Claudio Monteverdi: Vespers of the Blessed Virgin, 1610


This disc represents a new orchestra partnership for Signum Records with The Orchestra of the Age of the Englightenment, one of London and the world’s leading period-instrument ensembles. Led by Robert Howarth, the recording was made at Kings Place following the orchestras successful 2010 tour of the work.

On the Vespers, Robert Howarth writes: "For me, Monteverdi’s music enhances the text beautifully. It doesn’t matter whether one is religious or not, this music touches the human soul and reflects, sincerely and passionately the true meaning of the texts in the psalms and motets … You don’t need to know what’s being sung to hear that this is a masterpiece. However, it was Monteverdi’s intention to show you his thoughts on the texts and I think it is that intention that drives this music."




What people are saying

"’Not all orchestras are the same,’ runs the message on the cover, and it’s true: … a shimmering, captivating choral sound that seems to float effortlessly through the psalms." The Independent  

"In a word it is magnificent … this is one of the most enjoyable I have heard in recent years." Musicweb International

"What is impressive is the grammatical sense (underpinned by flexible accentuation) that the choir brings to the projection of the words in Dixit Dominus and at many other places. Also, as we might expect, the instrumentalists are terrific" BBC Music Magazine

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Choir of the Enlightenment  
Robert Howarth- Director and Harpsichord

Release date:31st Jan 2011
Order code:SIGCD237
Barcode: 635212023723

The Daily Telegraph, February 2011

“Not all orchestras are the same,” runs the message on the cover, and it’s true: this is the second recording in about as many weeks of Monteverdi’s masterwork, following L’Arpeggiata’s, and clearly the superior. But it’s more about the choral arrangement than the orchestration: rather than tackling the unusually large pitch-ranges but sharing a single part between several discrete voices, Robert Howarth has assigned the parts to more versatile voices which can follow Monteverdi’s partbook outside their comfort zone, while using ingenious blends of voices to achieve a shimmering, captivating choral sound that seems to float effortlessly through the psalms.


Classic FM Magazine

The Music. Monteverdi ‘s Vespers of 1610 mixes richly-textured polychoral writing with dramatically sophisticated arioso numbers and gorgeous sections of smaller-scale chamber music. It’s all designed to heighten the listener’s religious sensibilities by appealing to his or her emotions, and (whether one is religious or not) it’s hard to resist Monteverdi’s luscious soundworld.
The Performance. Monteverdi’s sketchy score presents a mass of riddles as to instrumentation, size of forces, and even key. Conductor Robert Howarth’s solution is to use smallish numbers, and to stick to the composer’s original (rather puzzling) demands for low choral voices to sing high in their range and vice versa. That aside, his dramatic instincts are secure, his choices of tempi always lively, and the Choir of the Enlightenment sings with the light freshness and clarity which have now come to be firmly associated with Baroque performances.
The Verdict. This is a worthy addition to the existing clutch of recordings which doesn’t quite offer enough standout moments or individuality to replace them.


Warwick Thompson

Musicweb International, April 2011

1911 is Herrmann centenary year. I hope that this will provide the excuse – sadly such excuses are necessary – for companies to start freshly recording his concert and cinema music. Much needed are vivid new discs of the single symphony and single opera. The latter, Wuthering Heights (1943-51) was broadcast last year (14 July 2010) in a fine concert version by Orchestre National de Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon conducted by Alain Altinoglu with a classy cast from l’Opéra Berlioz-Le Corum de Montpellier. You can still catch this event on the Radio France website. Perhaps this could be issued on CD? It may be that the Minnesota Opera run (April 2011) will be recorded. Then again there is also Herrmann’s own 1960s recording of the opera briefly available as Unicorn UKCD/2050-52, now long gone abnd commanding dizzy prices on e-bay and amazon market-trader. Australian Eloquence have issued Herrmann’s exultant Decca legacy on Bernard Herrmann Film Classics 480 3784 [72:04 + 68:11] and Cinema Spectacular 480 3787 [56:05 + 68:27]; neither are to be missed. Very soon his Decca Planets will controversial be reissued by Eloquence.

Echoes is a tender single movement string quartet. It is a sensitive mood piece with gentle melancholy that is touchingly woven into the predominant introspection – a most unshowy piece in Lonely Waters mode. Herrmann’s famed Anglophilia radiates from this melodic music. Two years later Herrmann turned to the clarinet quintet for his Souvenirs de Voyage. It is again a gentle nostalgia- soaked work – sensitive yet with its arteries never clogged with lachrymose heaviness. It shares much the same atmosphere as the more pastorally soliloquising sections of the Finzi Clarinet Concerto – all very understated yet poignant. The movements are marked either Lento or Andante. A mistily cautious happiness suffuses the third and final movement which also at times touches on the manner of a Strauss waltz and at others suggests a Neapolitan love-song. The grit in this collection is provided by the little ten minute suite carved out by Richard Birchall from the score for Psycho. It’s all very skillfully done and like everything else here superbly played. Scudding anxiety, ascending tension, broodingly nurtured violence and terror are all faithfully articulated. While there are times when you miss the weighty impact of a full string orchestra the insight brought to this music by the Tippett Quartet pays off.

The Amici quartet made the first recording of Echoes [21:18] in the 1960s and this was issued coupled with Souvenirs de Voyage [29:01] on a Unicorn LP RHS332 circa 1972. The quintet was played by the Ariel Quartet with clarinettist Robert Hill. This also came out on a short-lived Unicorn CD (UKCD2069).

To complete a fine CD there’s a stonkingly good liner note by Neil Sinyard.


Rob Barnett

BBC Music Magazine, May 2011 Issue

… The OAE perform the work consistently around a semitone higher than modern pitch which, in the slightly dry acoustic, produces a clear, bright but somewhat empty sound. Also the pitch apparently throws some of the singers, since in ‘Nigta sum’ the tenor soloist completely misses his note a few bars in, and there is something slightly solid and cautious in the beautiful duet ‘Duo Seraphim’. What is impressive is the grammatical sense (underpinned by flexible accentuation) that the choir brings to the projection of the words in Dixit Dominus and at many other places. Also, as we might expect, the instrumentalists are terrific, especially the magical violins in ‘Deposuit potentes’ from the Magnificat.


Anthony Pryer

Choir & Organ Magazine, May/June 2011

… Monteverdi’s Exultentcaeli, included as an ‘antiphon substitute’ before the Magnificat, is so delicately, touchingly, tenderly performed that it seems to belong to a different event altogether.



Rebecca Tavener

  1. Versicle/ Response – Deus in adjutorium/Domine in adiuvandum –
  2. Psalm – Dixit Dominus –
  3. Concerto – Nigra Sum –
  4. Psalm – Laudate Pueri Domine –
  5. Motet – Pulchra es –
  6. Psalm – Laetatus sum –
  7. Motet – Duo Seraphim –
  8. Psalm – Nisi Dominus –
  9. Concerto – Audi Coelum –
  10. Psalm – Lauda Jerusalem –
  11. Sonata – sopra “Sancta Maria” –
  12. Hymn – Ave maris stella –
  13. Antiphon Substitute – Exultent caeli –
  14. Magnificat – –
  15. Antiphon Substitute – Sonata Seconda (Giovanni Batista Fontana) –