Monteverdi Vespers

Michael DrakeNorwich CathedralMichael Drake

Norwich Cathedral

There will be countless performances of the Vespero della Vergine (1610) this year to mark its 400th anniversary, but few will surpass that on Saturday evening, directed meticulously as ever by John Aplin.

And although composed specifically for a smaller venue, the singers managed the cathedral's spacious accoustic to give the collection of psalms and hymns a larger dimension.

Almost inevitably there was the occasional loss of precise clarity, but add the mellow tones of The Brook Street Band, Quintessential's cornets and sackbuts and a sextet of young and excellently focused soloists

and here was a performance to savour.

The choir attacked the movements where required, but also produced many subtle moments and their balance and blend (save for the opening and some parts of the plainsong antiphons which lacked a certain unity) could not be faulted and neither could that between singers and instrumentalists, while changes of tempo were seamlessly dealt with.

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The first extract from the Song of Solomon was a tenor solo of exquisite control and if the Gloria to Psalm 121 was joyous, then that for Psalm 147 was, well, glorious and the final Magnificat... magnificent.

And, yes, it was operatic, too, but a truly artistic performance.

Even the chiming of the cathedral clock added to the spiritual atmosphere.

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