If Vespers was not immediately followed by Compline, the last of the daily Hours services, it was the custom to sing one of the four seasonal Marian antiphons with its associated devotions. Of the four, Monteverdi seems to have set only ‘Salve Regina’. This setting, for solo tenor, was first published in 1625 in the anthology Ghirlanda sacra
, compiled by Leonardo Simonetti, a castrato singer appointed to the choir of St Mark’s, Venice, in 1613. It is written in the rhetorical declamatory style promoted at the beginning of the seventeenth century by Florentines such as Giulio Caccini, with a little written-out virtuoso ornamentation, and only a modicum of word-painting in the chromatic bass at ‘suspiramus, gementes et flentes’. It is accompanied here by Monteverdi’s favourite combination of continuo instruments – organ and chitarrone.
from notes by John Whenham © 2005