30 November 2008

Monteverdi and me and tonight

I am in total awe, almost to the point of being at a loss for words. Although, as most of you know I'm never really at a loss for words, so indeed there is something I need to say.

I love Monteverdi. But of course, you knew that, no surprises there. But I was surprised a few weeks back while reading the newspaper; Terje Kvam and the Oslo Domkor (choir of Oslo main cathedral) was going to perform Monteverdi's Marian Vespers (of 1610 fame) tonight! And of course I went; I've been waiting for this moment my whole adult life, for something as momentous as this happening up here in the cold north.

First, let me explain just how crazy this is. The Vespers is a collection of music which is regarded some of the most challenging and beautiful music, for many the defining piece of work to separate mouse from men. It's an amazing piece, it's rather out of the common practice of its time, revolution and tradition all mixed up in a magnificent duality of old and new. Monteverdi who was just starting out in writing opera (and being damn successful at it with one of the first operas "L'Arianna" he wrote for the Gonzagas and performed in 1607), but he wasn't happy with his current boss. He probably thought that writing a piece of music that shakes some booty could be a good way to attract different employer (and he even dedicated it to the pope, probably kissing some Roman butt), and so he did. In 1610 it was published, and the world became richer.

So, anyway, here Terje Kvam decides to tackle this amazing work. You would think this could go so-so, but if you read between the lines you see names such as Rolf Lislevand (superstar lutenist of Jordi Savall coop fame), impressive tenors Joshua Ellicott and Johan Linderoth (these guys *got* Monteverdi, and more or less made this concert what it was), Njål Sparbo (always lovely to hear his bass) and assorted people from Norsk Barokkorkester and of course the Oslo Domkor itself which always has one of the nicest tones around. (My best friend Magnus' mum sings in the choir, and this night was her last concert with them after 18 years in it)

Here's my poor-quality camera-phone shot of the intro ;

This was an amazing concert, on a high international level. I've heard the vespers more than any other piece of work, I've got all available recordings of it (including a few that should have been burned and forgotten ever happened!), I know the music and lyrics off by heart ... and this concert blew me away! I was sitting there crying it was so good! The tone of this choir is amazing, and the soloists were fantastic, every single one of them (and especially the tenors; amazingly good!) , the band in fantastic form with the amazing Rolf Lislevand upfront.

Now, it's not too late to see this for yourself. Tomorrow (sunday, 30th of November, 2008 at the Trefoldighetskirken next to Deichman main library down town) they're doing it again. I know Magnus is going to be there, and if I get tickets (and permission from my wallet) I'll be there again. It's the one concert I would never want to end. If you're in Oslo, like this kind of music and want a kick-ass version of a piece of music that was written to kick-ass, you know what to do. I dare you!

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