Next month Paul Flight, Artistic Director of the California Bach Society, will begin his ensemble’s 2013–2014 season with a performance of the Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610 (Vespers for the Blessed Virgin, 1610) by Claudio Monteverdi. These are musical settings of texts for the evening prayers (Vespers) from the Hours of the Divine Office of the Catholic Church. 1610 was the year in which this music was first published as a collection in Venice. Monteverdi may have written the music itself when he was seeking a post there, and he became maestro di cappella at St Mark’s Basilica in 1613.
The structure of this collection consists of an introductory responsory on the first verse from Psalm 69, five psalm settings interleaved with sacred motets, a traditional hymn, and a concluding setting of the Magnificat canticle. The scoring is for a full chorus, vocal soloists, and rich instrumentation. The entire performance usually takes around 90 minutes. Musically, Monteverdi’s settings draw upon both the elaborate counterpoint that can be found in his madrigals and the “newer” approach to accompanied melody that is associated with his operas. Those wondering why a “Bach society” is performing Monteverdi should remember that this composer was the first “link” in a historical chain that led to Johann Sebastian Bach by way of Heinrich Schütz.
The performance Flight has prepared will make full use of the California Bach Society’s 35-voice chamber chorus. Featured soloists will include soprano Rita Lilly and tenor Brian Staufenbiel performing as guest artists, with other solos taken by members of the chorus. Featured instrumentalists will include Kati Kyme and Shira Kammen performing on Baroque violins, Kiri Tollaksen on cornetto, and the members of the period brass ensemble The Whole Noyse.
The San Francisco performance of this concert will begin at 8 p.m. on Friday, October 11. The venue will be St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (1111 O’Farrell Street near the southwest corner of Franklin Street). Tickets are sold at the door for $30 with discounts available for advance purchase, seniors, students, and those under 30. Tickets may be purchased online at a Web page on the California Bach Society Web site. Because this is the first concert of the season, subscriptions will be on sale as well as single tickets, and the associated Web page provides information about the available subscription options.