Venetian Splendour

Dore Abbey

Sunday 28th September 2014 at 6:00pm


Vieni, vieni Himeneo Andrea Gabrieli
FANFARES Cesare Bendinelli
Deus qui beatum Marcum 1597 Giovanni Gabrieli
Sanctorum meritis II 1641 Claudio Monteverdi
Dixit Dominus a 8 1650 Claudio Monteverdi
CANZON IV a 6 Giovanni Gabrieli
Confitebor 1650 Claudio Monteverdi
Deus tuorum 1641 Claudio Monteverdi
Beatus vir II 1641 Claudio Monteverdi
Jubilate a 10 1615 Giovanni Gabrieli
Adoramus te, Christe Claudio Monteverdi
CANZON XI Giovanni Gabrieli
Laudate, pueri I 1641 Claudio Monteverdi
Domine ne in furore 1620 Claudio Monteverdi
Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes II 1641 Claudio Monteverdi
Sancta Maria 1627 Claudio Monteverdi
Magnificat primo 1641 Claudio Monteverdi
Regina cœli 1597 Giovanni Gabrieli


With the QuintEssential Sackbut and Cornett Ensemble and Violins: Marc Elton, Annika Gray; Continuo: Andrew Wilson Dickson, Lucy Robinson [Gamba] & Liz Pallett [Theorbo]

Grace Davidson

Grace Davidson

Grace was born in London and pursued undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music, winning the Early Music and English Song competitions, as well as being a finalist in the London Handel Competition.

Grace has sung with all the leading British vocal ensembles and particularly The Sixteen, Ex Cathedra and Tenebrae but is now becoming recognised as a popular soloist in her own right with a particular affinity to the Baroque and Renaissance periods.

She appears regularly with the saxophonist Christian Forshaw and is also the soprano soloist on Eric Whitacre's bestselling Light and Gold album (Decca). Grace also records for many movie soundtracks, often working with prominent composers and labels.

Catherine King

Catherine King

Catherine studied at Trinity College Cambridge and the Guildhall School of Music and lives near Ross-on-Wye.

Concerts range from Verdi Requiem in Symphony Hall, Birmingham and Elgar in Krakow to medieval songs in the USA and Spain, from Bach throughout Europe, and Italian Baroque arias in Genoa to Scottish 20th and 21st Century songs in Poland.

She performs across the world with recent and forthcoming concerts in France, Germany, Spain (medieval) and nearer to home at Worcester (Sea Pictures and Gerontius), and Wagner productions at Longborough in the UK.

Nicholas Mulroy

Nicholas Mulroy

Born in Liverpool, Nicholas was a chorister at the city's Metropolitan Cathedral before studying Modern Languages at Cambridge and voice at the RAM. He has since been in constant demand both in the UK and further afield in a wide range of concert, recital and opera engagements.

Widely known for his performances of Baroque repertoire, he has sung with some of its most noted exponents: Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort, John Butt and the Dunedin Consort. He has also sung to great acclaim with I Fagiolini, the King's Consort, Les Musiciens du Louvre, and other famous groups and opera houses worldwide.

Nicholas is also a committed recitalist appearing at the Wigmore Hall and other major festivals. His recording achievements are equally impressive and extensive with many Gramophone Awards to his name.

Charles Daniels

Charles Daniels

Charles was a chorister at Kings College, Cambridge, where he also returned for his undergraduate studies in natural sciences and music. After taking his degree he studied under Edward Brooks at the Royal College of Music in London.

His concert and recording repertoire extends from the middle ages to 20th century composers. He is however best known for his interpretations of Baroque music. Charles has made frequent concert appearances at the Wigmore Hall and the BBC Proms, and has even performed in the Vatican for Pope John Paul II.

Charles has made over 90 recordings as a soloist, including Messiah, St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, St. Cecilia Mass, and the Easter Oratorio.

For 16 years Charles was a member of the Orlando Consort where he received critical acclaim for his work exploring and performing early music.

Howard Croft

Howard Croft

Howard began his career at Glyndebourne where he won the prestigious Sir John Christie Award followed by The Shakespeare Scholarship from The Toefper Foundation of Hamburg for a promising young European Artist. Whilst at Glyndebourne he sang many roles including the title role in Don Giovanni, Schaunard La Bohème, Fiorello Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Graf Dominik Arabella.

Howard was a contract principal at the Lucerne Theatre, Switzerland and has sung at many opera houses around the world, from the National Opera of New Zealand to the Royal Opera at Covent Garden.


