Archive for Claudio Monteverdi

Green Mountain Project 2013

Posted in News with tags , , , on December 21, 2012 by Craig Zeichner

promo-2

How many live performances of Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 have you attended? Let me rephrase the question, how often have you heard the Vespers performed by critically acclaimed singers and instrumentalists (including strings, cornetti and sackbuts) in a marvelous venue (Church of St. Mary the Virgin in NYC and St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge, MA)?

If you live in either city or just love this music and want to promote it, I urge you to contribute to the Green Mountain Project 2013’s Kickstarter campaign in support of their performances of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610. Here’s some of what you will hear:

I first learned about the Green Mountain Project back in 2010 when I was researching an Early Music America Magazine story about the Vespers. I interviewed soprano Jolle Greenleaf (the project’s co-artistic director) and was struck by her love and passion for the piece. I missed the New York performance that year (miserable flu laid me low), but have attended every performance since and was so impressed with TENET (Ms. Greenleaf’s vocal ensemble that forms the core of Green Mountain Project), I joined their board of directors. Here’s what I had to say about their recording of the 1610 Vespers.

You can contribute to the Kickstarter campaign here and, depending on how much you pledge, get premium seats and CDs of performances of the 1610 and 1640 Vespers.  The Green Mountain Project Vespers typically sell out, so by pledging $30 or more, you guarantee yourself a seat.

Why take the word of a board member? Read what Allan Kozinn of the New York Times had to say about last year’s 1640 Vespers. 

You can learn more about the Green Mountain Project here.

1640 Vespers

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , on January 1, 2012 by Craig Zeichner

In 17th-century Italy, vespers (the chief evening service of  the Office, the daily cycle of prayer) were celebrated with lavish music on special feasts. A vespers service contains an introit, five psalms that are framed by chant antiphons, a hymn and the Magnificat. Those are the basics. What composers have done with those psalms, hymns and Magnificat has resulted in some of the most thrilling music of the period.

Perhaps the most famous of all Vespers settings is the Vespro della Beata Vergine of Claudio Monteverdi. The Green Mountain Project’s 2010 concert commemorating the 400th anniversary of the publication of Monteverdi’s Vespers was one of the finest performances of the work I’ve ever heard. The Green Mountain Project is a consortium of some of the finest performers on the early music scene and is anchored by Tenet, the excellent New York-based vocal ensemble. Last January the group again presented the 1610 Vespers and released a recording of the 2010 performance. You can buy this marvelous recording at the Tenet website. Here’s what I wrote about it last year.

The 1610 Vespers are on hiatus this year, but on January 3rd, 4th (NY) and 7th (MA)  the Green Mountain Project will present A Grand Festive Vespers in Venice, c. 1640. As much as I adore the 1610 Vespers, this new program has me very excited. Music Director Scott Metcalfe and Artistic Director Jolle Greenleaf have created a Marian Vespers for the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, based on the 1610 model. Monteverdi won’t be left by the wayside though, music from his spectacular collection of sacred works Selva morale e spirituale (published 1640/41) will be featured. Fans of the 1610 Vespers will also get to hear his setting of the hymn Ave maris stella. I’m also very excited about the other music on the program too. The Venetian master Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1555 – 1612) and Milanese composer-nun Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602 – c.1676) will also be featured.

I heard Gabrieli here

The inclusion of Gabrieli and Cozzolani is particularly thrilling for me. One of my greatest musical memories was hearing Gabrieli’s music at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice. Surrounded by Tintoretto paintings we were bathed in Gabrieli’s brilliant polychoral writing. Cozzolani may be the hidden treasure on the program. Her story is remarkable and her music sublime (Robert Kendrick’s excellent essay is a good place to learn more about her). For years I’ve been grabbing any Cozzolani recordings I could find and, thankfully her discography has grown over the years. Who knows? Maybe there’s a Cozzolani Vespers yet to happen. Monteverdi, Gabrieli, Cozzolani and the Green Mountain Project. This one is going to be a winner.

Tickets for all the Green Mountain Project concerts are available on their website.

Here are some highlights of the 2011 performance of the 1610 Vespro della Beata Vergine.

Vespers, one more time

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on May 11, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

I spent most of February and March writing a story about Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine. I think I ended up listening to 20 recordings of the work and then selected 15 of them for the story. In case you are interested, the story will appear in the summer issue of Early Music America Magazine.

The Vespers, (along with Wagner’s Parsifal) is probably my favorite piece of music so you would think sitting down with a foot and a half of Vespers would be bliss. For the most part it was. The down side is that one performance can ultimately bleed into another, so you need to space your listening out or you will lose your mind.

Stack of Vespers

After I completed the story I received a live recording of the performance by the Green Mountain Project. The Green Mountain Project is a consortium of some of the finest performers on the early music scene. On January 3rd of this year they gave what was possibly the first performance of the Vespers in the 400th anniversary year. The entire production was a labor of love that was spearheaded by their artistic director Jolle Greenleaf and music director Scott Metcalfe.

