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Laudate Dominum omnes gentes III 1640
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The very brevity of the text of ‘Laudate Dominum’ (two verses plus the ‘Gloria Patri’) posed a problem for the composer. In this setting from the Selva morale Monteverdi solved the problem by turning the text into a dramatic dialogue between the two sopranos (perhaps representing angels) and the remainder of the ensemble. The sopranos enjoin the people to praise the Lord, but are at first met only by the single word ‘quoniam’, which in this context becomes a question – ‘because?’. Only after the sopranos answer this question, by singing the words of verse 2 – ‘quoniam confirmata est …’ (‘Because his mercy upon us is confirmed …’) – do ‘the people’ respond at greater length, at first seeking further confirmation, and then singing the complete psalm text, verse 1 as a full eight-part ensemble, verse 2 in two four-part choirs each led by one of the sopranos. The ‘Gloria Patri’ is then sung by the two sopranos alone, cadencing in a way that seems to fade into the distance.

from notes by John Whenham © 2010

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