Related Reviews
BBC Music Magazine
Building A Library 'Best Recording': 'This is one of those rare recordings, impressive at first blush, that reveals more with every hearing...this Vespers transcends historically informed performance practice to touch the spiritual core of Monteverdi's masterwork.'
more >>
Stereophile
5 Stars
Recording of the Month: 'When the score calls for sheer tenderness, they fairly melt into the music, every subtlety heard and felt. And yet it's never precious. This remarkably honest reading balances the holy with the dazzling.'
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Choir & Organ
5 Stars
'Vital passion (especially in the concerti), fresh, compelling fervour, luminous clarity and exquisite phrasing flow from ten vocal virtuosi and brilliant instrumentalists.'
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Scherzo
'...handled with that admirable skill to which Butt and the Dunedin Consort have accustomed us in recent years...simply amazing.'
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Crescendo
Joker Award: 'Excellence à laquelle contribue le Dunnedin Consort sous une direction empreinte de réserve, d'intériorité et d'émotion musicale.'
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The Herald
Top 20 Classical Albums of 2017: ‘…we got the glorious 1610 Vespers as given the Dunedin treatment for Linn: stripped back performances under John Butt that are fresh and luminous, lithe and alive.’
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Crescendo
'...sublime and majestic...'
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Early Music Review
5 Stars
'Given the outstandingly tuned singing and ensemble, the result is to expose Monteverdi’s often dazzling counterpoint in rare detail and clarity...a finely conceived and splendidly executed achievement.'
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Early Music Review
5 Stars
'This is a first-rate recording...the sounds of the Dunedin’s strings and His Majestys Sagbuts and Cornetts are exceptionally well-blended and beautifully captured in this intelligent and well-produced recording.'
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Pizzicato
4 Stars
'The performance by John Butt and his ensembles is lively and colourful.'
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Gramophone
'With so many Vespers recordings out there, this one joins the ranks of those with both a character of its own and something to say.'
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De Standaard
4 Stars
'Een koortje van solostemmen, een secuur musicerend orkestje en uitgekiende tempo's houden elk detail tegen het licht.'
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BBC Music Magazine
4½ Stars
Performance 5 / Recording 4: 'This compelling and insightful album is an outstanding contribution to Monteverdi's 450th anniversary... Particularly effective is the coloristic sonority of the organ which, by employing the Hauptwerk system, reproduces the sound of an early Venetian instrument.'
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Opus Klassiek
'This new recording of the Vespers may therefore be considered as one of the best of its kind'.
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BBC Radio Scotland 'Classics Unwrapped'
'Good line up including the wonderful baritone Peter Harvey whose voice and intelligence shines through in everything he does.'
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Klassieke Zaken
'Butt takes the time to give Monteverdi's emotional power its full weight, well over four centuries after the emergence of this amazing music.'
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All Music
4½ Stars
Best of 2017: '...this luminous rendition of the 1610 Vespers is one of the most exciting and satisfying for its virtuosity and brilliance.'
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Classic FM
Album of the Week: 'If you want some Monteverdi in your life, you can’t do better than this new recording...'
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The Observer
4 Stars
'...the recording sounds fresh and clear...'
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The Mail on Sunday 'Event Magazine'
5 Stars
'Any recording by Butt is an event. And this one, recorded with a small, hand-picked choir of ten voices, is special even by his elevated standards.'
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Bachtrack
'...[an] authoritative recording by John Butt with the splendid Dunedin Consort.'
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BBC Radio 3 'Record Review'
'...the standard of solo singing is outstanding, beautifully ornamented.'
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Europadisc
Disc of the Week: '... this endlessly absorbing, beautifully presented and intensely focused performance from Butt and his forces ticks all the right boxes.'
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Financial Times
4 Stars
'...a virtuoso display of individual talents.'
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The Sunday Times
'...a magnificent choral sound...'
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Stemband
'...a beautifully presented album...'
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Dunedin Consort - Monteverdi: Vespers 1610 - Primephonic


17 October 2017
Primephonic
Michael Quinn
4½ Stars

2017 marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of Claudio Monteverdi, the greatest musical innovator of his age. Caught on the cusp between the Renaissance and the Baroque, he claimed his place in history as the father of opera with three seminal masterpieces – L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria and L’incoronazione di Poppea – that remain in the repertoire today.

No less revolutionary were the Vespro della Beata Vergine (‘Vespers for the Blessed Virgin’ – more commonly known as the Vespers (‘evening prayers’) of 1610; a work that remained unmatched in scale or ambition until Bach’s great Passions a century and more later. Conceived with the grandest of designs, it daringly incorporates secular music alongside sacred idioms, employs several instrumental and song forms (sonata, motet, hymn and psalm) and requires shape-shifting permutations from the chorus. It also demands previously unheard of vocal dexterity in its daring blending of polyphony, virtuoso coloratura, solo passages and duets.

Such innovation – and not least under the censorious eye of the church – was accommodated by music that deftly blended tradition and modernity with almost insouciant ease. There are several fine recordings already in the catalogue, but this new offering from John Butt makes much of recent scholarship to deliver a reading that dispenses with plainsong antiphons and much else to sound both fresh and vital.

Devotees of a more luxurious sound in this music may initially find Butt’s more streamlined approach something of a surprise – textures noticeably thinner, instrumental accompaniment leaner, tempi markedly more measured in places. Yet, his judicious leaning towards one voice per part, smaller choral forces (a maximum of 10 here) and reduced instrumental resources (no more than 20) imbues the Biblical texts with a brilliant, cut-crystal clarity. The spacious, superbly recorded acoustic of Edinburgh’s Grey Kirk lends a becoming halo throughout, sublimely so in the other-worldly answer-and-call of ‘Audi coelum’ and, more so, in the transcendent ‘Gloria Patri’.

Most striking is the involving intimacy of a performance that satisfies liturgical need while also remaining alert to the expectations of the contemporary listener. Try the ‘Sonata sopra Sancta Maria’ for a demonstration of Butt’s adroit blending and balancing of church and concert hall: sopranos Joanne Lunn and Esther Brazil luminous and ethereal within the glowing, period-brass corporeality of His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts.

In a word: blissful.

Performance: four stars
Sound: five stars


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