Over the last half century, Monteverdi’s Vespers have been transformed from a rediscovered curiosity into a cornerstone of the repertoire, a choral work that has come to define the Venetian Baroque. Ahead of Pinchgut’s performances of the work, Erin Helyardtalks to Limelightabout his relationship to the Vespers and how Monteverdi might have written them as a musical ‘calling card’.
Erin Helyard conducting Pinchgut, 2018. Photo © Albert Comper
What’s your personal history with Monteverdi’s Vespers? Where and when did you first hear it, and what was your immediate reaction?
I first performed the work as a graduate student at McGill in the early 2000s. We did it in the original one-to-a-part scoring (which at that time was pretty novel) and it was a revelation. It was also my first exposure to superlative cornetto playing. Matthew Jennejohn was able to make it sound like a human voice in a way I never thought possible.
The work is very highly rated. Does anything other liturgical work from that period come close, in your opinion?
Monteverdi’s Vespers are uniquely inspired and magnificent....