In 1613, Claudio Monteverdi moved to Venice to take over the direction of the Cappella di San Marco, the musical establishment of St Mark’s Basilica. A year earlier, he had left the court of Mantua after two decades spent in the service of Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga: a badly paid position with a crushing workload of which he had often complained in his correspondence.
In Venice the composer found himself with a more comfortable material situation, greater recognition, and above all greater creative freedom. To be sure, the task of the maestro di cappella at St Mark’s was a huge one: he had to furnish and supervise performance of all the music required for the liturgy. But he had a large staff to assist him – a vice-maestro, two organists, a choir of around forty singers and a sumptuous band of instrumentalists, the concerto.
Since the early Renaissance, the Cappella di San Marco had become an important and prestigious institution: a veritable sanctuary for the musical avant-garde of the time, whose influence was widespread, decisive and lasting. Monteverdi’s arrival was to consolidate that reputation and give the Cappella extraordinary international prestige.
Pablo Heras-Casado, leading the musicians of the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble into the heart of Monteverdi’s “Moral and Spiritual Forest”, captures the magic of its madrigals, psalm settings, Marian hymns, motets and mass settings collected in the monumental 1640 publication which forms a summation of the composer’s life’s work. His intensive activity as “maestro di cappella” at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice – a veritable haven for the musical avant-garde of his day – is typified by this selection of the choicest gems chosen from the imposing anthology.
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1. Dixit Dominus secondo 7'47 2. Confitebor secondo 5'05 3. Iste confessor primo 2'30 4. O ciechi, ciechi 3'05 5. Jubilet tota civitas 4'19 6. Salve Regina 6'06 7. Laudate pueri Dominum primo 6'45 8. Laudate Dominum terzo 4'06 9. Ut queant laxis 3'00 10. Crucifixus 2'09 11. Et resurrexit 1'28 12. Et iterum 1'26 13. Voi ch'ascoltate 4'34 14. Salve Regina 5'54 15. Magnificat primo 12'27