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(Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610)
Coro Della Radio Svizzera, Lugano; Ensemble More Antiquo; Concerto Palatino; I Barocchisti
Directed by Diego Fasolis

ARTS DVD 47609-9 [97 mins] www.artsmusic.de

A well received Monteverdi's Vespers CD from Italian Switzerland, it is interesting to have it now on DVD. This version has an unpretentious, homely and devotional quality, filmed at a live performance at the St Lorenzo Cathedral in Lugano and produced by Televisione Svizzera Italiana-TSI. Sub-titles are limited to the those of the items, but complete words with translations are given in the better-than-average booklet (there is a slippage between track numbers there and those which your remote calls up).

There is always a problem with filmed concerts; visual content is limited and static, so cameramen sometimes roam around a church too restlessly to beguile the eye. Not so here. The views here are fairly basic, but perfectly satisfactory; I was unsure at first about their reliance on extremely close up shots (do we need to see sweat pouring under TV lights or to know that one of the tenors wears a deaf-aid?), but gradually you get used to it and almost get to feel you know the singers and players as individuals - they are clearly identified with initials against the tracks.

The experience with this DVD is more like being at the concert itself than is the case with more sophisticated productions; you follow the words in the programme (well worth doing so with Monteverdi, whose expressiveness is closely related to the text), sometimes look up to watch the performers, but not all the time. I liked this.

Well prepared 'historically informed' performance from the members of Concerto Palatino & I Barocchisti on authentic instruments; no great voices, but good, idiomatic singing and playing under the inspiring conductor, Diego Fasolis. (No information about the edition used; important for Monteverdi.)

The sound is suitably reverberant, but I found I needed to switch off my extra speakers and it sounded better with straight stereo, and very good on my computer. The music is amazing, and marvellously varied, drawing on secular and dramatic elements alongside elaborate polyphony, and it was opportune to receive this DVD for review immediately after London's Inside Monteverdi Study Weekend at South Bank Centre sunder the direction of Philip Pickett, who will be conducting Monteverdi's Vespers there on 8 March.


© Peter Grahame Woolf