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4.4 out of 5 stars18
4.4 out of 5 stars
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 22 August 2010
Odd how differently people hear this recording. A number of English reviewers' pale sensibilities are offended by the robustness of this performance, whereas American contributors are by and large much more welcoming of Gardiner's large-scale approach. Personally I love its grandeur and attack; it epitomises the renewed confidence and momentum of Catholicism in the Counter-Reformation. If you want restraint and understatement, Andrew Parrot's one-voice-per-part version is for you, but I think his approach severely undermines and mischaracterises the nature of the music and its spiritual inspiration. For me, twenty-five years on, for all that I am by no means an indiscriminate fan of Gardiner's musicianship, this account leaves all others in the dust. It marks a huge improvement on his earlier version and provides the most alluring and seductive introduction possible to Monteverdi's sound-world.

Gardiner's almost aggressively phrased and paced introduction raises fears that he is going to be a gung-ho pace throughout, but he soon relaxes into the lyrical sections of the score and permits his singers the requisite space and freedom to do justice to the lovely melismata, gorgeous suspended harmonies and spicy discords. The spacious acoustic of St Mark's lends weight and nobility the sound without obscuring detail; the recording engineers have achieved a very satisfying compromise between reverberation and clarity. Gardiner has used substantial forces: a big choir and baroque orchestra, sometimes doubling the singers with instruments and choosing soloists who sing out without sounding either "white", hooty and precious or, at the other extreme, too "operatic". In fact the singing is the best feature of this account; both the soloists and choir are stupendously good, especially tenor Nigel Robson.

I place this amongst Sir JEG's finest achievements, something of a benchmark recording. I have certainly never felt the need to own or listen to any other.
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on 2 June 2002
First up, cards on the table. Rightly or wrongly, I am an unashamed lover of "Grand" Monteverdi, as opposed to quiet, devotional Monteverdi. The Andrew Parrott version, beloved of the Seventh Day Authenticists, is beautifully sung and played, but doesn't do a thing for me. This does - it is spine-tingling. So Gardiner uses extra brass in the climaxes - so what? It seems just right for Venice, which liked its music grand. The glory of the set is the Monteverdi Choir, which sings simply wonderfully. In short, a brilliant achievement and one in which I'm hard at work wearing out the pits. This is IT, accept no imitations! (Best of all, there's a video of the performance that can be bought from Gardiner's Monteverdi organisation).
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on 23 September 2003
To quote somebody-or-other, if this doesn't turn you on you've got no swithches! The whole work is achingly beautiful. It was recorded in St. Mark's Cathedral and the accoustics and atmosphere are both stunning. Gardiner has an academic streak, and the insert booklet reads, in places, like a very good undergraduate essay, where he argues about the degree to which the counter-reformation influenced Monteverdi. I'm sure he's right, and his interpretation doesn't sound up-tight enough to be heavily influenced by some kind of post-Tridentine fortress mentality. Gardiner uses these insights to give his interpretation an authentic, oriental feel.

The first time I heard the Vespers, these were recorded by Jurgen Jurgens. I bought it as a boxed set of LPs, many years ago, now disintegrated. Jurgens is much more precise - the plainsong, for example, could have been done in the Cisteine Chapel. I must admit I like Jurgens the best in this particular instance, although his interpretation is probably less authentic. But that's my personal quirk, and Gardiner, as always, is just wonderful.
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on 28 March 2014
Monteverdi has a high skill on music and this recording is shurely a reference of this work.

There are a full hand of other recordings but, particulary they don't get the right approach.

Some are very interesting but uses one-part-per voice like Parrot and McCreesh.

The first Gardiner on Decca and the Suzuki uses larger forces but are a bit slow on pace making it a bit heavy.

This one receives a dance-like and strong-attack moments that makes it unbeatable.

The McCreesh (on a Archiv too) have a nice lead but the one-voice-per choral parts are covered by the strong sounds of the brasses and sacbuts and the use of a bit larger choir as in Gardiner gives an excelent balance to the sound.

Some maybe bother by the voice of the soloists but they're very good. Among them you have Alaistair Miles, Nigel Robson and the now popular Brin Terfel in the begining.

This recording has either a substancial difference from the others because it was recorded on the exact place where Monteverdi certanly have performed them, after 08/1613, when he was accepted: the Basilica of St. Marc on Venice and the acustics is simply fabulous.

I either recommend you watch the video of this recording that's simply amazing and has a historic documentary of Monteverdi and the work.

A highly spiritual experience.

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on 27 March 2014
This recording is superb in every way. Having very recently been to a live concert of John Eliot Gardiner performing this work I feel this recording is of a very high quality and captures the essence of the music and Gardiners interpretation of it. The recording is clear and bright with great depth as well as dynamic range. Having read other reviews I was concerned that the long reverberation time of the venue acoustics might muddy the waters. However played on a good quality hi fi, I think the recording is of such a high standard, the balance between "atmosphere" and clarity of voice is just right. There is a true ring of authenticity to this recording and for me it is the next best thing to the live concert experience.
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on 29 December 2008
Although the ensemble and chorus are superb, if rather numerous (something which some may dislike), the soloists are embarassments: the very opening of the Vespers is sung in such a way so as to be at least a semitone out before the ensemble and chorus strike up. A minor point in most circumstances, but unforgiveable in a high-profile professional recording being marketed (and priced) as one, especially when one notes that the soloist had the note pitched correctly, but slides off it and on again for goodness knows what reason. The soloists continue to disappoint: there appears to be a competitive streak, and not a healthy one, in the concerto Duo Serpahim, resulting in a lack of cohesion and causing a general... messiness (try listening to the preview). This rather uninspiring approach to the music pervades the solo works, which is an immense shame: the pace is lively, the dynamics are appropriate, and (as I have noted) the ensemble and chorus are magnificent. I'm currently trying to find an interpretation without such glaring weaknesses, and would urge others to do the same, so as to avoid disappointment.
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on 29 July 2010
This is a very good CD of very fine music, but I still have an inkling there is better out there, or at least possible. As pointed out elsewhere, some of the intonation is occasionally dubious on the solo pieces, but the massed voices are consistently stunning as is the period instrumentation. There is no lack of passion or verve either - think plenty of drama, big dynamic sweeps and stunning contrasts. But I feel there is something missing here and I can't quite put a finger on it. Then there is the acoustic and recording itself. No doubt St Marks is a superb venue and we are hearing it as it should be. Had the recording were more modern I think the long-miced reverberant acoustics would have been captured superbly, but unfortunately it lacks a little warmth of tone and definition for me. John-Elliot Gardener maybe needs to a re-run?
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on 20 February 2013
There are weaknesses in this performance, but the overall the drama and passion of the music is captured to a high degree. Personally, at times the acoustic is perhaps too reverberant for my liking. The soloists can sometime appear very distant an quiet, as in the duo seraphim. I had to play this track on my laptop as my cheap cd player ran out of volume! Also the choir is too weak to compete against the sackbuts in the sonata sopra.

But any reservations I might have, the piece is fantastically well performed, by the choir, soloists, and the instruments. The piece has much drama and passion although it might not be as clear or well articulated as some other performances.
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on 19 January 2014
i've never heard the Vespers before in full and this is a real treat. My choir is performing this work at the end of March and i am loving playing this CD
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on 10 January 2013
Having read the previous reviews, I agree that this is a beautiful version of Vespers. Good quality recording and sounds wonderful
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