Author Archive

Notes for the Berkeley Festival Finale Concert – June 13

June 3rd, 2010 No comments

The Berkeley Festival & Exhibition Finale will be a celebration of the extraordinary repertoire of music composed by Venetian composers for the elaboration of the office of Vespers during the century following the publication of Monteverdi’s monumental Vespro della Beata Vergine in 1610. The concert will feature works by 12 composers performed by Archetti, ARTEK, AVE, Magnificat, the Marion Verbruggen Trio, Music’s Re-creation, and ¡Sacabuche! Tickets are available at this link.

Though the music in Monteverdi’s 1610 collection was composed while he was in the service of the Duke of Mantua, it served to display his mastery of the sacred genres and contributed to his appointment in 1613 to the most prestigious musical position in Europe: maestro di cappella at the Basilica of St. Mark’s in Venice. Monteverdi’s colleagues at San Marco, and the illustrious series of musicians that followed him in the position of maestro, dedicated the finest fruits of their talent and skills to the ornamentation of the Vespers liturgy, the primary venue for elaborate sacred music throughout the seventeenth century. The Finale program will explore the ingenious ways that these composers integrated the evolving compositional styles of the seventeenth century in setting the ancient, unchanging texts that make up the Vespers liturgy.

Having escaped the brutal demands of his employment as a court composer at the Mantuan court and secured a position as a church musician in Venice, Monteverdi apparently saw no need to publish sacred music and it was only at the very end of his long life that he assembled the magnificent Selva Morale et Spirituale. Similar in construction to the 1610 collection, but significantly larger in scope, it includes a setting of the Mass ordinary, settings of all the psalms required for major feasts (in some cases multiple settings in different compositional styles,) a Magnificat, and several hymns, as well as a handful of motets and spiritual and moral songs for various combinations of voices and instruments. As with his 1610 collection, Monteverdi again achieved a standard of opulence achieved by few before and after. The setting of Laudate pueri on the Finale program is an example of the concertato style in which music for solo voices, ensembles and instruments (in this case two violins) are juxtaposed to provide textural variety and create a cohesive structure. Read more…

It’s Carnival Time

May 30th, 2010 No comments

Mercurius Politicus – The pelican’s beak holds more than its belly can

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Atrium Musicologicum – Palestrina’s First Book of Madrigals for Four Voices

May 29th, 2010 No comments

BibliOdyssey – The Sibylline Prophecies

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Taruskin Challenge – Musical Chaos

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Georgian London – The Cries of London: Street-Traders of the 18th Century

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Chronicon Mirabilium – Back to 1608 : of festivities and prodigies

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Early Modern Whale – Burn as many thousand years in hell, as there be spears of grass in Hyde Park, so saith Christ

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Mistris Parliament – Regulating the Press in 17th Century England

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Fragments – Good Chockolett & Good Combs

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Bernard Gordillo – Voices from the 18th Century: Charles Burney on the Making of a Castrato

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Musical Iconoclast – Mahler Plays Mahler

May 29th, 2010 No comments

BFXTen – Early English Masters of the Baroque

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Zenobia – The Glory Days of Antioch

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Westminster Wisdom – Augustine’s Miracles

May 29th, 2010 No comments

The Renaissance Mathematicus – Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel.

May 29th, 2010 No comments

Magnificat to Host the June ‘History Carnival’

May 26th, 2010 No comments


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.

Nominations for the Carnival can be made by writing to the blog ( or, more officially, by visiting the History Carnival nomination page.

Monteverdi’s Song of Mary and ‘Re-Animation’

April 28th, 2010 No comments

Magnificat at Grace Cathedral

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…

The Whole Noyse to Perform with Magnificat

April 6th, 2010 No comments

The Whole Noyse - Stephen Escher, Sanford Stadtfeld, Richard Van HesselIt 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…