Hyperion Records

Gloria in excelsis Deo a 7 voci
Selva morale e spirituale (1640/1)
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

'Monteverdi: The Sacred Music, Vol. 3' (CDA67487)
Monteverdi: The Sacred Music, Vol. 3
'Monteverdi: The Sacred Music, Vol. 3' (SACDA67487)
Monteverdi: The Sacred Music, Vol. 3
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Track 11 on CDA67487 [11'41]
Track 11 on SACDA67487 [11'41] Super-Audio CD — Last few CD copies remaining

Gloria in excelsis Deo a 7 voci
This is one of the most impressive of all Monteverdi’s sacred works. It has long been thought to have formed part of a ceremonial Mass with music directed by Monteverdi at St Mark’s on 21 November 1631. The Mass marked the official end of the devastating outbreak of plague that swept through northern Italy from summer 1630, killing some 50,000 people in Venice alone. The Mass was followed by a procession across a bridge of boats to the newly founded votive church of Santa Maria della Salute (St Mary of Health) on the opposite side of the Grand Canal. Accounts of the occasion mention the use of ‘trombe squarciate’ – ceremonial trumpets – in both the Gloria and the Credo of the Mass. The trumpets may have played little more than fanfares, and there is no mention of them in the Selva morale version of the Gloria; even the parts for the optional trombones which are mentioned are not supplied and have to be reconstructed by modern performers.

Monteverdi casts the setting in five sections, following various cues in the text. The first section runs from the initial ‘Gloria in excelsis’, with its thrilling virtuoso figurations, through to ‘propter magnam gloriam tuam’, where the word ‘gloriam’ prompts the return of those figurations to round off the section. The second section embraces the three invocations ‘Domine Deus’, ‘Domine Fili’ and ‘Domine Deus’, each set for two sopranos and contrasted with passages of concitato writing for the full ensemble, suggesting God’s power. In sections 3 and 4, Monteverdi sets the three petitions to God and the three statements of his qualities as though they were two strophic songs for two or three voices, with each petition or statement separated from the next by a passage for two violins. The last statement – ‘Tu solus altissimus, Iesu Christe’ – is then taken over by five voices as the beginning of the final section, in which the phrase ‘in gloria Dei Patris’ prompts Monteverdi to return again to the ‘Gloria’ figurations of the opening of the setting.

from notes by John Whenham © 2004

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