Da concerto composta sopra canti Fermi, 1610
Claudio Monteverdi: “Marienvesper”
No assured facts are available about the composition and the first performance of the Vesper of the Blessed Virgin. Claudio Monteverdi who was in service at the court in Mantua probably applied with the publication of his work for another job, probably in Rome.
A performance during Monteverdi’s lifetime cannot be verified; perhaps individual parts could be heard in 1608 within the framework of a princely wedding. We can assume that the Vesper of the Blessed Virgin came into being in the immediate proximity to the turn of the century in the years before 1610. Parallels can be recognised between Galileo Galilei and Claudio Monteverdi, who were born within a few years of each other. While Galilei stands as “Begründer der modernen Wissenschaft” (D. Guaccero), Monteverdi stood in the centre of a radical musical change and was leading forerunner of “nuove musiche”, this new Italian style that showed itself in the newly emerging genre of operas, solo cantatas and the spiritual concertos and contributed to the detachment of the Dutch style of the polyphonic motet.
The Vesper of the Blessed Virgin is exemplary of this new way of composing, the “seconda practica” with its use of solo voices with instrumental accompaniment, basso continuo, virtuoso elements and individual expression. Claudio Monteverdi is a master of this style, combining it in “Vesper” with the older church style of the “prima practica”.
Is it these contrasts that make us feel more strongly moved by the Vesper of the Blessed Virgin than scarcely any other work of this epoch? As a musical reflection of an exciting, energetic era, it is undoubtedly one of the greatest treasures in the history of music.