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Preview: Monteverdi 1610 Vespers on EMG’s International Series this weekend

November 30, 2010

Claudio Monteverdi as a young man in Mantua

This weekend, Early Music Guild presents Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers as part of the International Series.  Presented in partnership with Pacific Musicworks, directed by Stephen Stubbs, and St. James Cathedral, these special performances are in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Monteverdi’s immortal masterpiece.  Pacific Musicworks, an all-star ensemble of vocalists and instrumentalists with special guests from Seattle Baroque Orchestra, will be joined by Europe’s premiere cornett and sackbut ensemble, Concerto Palatino.  Vocal soloists include sopranos Terri Richter and Yulia Van Doren, and tenors Ross Hauck and Jason McStoots.

It’s easy to say that Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers is an ‘immortal masterpiece’ and an event ‘not to be missed’ and all manner of marketable superlatives, but sometimes it helps to know why so many people feel this way about this collection of music.  As a listener, one can experience music at the cusp of the Renaissance era and what was to become the Baroque era – all in one performance!  Juxtaposed between glorious polyphonic chorus writing representing the old style, Monteverdi includes solo songs with accompaniment, a relatively new idea at the time.   It is through this delightful contrast that one can compare the old style and the new, often coming away with a new appreciation for both.

“Monteverdi is not responsible for the shift in aesthetics but he is the musical figure who, more than any other, shaped the new musical landscape including the newly invented forms such as opera.” – Stephen Stubbs, director Pacific Musicworks

The instrumental texture of cornetts and sackbuts, together with strings and voices, has a distinctive sound that would have been very familiar to listeners in Italy in 1610 but has a wonderful way of transporting modern listeners back in time through sound.  The cornett players will often sound so much like singers that it will likely be difficult to distinguish which is which, especially since the cornett was often praised for its ability to sound most like the voice.

In addition to the wonderful colors of the early 17th century aural landscape, listeners often come away from performances of the 1610 Vespers with a profoundly personal connection to the work.  The intimate settings of the solo songs contribute to that sense, as well as the sense of communion often present in witnessing choral polyphony.  It is this personal connection that helps keep Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers on the minds, hearts and lips of musicians 400 years later and probably for many years to come.

“The musicians of St. James feel a particular spiritual connection with Monteverdi and the other great musicians of San Marco.   Twice we have had the joy of making music in the very high gallery in which Monteverdi and Schütz and Gabrieli stood.   But the connection between Monteverdi and St. James is visible as well as spiritual.   On our last trip to Venice, Cathedral Pastor Father Ryan and I visited Monteverdi’s tomb in Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.   We were so moved by the marble frames that surrounded the tombs in the 14th-century church’s floor, that we took a picture which we showed our architect when we returned home to Seattle.  He in turn used the Venetian design to frame the Cathedral’s crypt in the floor just east of the Altar platform.   This is the spot from which the Monteverdi Vespers 1610 will be performed December 3 and 4.” – Dr. James Savage

Join us for an event that is truly ‘not to be missed‘!

Friday, December 3 and Saturday, December 4 at 8PM

Free pre-concert lecture by Stephen Stubbs and Joan Catoni Conlon on Friday, December 3, 6:30-7:15pm in the Mt. Baker Room at Skyline (just south of St. James).

St. James Cathedral, 804 Ninth Ave., Seattle

Tickets are $40 general admission, $35 Senior (65+), $25 discounted side sections, $15 students

Buy tickets here.

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