Hyperion Records

Missa In illo tempore
1610 collection dedicated to Pope Paul V

'Monteverdi: Masses' (CDH55145)
Monteverdi: Masses
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55145  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Monteverdi: Vespers' (CDA67531/2)
Monteverdi: Vespers
Buy by post £20.00 CDA67531/2  2CDs  
'Monteverdi: Vespers' (SACDA67531/2)
Monteverdi: Vespers
SACDA67531/2  2CDs Super-Audio CD — Deleted  
Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3: Credo
Movement 4: Sanctus
Movement 5: Benedictus
Movement 6: Agnus Dei I
Movement 7: Agnus Dei II

Missa In illo tempore
Even if we lacked Bassano Cassola’s letter telling us that the Missa In illo tempore was the product of ‘great study and effort’, it would be clear that Monteverdi intended it as a demonstration of his mastery of contrapuntal technique. In both its published form and in a manuscript score that survives in the Vatican library, the Mass is prefaced by the ten motifs of between five and ten notes on which it is based and which Monteverdi borrowed from the six-part motet In illo tempore loquente Iesu by the Flemish composer Nicolas Gombert (c1495–c1560). One or more of these motifs—sung in their original form, or inverted (upside down), or in retrograde (backwards) or in retrograde inversion (backwards and upside down)—appears in every section of the Mass with the exception of the ‘et incarnatus’ of the Creed and the Benedictus, which seem to be freely composed. Moreover, Monteverdi forgoes the variety of scoring that composers, himself included, usually used to lighten the texture of five- and six-part pieces; instead, much of the Mass is written in six real parts (seven in the final Agnus Dei). Only at the ‘Crucifixus’ section of the Creed does Monteverdi drop down to four voices, and only at the ‘et incarnatus’ of the same movement and in the Benedictus does he indulge in block chordal writing.

And yet, despite the relentlessly contrapuntal writing and dense textures, the adoption of an old style a cappella framework, and the tribute to a respected composer of a much earlier generation, the Mass is still recognizably by Monteverdi. Its energy and the modern-sounding major tonality contribute to this. But there are moments too when the writing is clearly related to that found in the ostensibly more modern Vespers music. There is frequent sequential writing—in the last section of the Kyrie, for example, and in the Sanctus and Benedictus—and some passages have exact parallels in the Psalms: compare, for example, the close imitation in dotted rhythms heard in descending form at ‘in gloria Dei Patris’ (Gloria) and in the last Agnus Dei, and in ascending form at ‘Et in Spiritum Sanctum’ (Creed), with the ‘Amen’ of Laudate pueri and the ‘Gloria Patri’ of Laetatus sum (both ascending), the ‘Gloria Patri’ of the six-part Magnificat (descending), and, more generally, with the close canonic entries that open and close Nisi Dominus. As so often, Monteverdi leaves us with a question: is the Mass more forward-looking than it at first appears?

from notes by John Whenham © 2006

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67531/2 disc 2 track 31
Recording date
11 February 2006
Recording venue
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Ben Turner
Recording engineer
Philip Hobbs
Hyperion usage
  1. Monteverdi: Vespers (CDA67531/2)
    Disc 2 Track 31
    Release date: May 2006
  2. Monteverdi: Vespers (SACDA67531/2)
    Disc 2 Track 31
    Release date: May 2006
    Deletion date: March 2012
    2CDs Super-Audio CD — Deleted
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