Collegium Vocale Gent
Philippe Herreweghe, conductor
Claudio Monteverdi: “Vespro della Beata Vergine”
With his “Marian Vespers”, Claudio Monteverdi became one of the most innovative composers of his time: strict polyphony was combined with textual clarity and graphic tonal effects. This is stirring music, congenially interpreted by Philippe Herreweghe and his Collegium Vocale Gent.
“The aim that good music must have is to move people,” wrote Claudio Monteverdi in the preface to his Eighth Book of Madrigals. His preferred means of doing this was dramatic contrast “because I know that it is opposites that largely move our disposition.” The best example of this affect-laden approach – which overtaxed many of his more sober contemporaries – is Monteverdi’s “Vespro della Beata Vergine”. Because the constantly changing casts and tone colours of these Marian Vespers, whose overall architecture is as complex as it is are boldly conceived, presented a musical variety that was undreamed of at the time – and despite all their well-calculated contrasts they offer a deliberate, homogenous whole. In addition to the customary Vesper ingredients such as psalms, antiphons and hymns, Monteverdi also included so-called “concerti”, which were unmistakably influenced by the secular vocal music of the time. It is these in particular that achieve a passionate, indeed sensual intensity, which was something entirely new in religious music then. Philippe Herreweghe, who was encouraged as a student by pioneers of historic performance practice such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt, makes a guest appearance at the Philharmonie Berlin with Monteverdi’s “Vespro della Beata Vergine” – together with the ensemble he founded, Collegium Vocale Gent, and which is still associated with his name to this day: as a guarantee of excellent performances on ancient instruments and with a slim, transparent choral line-up.