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  41:5 (05-06 /2018)
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Harmonia Mundi

Code-barres / Barcode : 3149020930823 (ID628)


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Reviewer: J. F. Weber

A few years ago, we had a spate of virtually complete recordings of Selva morale e spirituale. Most recent was Harry Christophers (Fanfare 34:4, 36:1, 37:2), preceded by Claudio Cavina (34:5), Gabriel Garrido (34:4), Françoise Lasserre (a single in 34:4; the boxed set was never issued here and is now very rare), and much earlier Konrad Junghänel (25:3). Before that, there were discs making up sets of Vespers, using the psalms, hymns, canticles, and final antiphons from both this 1641 book and Messa a quattro voci et salmi, the posthumous publication of 1650–51. Earliest of all was Michel Corboz’s eight LPs drawn from both books (Erato and Musical Heritage Society), later on CD. While noting that only Garrido was absolutely complete, I found Christophers preferable in number of singers and players as well as the layout on three single discs.

This program is a sample of the 1641 publication, not the beginning of a set. The notes describe the four categories of works: spiritual madrigals; Mass settings; psalms, hymns, canticles, and final antiphons for Vespers; and motets. Every type is represented, though the three Credo movements of 1631 are included rather than the a cappella setting of the Mass, and the sequence of tracks is balanced rather than grouped by types. (Beginning with a Dixit and ending with a Magnificat does suggest Vespers, but the three Mass movements, a motet, and two spiritual madrigals slipped in along the way do not.)


This is new ground for Heras-Casado, a new name to me but not to aficionados of the 19th- and 20th-century repertoire that he has recorded, mostly for this label. His grasp of Monteverdi matches the specialists who have tackled this repertoire. The pan-European choral and instrumental ensemble, named after a Baroque-era architect (not a hyphenated name, as previous listings have it), responds artfully to his direction. The vocal soloists, all very good, are selected from the chorus. While Heras-Casado is in charge, two other names occur: Detlef Bratschke as the choir director and Thomas Hengelbrock as the artistic director of the combined ensembles. Both have conducted other ensembles on records.

The competition for this disc is any one of Christophers’s three discs, for the ensemble of 16 singers and 16 players is not much different than his. By chance or otherwise, Heras-Casado includes selections from all three of the other discs as well as several selections that Christophers omitted. Monteverdi scored large-scale works for major feasts, using fewer voices and instruments for lesser feasts. (Christophers put the smaller works on his first disc, using only eight singers and six players.) For comparison, I chose the final work on his third disc, the great Magnificat Primo for eight voices, to compare with Heras-Casado’s performance that also concludes his program. They are comparable in quality. It is no advantage that this disc is shorter than any of the other three. This is a pleasing survey of the Selva morale e spirituale that will disappoint no one who acquires it.

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