Marian Vespers (Monteverdi)

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Title page of the figured bass . The actual title of the work was printed elsewhere.

The Marienvesper , SV 206, is a sacred work by Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643). It was published in 1610 together with the Missa in illo tempore - also by Monteverdi.

On the title page of both works they are described as Sanctissimae Virgini Missa senis vocibus ad ecclesiarum choros, ac Vespere pluribus decantandae cum nonnullis sacris concentibus ad Sacella sive Principum Cubicula accommodata (“ Mass of the Most Holy Virgin to six voices for church choirs and Vespers for several voices with some spiritual ones Chants suitable for chapels or royal apartments ”). The actual title of the vespers of Mary can be found in the part book of the thoroughbass and is Vespro della Beata Vergine da concerto composta sopra canti firmi (“ vespers of Mary for concerting composed over cantus firmi ”).


Monteverdi published the work three years after his trend-setting opera L'Orfeo at the publishing house Ricciardo Amadino . He dedicated it to Pope Paul V as part of a collection printed in eight part books. The publication of the work was probably for personal reasons, because due to financial problems after his service under Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga , Monteverdi traveled to Rome, probably also to apply for a church office.

Like every other Vespers, the Marian Vespers consists of an invitation, five psalms, a hymn and a magnificat. In these, traditional composition techniques were combined with the most modern elements of the time. Between the psalms, Monteverdi added four more so-called concertos in the monodic concertante style.

The original print provides two options for performing Vespers: with instruments or just with an accompanying figured bass. That is why two versions of the final Magnificat are also included (the first with obbligato instruments, the second only with figured bass). The Marienvesper is a multifaceted work in which melody, polyphony , monody , rhythm and the specific use of instruments are combined into emotional and exciting passages.

The vocal line-up of the work ranges from six to ten-part double choirs, to which several instruments are added. It is likely that this work was composed for the feast day of the Annunciation . The dedication to Pope Pius V , the reformer of the Roman liturgy after the Council of Trent , shows the intended use.

Since the feast day is a feast day duplex I. classis , a solemn Vespers is prescribed in addition to a levitated high mass. This is achieved through the consistently vocal and instrumental psalm and Magnificat settings.

The so-called concerti are characterized by their extremely modern style, in which the text is musically interpreted with great sensitivity. They form an opposite pole to the rest of the polyphonic movements in the work.

According to some musicologists and theologians, the concerti recount the significance of Mary in salvation history, from the election to the eschatological role of Mary. In his first concerto, Monteverdi refers to the season, the beginning of spring: “ Iam hiems transiit, imber abiit et recessit ” and shows in the piety of time the integration of nature into the worship of God and Mary.

In each Vespers, each psalm is framed by an antiphon that should sound before and after the psalm. The fact that the Monteverdi edition does not contain any antiphons is due to the fact that Vespers was always prayed in the choir, that is, in the prayer of the orders or canons . Here, through the reforms of Pius V, the renewal of training in Gregorian chant was made compulsory. In addition, the liturgical books had to be strictly observed, they were also under ecclesiastical law. As a result, at least the prayer of the antiphons was perceived as part of the monastic duty. From documents of the time it is known, however, that such antiphons were often replaced by other pieces of music, even if this was not officially permitted. It can no longer be said whether the concerti were intended for this or whether the liturgical rite was strictly adhered to at the time (after all, the title page says that Vespers can also be performed in the chamber, where one could certainly take liberties) reconstruct. In any case, regardless of whether the antiphons were sung or not, Monteverdi did not need to write them down.

Understanding of music history

Excerpt from the alto voice book in mensural notation

The music world began to deal with the work in depth in the 1950s and 1960s. Due to its novel character at the time of its creation - at least from today's perspective - the Marian Vespers was questioned as a complete work with a defined order. Some music historians take the view that the Marian Vespers is nothing more than a loose collection of compositions (among other things, the strongly changing line-up and the limitation of the instrumental interludes to only a few parts of the entire Vespers speak for this). This is countered by claims that Monteverdi wanted to create a groundbreaking masterpiece of a new musical genre. A mediating position sees the Marian Vespers Monteverdi's attempt to recommend himself as a composer of sacred music, who brings in the whole breadth of his musical formal language, in particular the forms tried and tested in his secular madrigals and operas , but also in his dance and ballet music and who is both "conservative " Knows how to compose polyphonic as well as" modern " monodic sacred works.

As a consequence of these different views, the numerous interpretations of the Marian Vespers show great differences, with the emotional content and diversity of the original publication being retained to varying degrees depending on the point of view. Accordingly, the vespers of Mary is an example of the different ways in which historical performance can be interpreted .


