2017 - A MONTEVERDI YEAR

Published on 15/05/2017

A NOTE BY JÉROME LEJEUNE

MUSICAL DIRECTOR OF RICERCAR

The year 1567 saw the birth of Claudio Monteverdi in Cremona. Born and raised as he was in a city that was already an important centre of string instrument making, it is scarcely surprising that the celebrated musician first became known as an instrumentalist.  It was certainly as a player of the viol that he was engaged at the Court of Mantua before becoming its maestro di capella; after which, in Venice, he went on to dominate the musical life of his time – in church as well as at the opera. His reputation was already immense, though quite a few of his colleagues must also have had a share in giving birth to the new musical language.

After his fall into neglect, his rediscovery allowed us to take stock of his importance, and it was only fitting that one of the first studies dedicated to him, Leo Schrade‘s Monteverdi: Creator of Modern Music (1950), unhesitatingly acknowledged his major role in musical history.

Since its foundation in 1980, RICERCAR has dedicated several of its recordings to his music, beginning with some of his Motteti a voce sola recorded in 1982 by the late Henri Ledroit. With Jean Tubéry’s ensemble LA FENICE a set of seven discs were conceived illustrating aspects of Italian music at the beginning of the seventeenth century, each disc exploring the vast and varied repertoire of the great Claudio’s all-embracing musical personality. For the occasion of this present anniversary, The Heritage of Monteverdi has now been re-issued in a box-set that has already received extremely laudatory commendations (the DIAPASON D’OR and CLASSICA’s CHOC award).

In the History of Early Music on which I embarked some years ago, in the form of books accompanied by recorded musical illustrations, an entire volume (RIC 107) was dedicated to the world of Italian music at the time of Monteverdi, demonstrating the crucial role played by the celebrated Cremonese master among the host of composers who surrounded him. (It received CLASSICA’s CHOC award as well as CRESCENDO’s JOKER.)

Recently RICERCAR was able to bring to light some compositions by Monteverdi in ‘first world performances’. These are the three Marian motets included in the recording of his Missa in illo tempore by ODHECATON, as well as the first complete recording of the Prologue that Monteverdi wrote for the performances of La Maddalena at Mantua in 1617, in an extremely fine interpretation by SCHERZI MUSICALI.

This year the celebration continues with a CD dedicated to Music at the Court of Mantua at the time of Monteverdi. This programme, devised by CLEMATIS, is centred around the importance of his instrumental works. These represent an aspect of his personality that is too often overlooked. And yet his brother Giulio Cesare reminds us in a letter of the remarkable nature of Claudio’s improvisations on the viola bastarda. At the time he arrived at the court instrumental music played an important role there, dominated by several celebrated instrumentalists: chief among them the violinist Salomone Rossi, a virtuoso whose compositions in this recorded programme show the wealth of instrumental music flourishing at the Mantuan court. Yet Monteverdi himself is equally a master in the domain of instrumental writing, handling it with exceptional skill, as one can hear in the ballets of his opera Orfeo, as well as in the Ballo delle ingrate and in certain madrigals such as Tempro la cetra, where the concertante role of the instruments is a fundamental feature. This evocation of Mantuan music at the time of Monteverdi also offers us the irresistable Ballo di Mantova, a popular song that has inspired innumerable instrumental versions.

Finally, an event to be eagerly awaited – Marianna Flores and the CAPPELLA MEDITERRANEA of Leonardo Gracía Alarcón are preparing a recording of solo vocal pieces (‘a voce sola’) that will be issued at the beginning of 2018.

English translator: John Thornley