Claudio Monteverdi

Claudio Monteverdi

“On 24th, June, the Feast of St John, I was taken to Vespers in the Church of SS Giovanni and Lucia, where I heard the most perfect music I had ever heard in my life. It was directed by the most famous Claudio Monteverdi, who was also the composer.”

This account, made by poet-composer Constantijn Huygens on a visit to Venice in 1620, is one of many such testimonies to the wonders of creativity that greeted tourists to the ‘serene republic’ Our concert tonight aims to relive some of these aural experiences that so astonished such visitors, by focusing on the variety of styles and musical developments of Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Monteverdi, two giants of their age, working before and after 1600.

This was certainly a Golden Age, where music filled a crucial role in promoting the opulence and mystique of an extrovert city, for Venice saw itself as a divinely appointed state with its own curious customs, unique architecture, Doge and a liturgy independent of Rome.

We open our concert with a reference to one such bizarre rite of passage: the annual enactment of Venice's wedding to the sea, “Lo Sposalizio” Every Ascension Day the Doge rode out of the lagoon in his royal peota (gondola) to throw a gold ring into the Adriatic, as a symbol of Venice's dependence on the sea for trade and expansion. Madrigals such as Andrea Gabrieli's sensual Vieni, vieni Himeneo, calling for blessing from Hymen, the god of love, would have been sung from boats accompanying the Doge in something of a prequel to Handel's Water Music! After our imaginary journey across the lagoon, we arrive in St Mark's Square to move in procession with the Doge and his entourage, a scene depicted so often by Canaletto. Such pomp and circumstance, accompanied by the fanfares of the Doge's own Piffari, was another important custom that propagated the city's fame.

Next, we move into St Mark's Basilica itself, the final resting-place of the apostle's bones, for a festal service of Vespers in honour of the saint. It was for such key days in the Venetian calendar that the most lavish musical spectacles were reserved. At such times, with the Doge in attendance, the pala d'oro, a bejewelled and precious altar-piece, was also displayed. The music was equally dazzling, with the masses forces of Giovanni Gabrieli's motet, Deus qui beatum Marcum, utilising the spezzati stereophonic effects so famously associated with the building. A tradition started by the composer Willaert (c1490-1562), this style sees ideas being thrown to and fro between choirs great and small.

Giovanni Gabrieli

Garieli Giovanni

In contrast, we now hear a small-scale motet, also in praise of saints and martyrs. Written some decades after the Gabrieli setting, Sanctorum meritis comes from Monteverdi's epic 1641 publication “Selva morale e spirituale”, the composer's own compendium of his life's work in Venice. Notice the much lighter, secular feel to the music, very different from the monumentalism of the Gabrieli. Monteverdi was keen to introduce popular musical forms such as dance rhythms, ground-bass patterns and Venetian songs into his style, something akin to introducing rock and pop choruses into today's worship!

Another aspect of Monteverdi's genius (and there are many!) was the versatility of his style, adopting both the strict contrapuntal forms of the stile antico and then contrasting or fusing them with the harmonic and melodic language of the stile moderno. Monteverdi was in fact the main protagonist of this new style, which developed from the declamatory recitative of early opera and opened up fresh horizons for baroque music during the seventeenth century.

The first Vespers psalm, Dixit Dominus, is a great example of Monteverdi's transformation of an older style, retaining as it does the practice of alternatum (exchanges between two voice groups) and also preserving contrapuntal imitation, often based on the original plainsong, yet the expressive intent is forward-looking.

Research has shown that these more reactionary double-choir settings, mostly found in the composer's posthumous 1650 publication, were favoured at St Mark's for particular Solemn Feast Days in the liturgical year.

Curiously, however, much of Monteverdi's output is weighted towards the more modern style of concertato writing, where solo singers and instruments engage in a lively dialogue, and where words become the dominant force or, as Monteverdi himself once said, “music is the mistress”. It seems likely, then, that although he was employed at St Mark's, Monteverdi's settings may have been commissioned for other more flamboyant church festivities in the city. He is certainly known to have been involved in musical rituals for other key saintly protectors of Venice, namely St John the Baptist and St Lorenzo.

