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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67531/2
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Release date: May 2006
Total duration: 64 minutes 42 seconds

'Despite having heard four wonderful volumes of Monteverdi's sacred music from The King's Consort, and its 2004 Proms performance of the 1610 Vespers, I was still unprepared for the ecstatic consequences of taking seriously at least one aspect of Monteverdi's so-called seconda-pratica—using much freer counterpoint, with an increasing hierarchy of voices: that the word is mistress of the music. And what ecstasy!' (Gramophone)

'The majesty and contrapuntal wizardy of this fabulous work never fail to astonish and this is a very fine performance, making effective use of the spatial effects that are an integral part of the music's architecture … the choir of the King's Consort sing with virtuosic skill and purity of articulation' (The Sunday Telegraph)

'It is the motets that are the crowning glory, especially James Gilchrist's gorgeously sensuous Nigra sum. His impassioned, full-throated singing, and skillful use of pauses, rubato and sudden pianissimos, turn the piece into a wonderfully spontaneous outpouring of erotic emotion' (The Daily Telegraph)

'This recording richly deserves a sheaf of awards. One for the astonishing speed of the turnaround between recording and release—just a couple of months. A second for bringing us the 1610 collection complete. A third for John Whenham's absolutely enthralling booklet essay. A fourth to all the many hundreds of people who donated to Hyperion's Appeal for Recording Funds in 2005, which made this recording possible. And a final fifth accolade to all the King's men (and women) who singly and severally know Monteverdi well enough not to have to over-sell him to unlock the music's magnificence' (International Record Review)

'Wonderful music; wonderful performances. Justice has been done to Monteverdi' (The Times)

'Any survey of the sheerly magnificent on CD over the past year will have to begin with Robert King's astounding new account of the Monteverdi Vespers on Hyperion, which is quite the most wonderful noise to come my way in years … solo and choral singing and the instrumental playing all attain the exceptional quality one has long come to expect with the conductor … unquestionably a major addition to the Vespers discography' (Fanfare, USA)

'Added to the 'list of things to do before you die' should be 'hearing Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers in as good a recording as you can find'. This Monteverdi is truly mind-blowing. Vespers virgins need seek no further, and serious collectors are advised not to ignore what may prove to be more than one reviewer's 'disc of the year'' (MusicWeb International)

'I can only join the label in saying 'thank you' to the many contributors who sent in funds, and I urge listeners everywhere to help the investment pay off by purchasing this set without delay. It's gorgeous and you'll love it, even if you already own other versions of this extraordinary work' (

'Même en ayant d'autres (bonnes) versions en mémoire, celle-ci se situe parmi les toutes meilleures' (, France)

Missa In illo tempore
1610 collection dedicated to Pope Paul V

Kyrie  [4'27] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [5'51] LatinEnglish
Credo  [10'48] LatinEnglish

Other recordings available for download
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers (conductor), Margaret Phillips (organ)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
On 16 July 1610 Bassano Casola, a Mantuan singer, wrote to Cardinal Ferdinando Gonzaga (younger son of Duke Vincenzo):

Monteverdi is having printed an a capella Mass for six voices written with much study and toil, since he had to continually manipulate every note through all the parts, always further strengthening the 8 themes from Gombert’s motet In illo tempore. And he is also having printed with it some psalms for the Vespers of the Virgin, with various and diverse manners of invention and harmony, all on a cantus firmus. He intends to come to Rome this autumn to dedicate them to His Holiness.

This is a not-too-inaccurate description of the publication which appeared later that year in Venice, dedicated to Pope Paul V. This begins with a ‘Missa da capella a sei voci fatta sopra il motetto In illo tempore del Gomberti’, to quote the fullest version of the title, which heads the organ part. There is no contradiction in having an organ part to a Missa da capella: the term lacked the implications that a capella was later to acquire. There was, however, one place where church music always was sung unaccompanied, the Sistine Chapel in Rome; so it is not surprising that the copy of the Mass surviving there omits the organ part. Monteverdi visited Rome in the autumn of 1610 to present a copy in person, hoping to receive in return a scholarship for his son Francesco (and perhaps some advantage for himself as well). Although the entire publication of Mass and Vespers was dedicated to the Pope, it is likely that only the Mass was in fact presented, since the Vesper music was hardly in accordance with Papal taste: the Vespers were far more suited to Venice, where the edition was published and where the composer soon secured one of the most highly prized positions available, taking charge of the musical forces of the basilica of St Mark.

Nicolas Gombert was born in Flanders around 1495, studied with Josquin and spent most of his life as a member of the chapel of the Emperor Charles V. He was sacked for pederasty in 1540 and sentenced to the galleys: he was soon pardoned, but little is known of his subsequent career. He died between 1556 and 1561. There were connections between Gombert and one member of the Gonzaga family, Ferrante, to whom Gombert sent a motet in 1547; the library of the Gonzaga chapel, Santa Barbara, included at least one of Gombert’s published sets of motets. There is no obvious reason why Monteverdi should choose a work by him on which to model his Mass; but he was clearly intent in going back beyond the preceding generation of Italian composers to the Flemish sources of the polyphonic style.

Monteverdi self-consciously heads the work with a list of the themes he has extracted from Gombert’s motet (ten of them, in fact), perhaps because he realized that it would be unknown, perhaps to show that he was interested in the abstract treatment of the conventional thematic tags rather than in parodying it as a whole. Six-voice writing was becoming unusual for polyphonic writing: it is symptomatic that Palestrina’s most famous six-voice Mass, the Papae Marcelli, was rewritten after his death for the more fashionable four voices. In the Vesper psalms which completed the 1610 publication, Monteverdi shows impressive skill in writing idiomatically for many voices within the clearer harmonic patterns of the new style. In the Mass, the harmony is still generated from a bass line which is part of the contrapuntal network, though there is a clear sense of tonality. The texture is dense, with few rests for individual parts, and only one section of chordal writing, ‘Et incarnatus est’, which draws attention to the change to E major from the prevailing C major. The following ‘Crucifixus’ restores C major, but uses the highest four voices only. E major is again used for tonal contrast in the ‘Benedictus’. The final ‘Agnus Dei’ is for seven voices, following the tradition of adding an extra voice for the last section of the Mass.

from notes by Clifford Bartlett © 1985

Other albums featuring this work
'Monteverdi: Masses' (CDH55145)
Monteverdi: Masses
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55145  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  

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