TENET Vocal Artists, NYC’s pre-eminent early music ensemble, releases a CD of the final performance of its Green Mountain Project. For the past ten years, the Green Mountain Project has been made up of some of the best Baroque specialists in the United States for concerts of Claudio Monteverdi’s iconic Vespers of 1610 (Vespro della Beata Vergine). This live recording is a culmination of years of musical collaborations, and a celebration of the artists and supporters who made the past decade of performances possible.
Vespers of 1610
|01||Deus in adiutorium/Domine ad adiuvandum (Versicle & Response)|
Deus in adiutorium/Domine ad adiuvandum (Versicle & Response)
|02||Dixit Dominus (Psalm 109)|
Dixit Dominus (Psalm 109)
|03||Nigra sum (Motet for one voice)|
Nigra sum (Motet for one voice)
|04||Laudate pueri (Psalm 112)|
Laudate pueri (Psalm 112)
|05||Pulchra es (Motet for two voices)|
Pulchra es (Motet for two voices)
|06||Laetatus sum (Psalm 121)|
Laetatus sum (Psalm 121)
|07||Duo seraphim (Motet for three voices)|
Duo seraphim (Motet for three voices)
|08||Nisi Dominus (Psalm 126)|
Nisi Dominus (Psalm 126)
|09||Audi coelum (Motet for one voice, and at the end for six voices)|
Audi coelum (Motet for one voice, and at the end for six voices)
|10||Lauda Jerusalem (Psalm 147)|
Lauda Jerusalem (Psalm 147)
|11||Sonata sopra Sancta Maria ora pro nobis|
Sonata sopra Sancta Maria ora pro nobis
|12||Ave maris stella (Hymn)|
Ave maris stella (Hymn)
|22||Sicut locutus est|
Sicut locutus est
|24||Sicut erat in principio|
Sicut erat in principio
In 1610 Claudio Monteverdi was 43 years old and had long been employed at the Gonzaga court in the northern Italian city of Mantua, where he was overworked, underpaid, and unhappy. Monteverdi had good reason to think that he was one of the greatest musicians of the age and he was eager to find stable employment in a more welcoming and more salubrious environment. While there is no proof, many scholars believe that the great publication of 1610 from which TENET’s performance of the Vespers is drawn represents Monteverdi’s bid for a job working for the Pope at the Vatican.
Monteverdi’s 1610 collection supplies polyphonic settings of the Mass, the Vespers response, all five psalms required for Vespers on a Marian feast, the Marian hymn Ave maris stella, and two versions of the Magnificat. There are also those five non-liturgical items that Monteverdi calls “sacred songs” which may be intended as antiphon substitutes. In short, the publication provides almost all the music one might desire for a sumptuous celebration of Mass and Vespers on a great Marian feast day.
The collection shows off everything Monteverdi might offer a prospective employer. On the one hand, he could compose according to the strictest rules of 16th-century counterpoint (the Mass). On the other, he could combine the most ancient melodies of the Church (plainchant) with the most up-to-date compositional style (in the psalms, hymn, and two Magnificats). The “sacred songs” or motets emphasize his mastery of virtuosic vocal writing and his ability to break the old rules of counterpoint in order to heighten the effect of the text, while the Sonata sopra Sancta Maria and the concerted Magnificat demonstrate his command of instrumental techniques.
Despite dedicating this magnificent dossier to the Pope, Monteverdi did not get a job at the Vatican. Three years later, however, he was appointed maestro di cappella at St Mark’s in Venice, the most prestigious ecclesiastical position in northern Italy. He remained in the post, honored and celebrated by the Most Serene Republic, until his death in 1643.
Born in 1567, Monteverdi was a musician with one foot in the Renaissance and one in the Baroque; indeed, he was one of the principal innovators who created the new style on the foundation of the old. The 1610 collection, which was assembled in part from pre-existing music, is a dazzling anthology of musical styles. It looks now to the strict polyphony of the 16th century, now to the harmonic audacities of the basso continuo era, answering (for example) the massive polychoral splendor of Nisi Dominus with the astonishing solo virtuosity and echo effects (both textual and musical) of Audi coelum—all leading to the most directly personal and touching moment of the work, when six singers address the Virgin directly: “Blessed art thou, Virgin Mary, world without end.” The Vespers of 1610 juxtaposes old and new, spiritual and theatrical, solo and choral, personal and hieratic. Finally, the foundation of this most modern work is built on plainchant cantus firmus, the oldest music of the Christian church.
The 1610 Vespers is, in short, one of the most profound, most spiritual, most historically aware, most musically audacious, most entertaining and deeply moving variety shows ever conceived, sure to sound as fresh and vivid at its five hundredth anniversary in 2110 as it does today.
Artistic Director: Jolle Greenleaf
Music Director: Jeffrey Grossman
Recorded live at Church of St. Jean Baptiste, New York City, January 2–3, 2020
Recording engineer: Ryan Streber
Assistant engineer: Charles Mueller
Mastered by Ryan Streber, Oktaven Audio
The Green Mountain Project began with a 400th anniversary performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 on Sunday, January 3, 2010. It was a momentous occasion that brought together a cast of 29 musicians and 800 audience members at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York City. Spearheaded by co-directors Jolle Greenleaf and Scott Metcalfe, the concert was offered free to the public, and received a rave review from The New York Times. Thus began the tradition of offering annual performances of works by Monteverdi and his contemporaries, and solidifying a place in the city’s musical landscape.
In 2012, Jolle Greenleaf brought the Green Mountain Project under the institutional umbrella of TENET Vocal Artists to ensure the project had an organizational home and financial security. Under her artistic direction, TENET Vocal Artists has won acclaim for its innovative programming, virtuosic singing and command of repertoire that spans the Middle Ages to the present day. Highlights of recent seasons include performances of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, Bach’s motets, Handel’s Messiah, a three-year cycle of Carlo Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories, regular performances of works by Purcell and his contemporaries celebrating St. Cecilia (music’s patron saint), two medieval survey series (The Sounds of Time and The Cycle of Invention), and original theatrical performances highlighting works composed by, for, and about women in 17th century Italy. Renowned for their interpretations of Renaissance and Baroque repertoire, TENET Vocal Artists’ distinguished soloists have been praised for their pristine one-voice-to-a-part singing “to an uncanny degree of precision” (The Boston Globe).
During the project’s decade-long history, the Green Mountain Project performed Monteverdi’s works in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts to glowing reviews, sold-out audiences, and in radio broadcasts. The cast of the Green Mountain Project includes America’s best early music vocal and instrumental specialists, including Dark Horse Consort brass ensemble. In addition to performing Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, the Green Mountain Project offered reconstructed Vespers by Scott Metcalfe. For the final offering in 2020, the Green Mountain Project performed Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 in New York City, and for the first time in Venice, Italy, in homage to the location where Monteverdi lived and worked for thirty years, and was buried. TENET Vocal Artists and the Green Mountain Project wish to share their incredible gratitude to the musicians, supporters, fans, and patrons of the project as they all shared in the project’s extraordinary journey.