René Jacobs leads what by 1990s standards is a large-scale performance of Monteverdi's popular 1610 Vespers: not only does he use a chorus in the Psalms and Magnificat, but he has his instrumentalists double the vocal parts for much of the time as well. In fact, Jacobs has encouraged his lead cornettist (the extraordinary Jean Tubéry) to embellish freely and has even added a part (evidently newly composed) for him in one of the Psalms (Laetatus sum). The performance is as lively and as colorful as all of this would lead you to expect, but the moments of calm devotion are nicely done as well--most notably the soprano duet "Pulchra es," sung spellbindingly by Maria Cristina Kiehr and Barbara Borden. Every one of the soloists does sterling work, in fact; they are this performance's greatest strength. If you want a large-scale choral performance and don't mind the instrumental additions, this and William Christie's recording could be first choices. (Purists should choose Andrew Parrott's stunning one-singer-per-part performance.) --Matthew Westphal
Knowing Jacobs in Handel and Mozart opera's: very dramatic and colorful readings, with a healthy "disrespect" for the composer's score, I was expecting a dazzling, rich and colorful reading of the Mariavespers.
Having lived for years with only one recording of this musical masterpiece, Garrido's recording on K617, which fullfilled all my musical Monteverdi needs - the Gardiner, Picket and Parrott recordings I don't like that much - I thought it would be welcome to introduce an alternative version to myself...et voila!: Jacob's recording.
I bought a special "deluxe" livre (hardbound booklet) edition for half the price of the normal jewelcase version (?? beats me why the newer, more gorgeously looking edition was cheaper ??)
A nice booklet in colour with beautiful pictures of manuscripts and paintings of the well beloved Maria and very interesting things to read...I was perfectly satisfied.
But then I was surprised to hear rather stately and slow tempi.
Jacobs is rich in textures, warm in his orchestral treatment, but nowhere as rich, colorful and dramatic as Garrido in his superb recording on K617.
I was very disappointed at first, where's the Jacobs I know from all his excellent Handel and Mozart recordings?
The tempi overall are too slow and measured and Jacobs isn't consistent in maintaining a certain tempo in a movement.
It doesn't sound very natural to slow down (again) at certain points after a quicker tempo has set in as a contrast to a slower beginning of a part.
My musical intuition would have liked Jacobs maintaining the quicker speed throughout that part and not returning to the slower tempo of the beginning.
But I'm starting to like it a lot better.
I really need to listen without a (quicker paced) reference (Garrido's Vespers) and then it works pretty well.
The performance is broad, deep and warm.
Because of the slower tempi the music is more insightful, all vocal parts are more easily to detach from each-other.
Garrido's choir is a mess in comparison with Jacobs - especially in comparison with clean-cut English performers like Parrott and Picket.
Jacobs' choir is very transparant, but without sounding too clean and "white"
Solo voices are bigger, warmer and rounder than say in Parrott's, Gardiner's and Junghanel's recordings.
There is a similar darkness in Jacobs' reading I associate with Savall's recordings, although I haven't heard Savall's Maria Vespers yet.
Parrott, Picket, Junghanel and Gardiner are too clean-cut.
And though I do not mind a one voice per part reading (a Parrott -in some parts of his recording -, Picket and Junghanel), the vocals and orchestra must have a certain weight to do Monteverdi's music justice...in my opinion ofcourse.
Parrott's and Junghanel's way might work well with Bach - Parrott's Mass in B for instance is quite wonderful - but in Monteverdi I like to hear a full-bodied tone and timbre, more passion and a rougher edge if possible.
For now there isn't a "one voice per part reading" I like.
Maybe Alessandrini's recording will add that certain italic blood in his reading
I will check his recording.
The recording of Jacobs' Vespers is beautiful: warm timbered, detailed and with a dark resonance.
I got used to the slower tempi and in some parts I certainly like Jacobs better than Garrido.
But Garrido's quicker tempi, the orchestra's folk music-like treatment of the score...its lush sound, the mediterranean blood and warmth of Garrido's reading are elements that are unique in his recording, elements I haven't found in any other recording yet.
But from all the other recordings I listened to (Gardiner, Junghanel, Picket, Parrott and Corboz) Jacobs' reading certainly is the one I like best.
A very nice alternative.