On June 24, which is the feast of St. John the Baptist, I was taken to Vespers in the church of SS. Giovanni e Lucia, where I heard the most accomplished music I think I shall ever hear in my life. The very famous Claudio di Monteverdi, maestro di cappella at St. Mark's, whose composition it was, led and also conducted it on this occasion, accompanied by four theorbos, two cornetts, two bassoons, two violins, a bass viol of monstrous dimensions, organ, and other instruments, all of which were equally well handled and played, not to speak of 10 or 12 voices. I was transported with delight.”
As there has never been a church in Venice dedicated to Saints John and Lucy, Huygens must have misunderstood the dialect spoken by his hosts; the most probable place of performance was the church of San Giovanni Battista in Bragora, the same church in which, 58 years later, Vivaldi was baptised. More important, however, is the fact that the Dutchman mentioned a work of Monteverdi, unknown to us, which was commissioned by the authorities of a church other than St. Mark’s.

The Vesper is the last but one service of the Divine Office; it is held in the early evening. Apart from a number of versicles and responses, a chapter, and a prayer, the Vesper consists of a series of five psalms and the Magnificat; each of these chants is preceded and followed by an antiphon. Between the final psalm and the Magnificat a hymn is sung, the text of which is related to the relevant ecclesiastical feast. In the early Renaissance it was already customary, on major feast-days, to perform the hymn and Magnificat polyphonically. This often occurred alternatim, that is, the verses were sung alternately in polyphony and in Gregorian chant. Since about 1570 it became the rule in northern Italy in particular to set the five psalms polyphonically too. The stile concertato, originating a few decades later, had moreover considerable consequences. This new style proved to be incompatible with Gregorian chant; probably for this reason the antiphons after the psalms and the Magnificat were replaced by motets, instrumental ensemble music, or organ-playing. As a result the Venetian Vesper service was a colourful affair. Its scale, moreover, was enlarged considerably; according to an English visitor in 1608 the service lasted several hours. The Venetian Vesper had in fact grown into a monumental concert spirituel. Naturally, this was rejected on principle by the ecclesiastical authorities in Rome. However, they were more or less forced to turn a blind eye to the modern practice, in view of the fact that the Lion of the Serenissima Repubblica was not to be caught hold of even with gloves. An armed peace existed between Venice and Rome. The central authority in the lagoon city was anticlerical and nationalist. The liturgy of St. Mark’s had a clear political colour and differed considerably from the official Roman ritual. Other Venetian churches were truer to Rome in this respect, but they all competed with one another in the monumental splendour of their Vesper services, in particular when the patron saint of the parish in question or the religious order was concerned.

As it is virtually impossible to locate with absolute certainty the polyphonic Vesper items which Huygens heard in 1620, I have attempted rather to reconstruct a Venetian Vesper service of the time, mainly with music by Monteverdi. This implies that some of the settings may have been composed during the third decade of the seventeenth century. They are taken from the “Selva morale e spirituale” (1640), a collection of undated sacred music which Monteverdi had written in the course of the years for St. Mark’s and other churches. More difficult was the choice of the vocal and instrumental substitutions for the antiphon repeats after the psalms and the Magnificat. Antiphons III and IV are replaced by sonatas for various combinations of instruments by Dario Castello, a Venetian contemporary and a specialist in this genre; antiphon II by a toccata fragment of Giovanni Gabrieli’s; antiphons I and V by a motet and a sacred dialogue by Alessandro Grandi (singer and later vice-choirmaster at St. Mark’s), and Natale Bazzino (from Desio near Bergamo, that is, within the Venetian Republic) respectively. The last-named works are both set to texts concerning St. John the Baptist. As regards the substitute for the Magnificat antiphon, the choice fell on Monteverdi’s own solo motet “Laudate Dominum in sanctis eius.” Although in the sources the instrumentation of these polyphonic items is not always exactly given, I took special care that almost all the instruments mentioned by Huygens are represented.
Not only the polyphonic part of the Vespers but also the Gregorian chant had to be reconstructed in the style of the day. The Venetians no longer sang the antiphons with notes of equal duration; they used mensurated versions such as those that appeared in the Plantin antiphonary (Antwerp, 1573). Here we find three different note types, the semibreve, the breve, and the longa. The authoritative “Directorium chori” (Rome, 1604) explicitly prescribes the proportion of their respective values: 1/2-1 - 1-1/2. Less unequivocal are the values of the same symbols appearing in the ligatures; we have assumed that in principle all are to be sung as breves. Finally there is the question of the double intonations of the antiphons. Although the custom varied among the churches, we have followed the practice according to which the first intonation is sung by the cantor, and the second each time by a different canon.

Monteverdi’s transcendent handling of the “grand” concertato style can be heard in his settings of Psalms 109 and 116, as well as in the Magnificat (of which two lost vocal parts were reconstructed by Gustav Leonhardt). Like many other psalms, No. 109, “Dixit Dominus, ” has martial accents; the composer renders these skilfully in his music. Two melismatic passages set to the word “exaltabit,” one for tenor and one for two sopranos, are first heard separately, then combined, and finally spread over all eight voices. The short Psalm 116, “Laudate Dominum omnes gentes,” is a powerful work full of contrasts, in which the emotional, chromatic setting of the word “misericordia” is particularly remarkable. As regards the pièce de résistance of the Vespers, the Magnificat, this presents a complete display of the possibilities which the new style offered. Though set for double choir and instruments, the composer also employs the individual voices in all sorts of combinations. The central psalms and the hymn represent the “small” concertato style. Psalm 110, “Confitebor tibi,” and Psalm 112, “Laudate pueri," are both written for alternating groups of solo voices and instruments; the setting is largely homophonic. In contrast to this, Psalm 111, “Beatus vir,” set for five-part choir, displays Monteverdi’s proficiency in counterpoint. The melody of the initial verse recurs three times in the course of the piece, the last time in notes of double length; in this way it adopts the function of a refrain. The hymn to St. John, “Ut queant laxis,” is set for two solo sopranos and two violins. The uneven verses are not assigned to voices; they are replaced by an instrumental ritornello, referring back to the old alternatim practice. The vocal substitutes likewise display the small-scale concertato style. Grandi’s duet, “Hic est praecursor dilectus,” confirms his fame as a gifted melodist. The dialogue of Bazzino, “Angelus Gabriel descendit,” featuring the narrator (Historicus), the archangel Gabriel, and the father Zacharias is a rather short piece. The written statement of Zacharias - God has temporarily taken away his voice - is nevertheless sung: “His name is John.” He then regains his voice, and a song of praise follows (St. Luke 1:68), set for five-part choir. Finally, Monteverdi’s monody on the words of Psalm 150, “Laudate Dominum in sanctis eius,” shows how modern the church music style of his time was. Supplied with a different text, this virtuosic solo piece would fit very well into an opera. It forms a characteristic conclusion to the canto figurato in the Venetian Vespers.
© 1988 Frits Noske
Frits Noske, Professor Emeritus of Musicology at the University of Amsterdam, has written books on nineteenth-century French song and on the operas of Mozart and Verdi. He is also a specialist in seventeenth-century sacred music, as may be seen in his recently published monographs on Sweelinck and on the concertato motet in The Netherlands.