Four hundred years after its first performance, Monteverdi’s Vespers for the Blessed Virgin is still, in terms of performance practice, a work in progress.
Debates continue about what musical forces should be used and at what pitch they should play. Whatever choices are made, this work remains a magnificent musical cornucopia. The conductor Jeffrey Skidmore opted for ten singers to be both choir and soloists, accompanied by Ex Cathedra’s own Consort & Baroque Ensemble supported by His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts.
The spiritual and the sensual are inextricably intertwined in the Vespers as are the vocal lines of the motet Pulchra es, beautifully sung by sopranos Grace Davidson and Natalie Clifton-Griffith.
The motet Duo Seraphim, sung by three tenors, rang out powerfully while the echo-motet Audi coelum, with tenors Jeremy Budd and Mark Dobell, was a musical balm. The Magnificat, a virtuosic creation by Monteverdi, crowned the work with singers and players combining to create a memorable performance which enthralled the audience in a packed Town Hall.