A Vesper hymn for the feast of a martyr. Monteverdi sets it to a graceful triple-time melody which must come close to Beethoven’s ideal of a melody that combines beauty with simplicity. Three verses are provided in the Selva morale
, which correspond to verses 1, 3 and 5 of the hymn. Although there is a possibility that the even-numbered verses would have been sung in alternate fashion to plainsong, it is most likely that the string ritornello would have served as a substitute in a Venetian Vespers of the period. At first sight it appears that the top vocal part is intended for a tenor as it is printed in the tenor clef. But it is placed in the alto partbook, which suggests that it may have been intended to sound an octave higher.
from notes by Peter Holman © 1981