Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610)
Warren Stewart, artistic director
Apr 25 2010 3:00 pm
Early music group Magnificat presented Monteverdi's Vespers with small forces, only using 10 hard-working singers, one per part. The orchestra was similarly minimal. The church acoustic of Grace Cathedral made the sound both space-filing & muddy. The reverberation time was at least 2 seconds, giving all the sound a blurry halo. The acoustic helped make a striking moment of the pedal point opening of the Magnificat's Gloria Patri, though. Tempos were deliberate, & the intermissionless performance lasted an hour & fifty minutes.
I liked the very capable voices, such as Brian Thorsett as the 2nd tenor, whose singing was ardent. In a demonstration of the continuing effect of Eyjafjallajokull, he was a replacement for Mirko Guardagnini, who was unable to leave Europe. The 1st soprano had a voice that was big & soaring. There was a male alto voice in there somewhere that was penetrating & solid. The wind players from The Whole Noyse made a mellow contribution to the sound.
Antiphons were sung between the numbers to give the piece its liturgical context. The Sonata sopra Sancta Maria was performed last, after the Magnificat in 7 parts. Before the performance, Mr. Stewart asked the audience to refrain from applause until the end, & it was indeed impressively quiet during the lengthy performance. Many gave the performers a standing ovation. The audience was invited to a wine & cheese reception afterward. Someone at Magnificat is quite Web-savvy, as the group has an informative blog, & a presence on flickr, facebook & twitter.
Since we arrived early for the concert, we had time to inspect the immaculately maintained vintage cars of the California Mille in Huntington Park. This is my 2nd Vespers performance in the work's 400th anniversary year. Will it be possible to attend a 3rd without leaving SF?