The arrival of Monteverdi at St Mark’s represented a major change; a Venetian outsider, he had not worked his way up through the ranks as a singer or even vice-maestro
at St Mark’s. A willing exile from a difficult experience in Mantua, he was long overdue a fulfilling and fruitful environment, which he certainly found at St Mark’s. One of his earliest innovations concerned the music provided for Low Masses: the Doge was required to attend Mass in the Basilica on certain days when ceremonies would also take him elsewhere, and even at these Low Masses, there was a modest provision of music usually sung by a small unaccompanied choir of around four to six parts. As there was insufficient repertoire for these Masses, repetition of music was frequent and Monteverdi sought to remedy the problem. Unconstrained as he was by a certain Venetian hauteur towards Roman music, Monteverdi persuaded the authorities to purchase volumes of four-, five- and six-part works by Palestrina and Soriano to address the need. Monteverdi’s death in 1643 was marked with the highest honours of the Republic and burial in one of Venice’s grandest churches, the Basilica di Santa Maria dei Frari.
from notes by Charles Cole © 2024