Claudio Monteverdi: Voglio di vita uscir (SV. 337) for voice & basso continuo

Edited by Barbara Sachs
Peacock Press / Green Man Press Mv 2
£10.50
ISMN 979-0-708105-91-6

This volume contains not one but two variant settings by Monteverdi of a text which is divided into two sections; the first (set over a ground bass) makes up around two thirds of the piece while the second (marked Adagio in one source, Largo in the other) begins over a descending fourth. In triple time throughout, the principal differences are pitch (they are a tone apart and a range of an octave and a fourth from the B below middle C and the C sharp above it respectively), and the presence of additional continuo-only bars in one and substantial repeated sections in the other. Sachs intelligently includes ossias of the two most divergent passages, allowing performers to create further versions that suit their taste.

The set includes a full score with a green cover and realized continuo, a second score without the cover but with all of the introductory matter and just voice and bass lines, and a continuo part with loose sheets to allow all three pages to be on the stand at once, thus avoiding the issue of impossible page turns. Similar care is taken over the layout of the score, though I would have tried to get bar 25 of the Neapolitan version on the previous line, and probably taken bars 77-78 on to the next line, but these are purely for aesthetic reasons (although arguably, repeats are more easily found at the beginnings of lines).

My only difficulty was that introduction. Of course, given that there are two divergent sources meant it was always going to be a challenge, but I found it confusing, for instance, that the two sources were referred to as Florentine and Neapolitan in one paragraph and then, in the next, being identified by the RISM sigla of the holding libraries (before the sources had been thoroughly – and I mean thoroughly! – discussed). Sachs also includes a nice translation of the text (including the three lines not set by Monteverdi, for the sake of completeness).

Brian Clark