In the year marking the 450th anniversary of Claudio Monteverdi’s birth, the International Festival’s music programme features his three surviving operas, the ‘other’ Vespers and a modern-day premiere of his rediscovered work. Read on to learn more about the Italian composer and hear from the artists presenting his works this August (you can also listen to our Monteverdi playlist).
The end of all good music is to affect the soulClaudio Monteverdi
Claudio Monteverdi was born on 9 May 1567 in Cremona, Italy. He studied with the director of music at the local cathedral and while still only in his teens, he published several books of secular and religious music. In his twenties, Monteverdi was employed as a musician by the duke of Mantua where he had an opportunity to meet some of the finest performers and composers of the time, as well as travel to Hungary and Flanders. Famed by his books of madrigals and avant-garde experimentations in music, Monteverdi became truly established as a composer by writing his first opera L’Orfeo, considered to be the first great operatic masterpiece. We’ll get back to this opera a bit later in this blog, but first let’s hear from a couple of conductors and Monteverdi experts who will present his work at International Festival this August.
“Monteverdi straddles both the Renaissance and the Baroque (…) He was very good at keeping both old and new worlds in his sacred music,” says Robert Hollingworth, director of British chamber vocal ensemble I Fagiolini, “On the modern side, there is a focus on solo voices, instrumental accompaniment, and virtuosity; but remaining conservative by using what is basically a Renaissance vocal ensemble with an odd extra instrument and a touch of harmonic spice.”
Speaking about the genius of Monteverdi and his music, conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner says "It's almost like a pop song - it has so much energy and colour and passion; it tells you how you might be feeling today, how you will be feeling tomorrow and how you felt yesterday. It's all there in the music and it will just blow your mind away!"