  • Invitatory consisting of:
    • Intonation Deus in adiutorium meum intende and
    • Responsorium Domine ad adiuvandum me festina (sex vocibus & sex Instrumentis, si placet)
  • Psalm 109 Dixit Dominus Domino meo (sex vocibus & sex instrumentis, mode IV)
  • Song -Motette Nigra sum (Motetto ad una voce)
  • Psalm 112 Laudate pueri, Dominum (a otte voci sole nel Organo, Modus VIII)
  • Concerto Pulchra es (a due voci)
  • Psalm 121 Laetatus sum (a sei voci, mode II)
  • Concerto Duo Seraphim (tribus vocibus)
  • Psalm 126 Nisi Dominus (a dieci voci, mode VI)
  • Concerto Audi coelum (sex vocibus)
  • Psalm 147 Lauda Jerusalem (a sette voci, mode III)
  • Sonata sopra Sancta Maria Ora pro nobis (a otte voci)
  • Hymn Ave maris stella (a otte voci, mode I)
  • Magnificat (septem vocibus & sex instrumentis, mode I)
  • Magnificat (a sei voci, mode I)

The respective Gregorian antiphons are placed in front of the Psalms and the Magnificat, at least when they are liturgical .

Scoring: up to ten-part choir (if necessary, to be cast as a soloist) and solo parts. Instrumental line-up: strings, tines and trombones, flutes, organ.


  • Jerome Roche (Ed.): Study score . Eulenburg, London 1994, ISBN 3-7957-6962-0 / ISMN 979-0-2002-1187-0 (search in the DNB portal)
  • Uwe Wolf (Ed.): Score, critical edition . Carus, Stuttgart 2014 score ISMN 979-0-007-14203-2 (search on the DNB portal) , vocal score ISMN 979-0-007-14204-9 (search on the DNB portal) ( publishing information )
  • David Donald Farr: Claudio Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine, 1610. Dissertation, University of Oregon, Eugene 1966.
  • Stephen Bonta: Liturgical problems in Monteverdi's Marian Vespers. In: Journal of the American Musicological Society , 20/1967, pp. 87-106, JSTOR 830454 .
  • Jeffrey Kurtzman: Some historical perspectives on the Monteverdi Vespers. In: Studies on Italian-German music history 10 (= Analecta Musicologica , 15/1975). Volk, Cologne 1975, ISBN 3-87252-081-4 .
  • Iain Fenlon: The Monteverdi Vespers: Suggested answers to some fundamental questions. In: Early Music , 5/1977, pp. 380-387, JSTOR 3126093 .
  • Helmut Hucke: Claudio Monteverdi's wrongly called 'Marien' Vespers. In: Report on the International Musicological Congress Bayreuth 1981 . Bärenreiter, Kassel 1985, ISBN 3-7618-0750-3 , pp. 295-305.
  • Andrew Parrott: Transposition in Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610: an 'aberration' defended. In: Early Music , 12/1984, pp. 490-516, JSTOR 3137979 .
  • Jeffrey Kurtzman: An Aberration Amplified. In: Early Music , 13/1985, pp. 73-76, JSTOR 3127408 .
  • Bernhard Meier: On the key of the concertato motets in Monteverdi's Vespers. In: Ludwig Finscher (Ed.) Claudio Monteverdi. Festschrift Reinhold Hammerstein for his 70th birthday. Laaber-Verlag, Laaber 1986, ISBN 3-89007-105-8 , pp. 359-368.
  • Graham Dixon: Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610: 'della Beata Vergine' ?. In: Early Music , 15/1987, pp. 386-389, JSTOR 3137561 .
  • Jürgen Jürgens: Claudio Monteverdi's ‚Marienvesper 'from 1610 - a complete work of art or a collective print? Ambitus CD amb 383826, 1987.
  • John Whenham: Monteverdi, Vespers (1610). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1997, ISBN 0-521-45377-1 .
  • Jeffrey Kurtzman: The Monteverdi Vespers of 1610: Music, Context, Performance. Clarendon Press, Oxford 2000, ISBN 0-19-816409-2 .
  • Michael Malkiewicz: On the choreography of Claudio Monteverdi's ballet music: aspects of (re) construction. In: Recercare XIII / 2001 (2002), pp. 125-145, JSTOR 41701359 .
  • Richard Schulte Staade: Vespers of Mary in the community. 31 models. Butzon & Bercker, Kevelaer 2002, ISBN 3-7666-0241-1 .
  • Roger Bowers: An 'Aberration' reviewed: the reconciliation of inconsistent clef systems in Monteverdi's Mass and Vespers of 1610. In: Early Music , 31/2003, pp. 527-538, JSTOR 3137675 .

Web links

Commons : Vespers of Mary (Monteverdi)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Olaf Matthias Roth: Claudio Monteverdi. Marian vespers . In: Bärenreiter factory introductions . Bärenreiter, Kassel 2017, ISBN 978-3-7618-2407-8 , p. 29-31 .