Cavalli: Vespero delle Domeniche con li Salmi correnti di tutto l’Anno

Coro Claudio Monteverdi di Crema, La Pifarescha, Bruno Gini
69:11
Dynamic CDS 7714

Full marks to Dynamic for producing this recording, which presents the entire contents of Cavalli’s 1675 print rather than a reconstruction of any particular Vespers service. Venice’s liturgical plan required a far more diverse range of psalm settings than elsewhere, and this set – in common with predecessors by Grandi, Rovetta and Rigatti (among others) – uses double choir so was probably written originally for performance during special feasts at St Mark’s when the magnificent pala d’oro was opened. If there are very occasional moments of instability amongst the voices, these scarcely distract from the stylish readings of this sumptuous, sonorous music.

Much better known today for his operas, Cavalli certainly knew how to write for large vocal ensembles and here the two four-voice choirs are not only divided between solo and ripieno line-ups, but in some of the psalms they are reinforced further by two groups of cornetto and three trombones and organ. While the players freely decorate their lines, I was unaware of the solo singers doing likewise, which I cannot believe to be a true representation of contemporary performance practice – surely, if only the very best singers found a place in the choir (Cavalli among them, of course!), they would not have wanted to be outshone? Be that as it may, I was excited to hear this recording, and I would love to hear the same forces (perhaps with more freedom given to the singers?) in some of the earlier repertoire in the context of a full service.

Brian Clark