UPDATE May 31 – the June History Carnival is now live – please click here or on the tab above.
On or around June 1, Magnificat will take part in what has become an impressive tradition, when we host the 88th History Carnival. Each month since 2005, links to articles from the well-developed history blogosphere are gathered together on one blog and given some commentary for context.
I discovered the monthly carnival at some point and have found them not only an enjoyable and educational read but a terrific way of ferreting out blogs with obscure and fascinating specializations. They’ve all found a home on my RSS reader and many appear in the sidebar of this blog.
A review of past Carnivals (the archive can be viewed here) demonstrates the exciting work being made available on the internet – at least in general history. In addition to the excellent nominations I have already received, I am planning to feature some blogs that focus on the history of music for this installment of the Carnival.
Last weekend I had the privilege of sharing Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine of 1610 with an extraordinary assembly of musicians and three engaged and appreciative audiences. I have often said that the most wonderful thing about directing Magnificat is that I get the best spot in the hall to experience fine artists at work and that was definitely the case in these concerts.
When I eventually got home from the Grace Cathedral on Sunday, I opened the laptop to check the Inbox and was greeted with the familiar pop-up window “You are now running on reserve battery.” My initial response was “No kidding!,” a response to which anyone coming off a production like the 1610 Vespers could relate. But it also got me thinking about the ‘rhythm’ of vespers how eloquently Monteverdi embroiders that rhythm and ‘recharges the batteries’ as the vespers moves from one multi-layered text to another. Read more…
It is a pleasure to be working together again with The Whole Noyse in Magnificat’s performances of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers. In numerous collaborations over the past two decades, I have been consistently impressed with their musicianship and impeccable ensemble playing and Steve, Richard, Sandy and Herb have all become dear friends and trusted musical colleagues. The Whole Noyse will be joined by cornettist Kiri Tollaksen and frequent collaborator trombonist Ernie Rideout in our Vespers performances.
The Whole Noyse has collaborated with Magnificat from our very first season in 1992, when they joined for a series of memorable performances of Schütz’ Weihnachtshistorie, co-presented by the San Francisco Early Music Society. In 1994, they joined in our staged production of Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo, which we subsequently recorded for Koch International. No one who was present will forget the infamous Halloween recording session that stretched into the wee hours of the morning at St. Vincent’s in Marinwood! Later in 1994, we first performed Monteverdi’s Vespers, which were co-presented by SFEMS and the Sonoma Bach Society. We would perform the Vespers again together in 1999. Read more…
This article is adapted from a longer article that appears in the April issue of the San Francisco Early Music Society newsletter, which can be viewed and downloaded in PDF format at the SFEMS website.
Recently Craig Zeichner, who is writing a piece about “2010 Vespermania,” asked me what made the Monteverdi Vespers so special. There are so many different answers to the question, which in itself is certainly a potent argument for its “specialness.” Several generations of writers have explored many angles in describing this amazing music — certainly more than any other music from the period — and it has become one of the enduring classics of the musical canon.
Surely one of the most striking aspects of this music is Monteverdi’s astonishing juxtaposition of old and new in a way that perfectly captured the zeitgeist of Italy in 1610. In fact, few works of art are so strongly associated with a specific year. At the same time, the music succeeds in transcending identification with any particular time and place.
But in considering Craig’s question, I found myself asking another: “What was the motivation for this grandiose display of talent?”
The answer may lie in the specific circumstances in which the collection was assembled. As many scholars have demonstrated, the Mass and Vespers collection of 1610 does not present the music performed for any specific event. Indeed, combining the five psalms and five sacri concenti into a single liturgy is problematic. But why a collection of sacred music — a genre almost entirely absent from Monteverdi’s published music in the first 40 years of his life? All indications suggest that the publication was intended to help Monteverdi escape the Mantuan court. Read more…