It seems that the whole city was awash not only with water but also with music! Musicians and composers were frequently called upon to enhance events held at the various scuole grandi (guilds). These were charitable fraternities with money to spare and both Giovanni Gabrieli and Monteverdi are known to have provided music for the Scuola Rocco in particular. St Rocco, or Roch, was revered for his miraculous healing of plague victims, a particularly pertinent aid to Venice during 1575 and again in 1630. His patronal feast day was recalled by the English traveller and writer Thomas Coryat in 1608 as consisting “principally of Musicke, which was both vocall and instrumentall, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so superexcellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like.., for mine owne part I can say this, that I was for the time even rapt up with St Paul into the third heaven”

Such a sound-spectacular lies behind Gabrieli's 1615 setting of the Jubilate with its kaleidoscopic textures incorporating solo singers, brass and choir. Equally inventive instrumental canzonas, such as the two that we hear tonight, illustrate Gabrieli's groundbreaking developments in instrumental writing during this period.

Tonight's Vespers' music sequence continues with alternating psalm and motet settings taken from both of Monteverdi's 1641 and 1650 publications, which demonstrate a wealth of compositional approaches, so we hear psalm settings cast for duet, solo ensemble, choir and some with a mixture of all three.

The duet version of Confitebor typifies the melodic, declamatory, word-centred style which heralds from the operatic stage, whilst a setting of Beatus vir doffs its cap to the more conservative contrapuntal tradition. Even here, though, notice how Monteverdi dramatises the text with inventive motives and exerts a formal unity through the recurring “beatus vir” theme.

It is, however, perhaps this Laudate, pueri setting which best illustrates Monteverdi's ingenious use of concertato, where solo voices and instruments engage in a playful conversation essentially alternating just two melodic ideas, one in duple and the other in triple time. The joyousness of the psalm is also expressed in some captivating dance rhythms that wouldn't seem out of place in West Side Story!

It is also fascinating to hear how Monteverdi converts the simple short psalm Laudate Dominum into a dramatic dialogue, by brilliantly alternating vocal duets with tutti interjections. The two sopranos, perhaps representing angels, start by urging “the people” (the chorus) to “praise the Lord” but we only find out why when the soloists explain “because His mercy is confirmed upon us”, which provides the cue for the chorus to take off.

Such methods of utilising the forces available are at their most elaborate in the Magnificat I of 1641, where we witness several expressive duets amidst an array of eight-part choral writing.

There is an equally imaginative use of instrumental colour and the so-called stile concitato, the latter an ‘agitated’ delivery of fast repeated notes that Monteverdi believed best expressed feelings of anger and warfare. Appropriately, he uses this effect to depict the images of power and revenge mentioned in the canticle.

The Virgin Mary, it was believed, was a key protector of the Venetians, having helped deliver them from plague and win battles. Thus the singing of her song, the Magnificat, always formed the climax of a Vespers service, and was accompanied by the censering of the altar.

In the distilled atmosphere of his motet Sancta Maria, Monteverdi captures this reverential tone by exploring the potential of the plainsong theme alongside moments of prayerful recitation. Its text is taken from the Magnificat antiphon for the commemoration of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel, suggesting that Monteverdi composed this for the Church of the Carmelite nuns in Venice, a place where he is known to have performed in 1627. By contrast, our final setting of the Regina Cœli by Gabrieli takes us back to the other monumental performing tradition of just a few decades earlier.

Monteverdi also supplied music for the Communion Service and, apart from his three surviving complete mass settings, there are some delightful miniature motets. Adoramus te, which opens tonight's second half is a so-called elevation motet and would have been sung at the most solemn part of the service, the blessing of the host. Since the text is taken from the Hours of the Cross, this music may also have associations with Holy Cross Day, when a relic of the holy blood was displayed in St Mark's. Monteverdi's music certainly captures this moment well.

Another facet of Monteverdi's output are examples of non-Vesper psalm settings. Amongst these is a setting of Psalm 6, Dominus ne in furore, in which the composer demonstrates a whole gamut of melodic ideas, syncopations and harmonic shifts to depict the restlessness of the text. Listeners may also detect some references to the Nisi Dominus from the 1610 Vespers. With such extraordinary music to enjoy, we may all well echo the words of that C17th visitor Thomas Coryat, who “would willingly goe an hundred miles a foote at any time to heare the like”

Vieni, Vieni Himeneo

Come, come, Hymen, happy Hymen, to where you are invited by this dear and welcoming group of new lovers with humble prayers, and with such sweet songs.

Deus Qui Beatum Marcum

O God, who blessed Mark, your Evangelist,
with the grace of preaching the gospel:
grant us that we may follow his instructions
and profit by his teaching and be defended by his prayers. Alleluia.

