Heaven!

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  February 25, 2010

It's the 400th anniversary of Monteverdi's ecstatic and solemn Vespro della Beata Vergine, an anthology of psalms, motets, a "sonata," and a Magnificat all celebrating the Virgin Mary. Fifteen years ago, Martin Pearlman unveiled his new performing edition, and Boston Baroque's performance, with dazzling vocal soloists, seemed the best thing Pearlman's period ensemble had ever done. Two years later, Telarc released a recording, with other soloists, that snagged a Grammy nomination. Last week, a solid new team of soloists took a back seat to the more imaginative chorus and orchestra (with sackbuts, cornetti, recorders, two theorbos, and a dulcian). Pearlman's edition, with inserted antiphons to suggest an actual service, remains a masterpiece of historical research and inspired guesswork. After a tingling first half, however, rhythmic energy seemed to flag in Monteverdi's extended slow passages. This week, Pearlman is taking the Vespers to New York's massive Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I hope that lost energy will have returned.

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