Hyperion Records

Messa a 4 da Cappella 1640
Selva morale e spirituale (1640/1)
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

'Monteverdi: The Sacred Music, Vol. 1' (CDA67428)
Monteverdi: The Sacred Music, Vol. 1
'Monteverdi: The Sacred Music, Vol. 1' (SACDA67428)
Monteverdi: The Sacred Music, Vol. 1
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Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3: Credo
Movement 4: Sanctus
Movement 5: Benedictus
Movement 6: Agnus Dei

Messa a 4 da Cappella 1640
This setting of the Ordinary of the Mass is one of only three by Monteverdi that survive complete, though many more must have been lost if we are to believe Monteverdi’s comment in a letter of 2 February 1634 that he had to write a new Mass every year for Christmas Eve. Although sections of Masses by Monteverdi in an up-to-date concerted style survive, the three complete works are written in a style which had, by the 1630s, become known as the stile antico (the old style): that is, they are written deliberately in the restrained a cappella style of the late sixteenth century.

It has been suggested that the motive with which all the main movements of the Selva morale Mass begin is drawn from the beginning of the madrigal ‘La vaga pastorella’, published by Monteverdi in his first book of madrigals (1587) and that the Mass dates from around this period. The thematic material is indeed similar to the opening of the madrigal, but the apparently effortless flow of the polyphony suggests that the Mass itself belongs to a period of mastery rather than apprenticeship.

The concerted Mass sections printed in the Selva morale include settings of three texts—‘Crucifixus’, ‘Et resurrexit’ and ‘Et iterum venturus est’—the second of which includes violins as well as continuo accompaniment. Together, these three sections form a complete paragraph of the Creed. The original context for which they were written is uncertain, but Monteverdi indicates that they can be used, for variety, in place of the corresponding sections of the a cappella Mass.

from notes by John Whenham © 2003

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