In November 2022, the Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists and John Eliot Gardiner performed a programme of Baroque choral masterpieces at iconic venues in Northern Italy.
Purcell Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes
Monteverdi Messa a 4 voci da cappella
D. Scarlatti Stabat mater
Purcell Hear my prayer, O Lord
Three Italian choral masterpieces showcase the virtuosity of the Monteverdi Choir, and highlight the changing musical styles in Italy in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Monteverdi’s final setting of the mass, written while he was maestro di cappella of St Mark’s in Venice in the first half of the 17th century, mixes the older polyphonic style with more declamatory passages. Carissimi’s Jephte, a miniature sacred musical drama written in the middle of the 17th century, uses an almost operatic style of solo writing alongside meltingly beautiful choruses to tell the Old Testament story of Jephtha, the Israelite leader forced to sacrifice his own daughter. Domenico Scarlatti’s 10-voice Stabat mater, composed in the early years of the 18th century, combines the old-fashioned polyphonic choral style with a passionate rhetoric, in a graphic depiction of Christ’s crucifixion with all the intensity of a Bernini sculpture or a Caravaggio tableau.
Two pieces by Purcell reveal Italianate influence on the English composer: in the 8-voice Hear my prayer, O Lord the harmonies become ever more extraordinary in a crescendo of supplication to God; while Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes (an exceptional setting of a Latin text in Purcell’s oeuvre) features an almost Monteverdian declamatory style.
‘As for virtuosity of the choir, there is nothing but praise for it.’ ‘The dynamics are vigorously sculpted, and the choir strongly saturated the Olimpico with the power of an orchestra, but it is the piano passages, in velvety textures of softness, which light up the wonder.’ Il Giornale di Vicenza
‘John Eliot Gardiner’s vocal and instrumental ensembles have reached the apex of quality and mastery.’ GB Opera
‘The twenty voices that make up the Monteverdi Choir, well supported by the continuity of the five elements of the English Baroque Soloists, amazed us for their impeccable technique, for the amalgamation of the voices and for a flawless intonation.’ Opera Click
‘Rigor, sumptuous elegance and vivid immediacy…a sophisticated sacred baroque repertoire that even thrilled the many young people present in the room!’ Lingotto Musica – Twitter
‘Gardiner guided the ensemble with an essential gesture and of fundamental accuracy, directing Monteverdi from memory and leaving free rein in Scarlatti, resolved with vivid immediacy alien to any stylistic rigidity.’ Le Salon Musical
‘A singular concert first of all for the undisputed and well-known talent of the two ensembles and the same for Gardiner’s immense culture and sensitivity, but not only: a ‘truly special’ concert was also treated for the sought-after content.’ Il Corriere Musicale
Tuesday 1 November - Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza
Wednesday 2 November - Auditorium Giovanni Agnelli, Torino