|  CATALOGUE  |   SHOP  |   ESSAYS & FACTS  |   FREE STUFF  |   RECORDINGS  |   ABOUT   |     |

Monteverdi Vespers

"To edit it is to receive the kiss of death as a scholar. To perform it is to court disaster."
Denis Arnold, 'More Monteverdi Vespers', Musical Times, 1967, vol 108, p. 637.

Ancient Groove Music is proud to announce the release of a new edition of the Baroque masterwork, Claudio Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine of 1610. The edition is designed to be completely customizable to the customers’ requirements. We can therefore produce 'bespoke' editions of the Vespers.

This work has been the subject of a considerable amount of musicological research over the last 50 years by leading scholars and historically informed performers, such as Jeffrey Kurtzman, Uwe Wolf, Roger Bowers, Andrew Parrott, Paul McCreesh, Clifford Bartlett and others. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), prevailing views on performance practice continue to vacillate between alternate established positions: Should sections written in high clefs be transposed, or not transposed? if so, how much? Should there be a proportional relationship between all, some or none of the duple and triple-time metres? And if there is to be proportion, what sort of proportion might it be? Is instrumental doubling allowable, or it is not? And if so, to what extent?

This exciting new edition does not hope to provide definitive answers to these questions, but instead includes unique and useful features to help perfomers make their own decisions, by providing suggestions based on the latest scholarship, as well as feasible alternatives. At the same time it maintains standards of authority and scholarship with critical notes, ossia variants, footnotes and all editorial contributions clearly marked. The music is presented in an attractive layout, and the scores and parts are also available in a range of options. Individual customizations can be produced on request.

The Edition

Editorial features of this edition include:

  • Rhythmic suggestions for falsobordone bars
  • Indications for 'solo' and 'tutti' passages in the psalms
  • Suggestions for tempi and proportional relationships between time signatures
  • Options for instrumental doubling
  • Alternative readings in ossia staves and footnotes

All of which can be easily ignored by conductors with their own ideas! Or alternatives can be created.


The edition is supplied with Lauda Jerusalem down a fourth (in G) and the Magnificat down a minor third (in D). This is the best fit for vocal and instrumental ranges, though the music is also available at original pitch or in other transposition schemes.


Following the instruments named in the 1610 print, the edition requires:

3 Cornetts “Cornetto”
3 Trombones
2 Violins “Violino da brazzo”
2 Viola “Viola da brazzo”
2 Violoncello “Viola da brazzo”
1 Contrabass “Contrabasso da gamba”
2 'generic' colla parte woodwind parts plus the Pifara/Fifara, Flauto lines of the Magnificat.
1 organ (additionally a theorbo, or harpsichord, or harp, could be used)

The woodwind are used only briefly: it is therefore possible to perform the work with two 'orchestras' of 6 instruments: one of strings, the other of brass. Instrumental doubling has been assigned on this basis. Monteverdi himself describes the first two pieces as written for six voices and six instruments.

Up to Top

Proportional relationships

Although it has been established that the beat must vary and need not be a constant ‘tactus’, some proportionality is clearly evident in some places, from the rhythms used on either side of the metre change, such as in Laudate pueri (Altus, bb. 91-92) and in the hemiolas in 13h. Esurientes. However, Monteverdi is inconsistent in the notation he uses. One controversial aspect of this edition lies in its consideration of rhythmic relationships between the triple-time and duple-time bars. All 3/1 time signatures have had their note values halved. This may cause some academic gnashing of teeth, but is designed to simplify metre changes by considering the same note value on either side of the barline (and frequently ‘writing in’ the implied diminution of the original time signature), with the bonus of providing note values that might be more comfortable for performers. As a result, all triple-time sections are in 3/2, and can be assigned as either tripla (3:1) or sesquialtera (3:2) to the minim beat of the C sections, or as any arbitrary tempo change. The original time signatures are indicated in editorial footnotes. Alternatively, conductors can ignore the suggested relationships, and nothing is lost.

Fully Customised!

Most importantly of all, the benefits of computerised music notation mean that it is very easy to provide customised editions to order — parts for additional instrumentation, other transposition schemes — giving the fullest range of interpretations of this flexible work.

Sample Pages

  Dixit Dominus Laudate pueri
  Pulchra es Duo Seraphim
  Magnificat Full Editorial Notes

If you have any questions about this exciting new edition: things you would like to see included; options you would like made available; or enquiries about buying copies, please contact us! (Email address at the top of the page.)

Missa in illo tempore

Monteverdi's Mass setting, which accompanies the Vespers in the 1610 publication, is also available. It is described as being 'for six voices', though it actually requires eight (SSAATTBB, plus bassus generalis). It uses the same chiavette alte (high clefs) as the Magnificat, which suggests downward transposition. We are happy to supply it in a range of transpositions, on request.

Up to Top