If you care anything about Monteverdi you owe it to yourself to contribute to the Green Mountain Project and get a copy of the recording. What makes this Vespers better than others? Lots of things. The performance has each psalm preceded by a chant antiphon and they make good liturgical sense – antiphons for the First Vespers on the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. As Scott Metcalfe writes in his excellent program notes, “Besides being the Marian feast closest to today’s date of January 3, Purification, celebrated on the fortieth day from Christmas, was regarded as the last feast of the long Christmas season that began back at the end of November on the first Sunday of Advent…”

The Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, also called The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, or Candlemas -- painting by Hans Holbein the Elder

The Green Mountain performers opted for one voice to a part and performed at A466, a semitone above the modern 440. Metcalfe points out, “This is the most common pitch of cornetts and other wind instruments surviving from Monteverdi’s time and was the general standard in Venice and Northern Italy.” Another bonus was the use of string instruments from the late 16th or early 17th century that were set up with unwound gut strings. This was the real deal folks!

The performance is a beauty. The soloists have just the right sound for this music – clean and crisp but also abundantly warm. This is difficult music and not one singer misses an opportunity to shine. If you don’t think the Pulchra es is one of the most sublime moments in all of music, the performance of Jolle Greenleaf and Molly Quinn is going to convince you. Drama rules here too, just sit back and listen to Marc Molomot, Jason McStoots and Steven Caldicott Wilson in Duo seraphim. Those gut string fiddles sound glorious as do the wind players. Sure, the recording is live and there are some sounds from the audience, but the audio quality is very good and there is a palpable sense of occasion when you listen. Lithe and lovely, this is a recording that easily goes to the top of my tower of Vespers.

Here’s another good thing about the recording. When you go to the Green Mountain Project website and order the CD (which also comes with a terrific souvenir program), all proceeds go to funding future performances. So figure it out folks, you get a document of a revelatory performance and lay the groundwork for future performances. Do the right thing!

Mei Mei was blown away by the Green Mountain Project's Monteverdi too!

Visit the Green Mountain Project

Monteverdi Vespers at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , on March 3, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys

If you are a member of the Saint Thomas congregation, or have ever strolled into the church for a Sunday morning service, or dropped in for Evensong you know about the choir. They are one of the finest in the world.

Regular visitors to this blog know that I can go on and on about Monteverdi and his miraculous Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610. We celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Vespers this year and the March 19th performance with John Scott conducting The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys with His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts, Concert Royal and some superb soloists is going to be another highlight of New York’s celebration of the work. Festivities kicked off with the Green Mountain Project’s revelatory one-voice-on-a-part performance at Saint Mary the Virgin in January and if you enjoyed that, you owe yourself the treat of hearing the “big band” version of the work at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue.

The 1610 Vespers title page

I’m a member of the Saint Thomas congregation and have the joy of hearing the choir every Sunday morning. Whether it’s Victoria or Vaughan Williams, it’s always a sublime experience. The choir excels in Italian music of the early baroque— I’ve heard them sing Croce, Andrea Gabrieli (the marvelous Missa brevis, a work that deserves wider recognition), Grandi and others—so they are going to soar in the Monteverdi.

Tickets are available at the Saint Thomas Church website.

More Monteverdi

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on February 4, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

I can never get enough of the sacred music of Claudio Monteverdi. Last week I heard the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys sing Monteverdi’s Messa da capella and look forward to the same choir singing the Vespro della beata Vergine on March 19th.

Monteverdi magic from Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys

Another splendid opportunity to hear some of Monteverdi’s spectacular sacred music is being served up by Tenet, a group of some of New York’s finest singers and instrumentalists, on February 13th at Saint Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church.

Tenet will be performing selections from Monteverdi’s epochal Selva morale e spirituale. If you don’t know this music your life has been all the poorer. In 1640 or so, Monteverdi compiled a massive collection of sacred works that he composed during his three decade tenure as maestro di cappella at San Marco in Venice. The collection was published in 1641 in Venice in ten partbooks containing no fewer than 37 works for various groups of voices and instruments. There are virtuoso solo motets, concertante psalms and polyphonic mass movements composed in the old style. This was the last collection of works published in Monteverdi’s lifetime and no other composer in 1640 could dip into such a deep bag of musical magic tricks.

I don’t know what Tenet has scheduled for the concert but if you love Monteverdi’s madrigals or Vespro della beata Vergine, you are going to be blown away by the Selva.

For more information about the Selva concert, visit Tenet

For more information about the Vespers concert, visit Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue

Here’s a taste of some of the music from Selva morale e spirituale

Confitebor primo performed by Ensemble Elyma

Laudate Dominum in sanctis eius performed by Philippe Jaroussky

Dixit Dominus II performed by Ensemble Elyma

Pianto della Madonna performed by Agnès Mellon

The Italian Green Mountain Boy

Posted in News with tags , , , on December 3, 2009 by Craig Zeichner


2010 marks the 400th anniversary of Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespro della beata Vergine, the most spectacularly beautiful collection of hymns, psalms and setting of the Magnificat ever written. (For those keeping score, Monteverdi actually wrote two settings of the Magnificat that can be used in the Vespers).

The Vespro della beata Vergine is probably my favorite work in the repertoire and I pay homage with this blog’s name. Monteverdi is a touchstone composer for me. I’ve written about his operas in Time Out New York, will be writing a feature about the Vespers in an upcoming issue of Early Music America magazine, and even managed to visit his tomb in the Basilica S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice.

You have to search a bit to find it

As you can tell, Monteverdi is my boy so I don’t recommend performances or recordings of his music lightly. Attention must be paid to the cleverly named Green Mountain Project, (if you speak Italian you’ll know that Monteverdi translates to “Green Mountain”), a collective of “A” list early music specialists who will be presenting what may will be the first performance of the Vespro della beata Vergine in the anniversary year. If you are in the New York city area, I strongly recommend attending.

Full details can be found at

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