Sanctorum Meritis

Let us sing, companions, of the glorious joys
And the brave deeds by the merits of the saints,
For the soul is bursting to express in song
The noble line of the victors.
They, for you, trod down the furies and savage threats
And wild words of mankind;
The hook fiercely tearing them yielded,
And it did not pluck their innermost being.
What voice, what tongue can tell
What gifts you prepare for the martyrs?
For, red with flowing blood,
They crown their heads with laurels.
We ask you, O highest and unique Deity,
That you wash away our sin, take away our guilt;
Grant your servants peace, that with you
They may sing glory through the chain of years. Amen.

Dixit Dominus

The Lord said to my Lord: sit thou at my right hand: until I make thy enemies thy footstool.
The Lord will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: rule thou in the midst of thy enemies.
With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength: in the brightness of the saints: from the womb before the daystar I begot thee.
The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.
The Lord at thy right hand hath broken kings in the day of his wrath.
He shall judge among nations, he shall fill ruins: he shall crush the heads in the land of the many.
He shall drink of the torrent in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.


I will give thanks unto the Lord with my whole heart: secretly among the faithful, and in the congregation.
The works of the Lord are great: sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.
His work is worthy to be praised and had in honour: and his righteousness endureth for ever.
The merciful and gracious Lord hath so done his marvellous works: that they ought to be had in remembrance.
He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he shall ever be mindful of his covenant.
He hath shewed his people the power of his works: that he may give them the heritage of the heathen.
The works of his hands are verity and judgement: all his commandments are true.
They stand fast for ever and ever: and are done in truth and equity.
He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever; holy and reverend is his Name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do thereafter; the praise of it endureth for ever.

Deus Tuorum

O God, the allotted crown and the prize of your soldiers.
We sing the praises of your martyr; absolve us from the chains of sin.
Bravely he ran the way of torture and suffered courageously, and, pouring out his blood for you, now possesses eternal gifts.
Praise and continual glory be given to God, the Father and Son, likewise the Holy Spirit to eternal ages. Amen.

Beatus Vir

Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: he hath great delight in his commandments.
His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the faithful shall be blessed.
Riches and plenteousness shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.
Unto the godly there ariseth up light in the darkness: he is merciful, loving, and righteous.
A good man is merciful, and lendeth: and will guide his words with discretion.
For he shall never be moved: and the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.
He will not be afraid of any evil tidings: for his heart standeth fast, and believeth in the Lord.
His heart is established, and will not shrink: until he see his desire upon his enemies.
He hath dispersed abroad, and given to the poor: and his righteousness remaineth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.
The ungodly shall see it, and it shall grieve him: he shall gnash with his teeth, and consume away; the desire of the ungodly shall perish.

Jubilate Deo

Rejoice in God, all lands,
Because thus blessed is the man
That fears the Lord. Rejoice...
The God of Israel binds you to each other
And Himself to you:
And help of the Holy One
Shall preserve you from out of Sion. Rejoice...
May the Lord who made heaven and earth
Bless you from Sion. Rejoice...
Serve the Lord with gladness, rejoice...

Adoramus Te, Christe

We adore you, Christ, and worship you
Because by your precious blood
you have redeemed the world; have mercy upon us.

Laudate Pueri

Praise the Lord, ye servants: O praise the Name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord: from this time forth for evermore.
The Lord's name is praised: from the rising up of the sun unto the going down of the same.
The Lord is high above all heathen: and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like unto the Lord our God, that hath his dwelling so high: and yet humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and earth?
He taketh up the simple out of the dust: and lifteth the poor out of the mire;
That he may set him with the princes: even with the princes of his people.
He maketh the barren woman to keep house: and to be a joyful mother of children.

Domine Ne In Furore

O Lord, rebuke me not in thy indignation, nor chastise me in thy wrath.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak: heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
And my soul is troubled exceedingly: but thou, O Lord, how long?

Laudate Dominum, Omnes Gentes

Praise our Lord, all ye Gentiles; praise him, all ye people:
Because his mercy is confirmed upon us, and his truth remaineth for ever.

Sancta Maria

Holy Mary, help the wretched, aid the weak, restore those who weep.
Holy Mary, pray for the people, intervene for the priests, intercede for the devoted female sex.
Holy Mary, let all who celebrate your holy commemoration feel your aid.


My soul doth magnify the Lord: and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded: the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth: all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him: throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel: as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.

Regina Cœli

O Queen of heaven, rejoice, Alleluia;
Because He whom you were worthy to carry, Alleluia
Has risen again, as He said, Alleluia;
Pray to God for us, Alleluia.

Thanks to all at Dore Abbey for their tireless efforts and support and also to David Fraser for his musical editions of some works.


£15, or £10 for restricted view