In the Selva morale
– Monteverdi’s own projection of his achievement in the field of church music – there is very little evidence of the standard type of eight-voice psalm setting, with two four-part choirs singing in alternation and together, that we can find in the output of his predecessors and successors at St Mark’s and which were prescribed for important feast days on which the doge attended Vespers and when the Pala d’Oro – the great gold altarpiece – was displayed. So, again, we are indebted to the publisher Vincenti and his 1650 Messa a quattro voci e salmi
for this example of just such a setting, ‘alla breve’, in what was coming to be known as the ‘old style’. Even here, however, Monteverdi does not simply alternate the psalm verse by verse between the choirs, as Willaert did, but combines them in a more varied and less predictable series of textures.
from notes by John Whenham © 2005