Sunday night I drove back the 3 1/2 hours from Kristianstad after a round of harpsichord continuo in Monteverdi’s Mariavesper (as it is called here). The temperature dropped during the ride and it became snowy and icy on the road, but I was accompanied by Brahms’s fourth symphony, performed in a strikingly transparent fashion by the Stockholm radio orchestra under their new chief conductor Daniel Harding, and came safely home.
It is a fabulous experience to play in a good Monteverdi performance. It is indeed not very long ago that I heard a cornetto and sackbutt gang work their way through a concert in Utrecht with cautiously stiff deliberateness and rather moderate and regularly measured tempi. I remember, too, a TV concert with Monteverdi and other Italian composers, sung by a famous American Baroque soprano and accompanied by a single lute player. The latter likely played his continuo as planned and worked out, but sadly, a large amount of the chords of his choice were highly debatable. There is, finally, a rather famous recording of the Vespro Della Beata Virgine where some of the singers seem to have a hard time adjusting to the style and with establishing some mutual compatibility.
No such issues plagued the concert in the Trinity church of Kristianstad. The two cornetti were marvellous. Also the two solo violins played very beautifully together. The musician’s ideas about tempo changes and relationships and the directions given from the conductor did not differ substantially. The vocal soloists were technically and stylistically well at home with the music, and worked together like a team without denying their individuality. My colleagues at the organ and theorbo were a joy to play with – discussions about chords and harmonies did not occur. The only accident during the concert happened when tenors and alti in the choir misread the conductor’s beat and took the cantus firmus in their own hands before the violins had finished their solo on the previous tone.
The choir, of course, belonged to the church and consisted of non-specialized enthusiasts. For the occasion it was substantially thinned out and performed very well, albeit in a rather modern intonation, that contrasted with the 1/4 comma meantone-inspired approach of the instruments and solo singers.