Next month Magnificat will launch its 2015–2016 season with a new program consisting primarily of vocal music by Claudio Monteverdi. Readers may recall that Magnificat concluded its 2011–2012 season with a program entitled Madrigals of War and Love, the English translation of part of the subtitle of Monteverdi’s eighth (and penultimate) book of madrigals, Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi con alcuni opusculi in genere rappresentativo (madrigals of war and love with some pieces in the theatrical style). The best known of those “pieces in the theatrical style” is probably “Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda,” which, is the eighth madrigal in the “War” section but has definite overtones of love. This will be the major work to open the new Magnificat season.
The text for this madrigal comes from the twelfth canto of Torquato Tasso’s La Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem delivered). It is in three voices, two, respectively, for the two characters in the title, a knight of the First Crusade and a female Saracen warrior, and a narrator for the principle body of the text (Testo). For this performance tenor Aaron Sheehan will return to Magnificat to sing the Testo part, and soprano Christine Brandes will make her Magnificat debut as Clorinda. Brandes will also sing a “love letter” from Monteverdi’s seventh book of madrigals, “Se i languidi miei sguardi” (if my languid looks), a setting of a poem by Claudio Achillini for solo voice.
Artistic Director Warren Stewart has structured the entire program in two parts, each of which will begin with a meditation on the vanity theme of Ecclesiastes that occupies the first five compositions in Monteverdi’s major collection of sacred music, Selva morale e spirituale (moral and spiritual forest), published in 1640 as part of Monteverdi’s service at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. The first of these, “O Ciechi il tanto affaticar” (Oh, blind ones so moved), is a madrigal for five voices and two violins that sets words from Petrarch’s Trionfo della morte (triumph of death). The second, “Chi vol che m’innamori” (who wishes not to be loved by me), a canzonetta setting of an anonymous text for three voices and two violins. Most of the selections for program, however, will be drawn from Monteverdi’s seventh book of madrigals.
The program will also include two instrumental works by Monteverdi’s colleagues at St Mark’s. One is by Dario Castello, about whom very little is known beyond his having composed two collections of sonatas requiring highly virtuosic violin performances. The other is Biagio Marini, who served as a violinist under Monteverdi but who also travelled extensively, establishing a reputation as a virtuoso in major European cities. The program will conclude with the final madrigal in Monteverdi’s seventh book, “Tirsi e Clori.” This was requested by Monteverdi’s former employer, Ferdinando, Duke of Gonzaga of Mantua, who wanted a pastoral ballet based on a dialog between a shepherd (Tirsi) and a nymph (Clori).
The San Francisco performance of this program will take place at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell Street (just west of the corner of Franklin Street) on Sunday afternoon, September 27, at 4 p.m. General admission is $35 with special rates for seniors aged 62 and over ($32) and students with proper identification ($12). Magnificat has provided a Web page for ordering tickets. Tickets may also be ordered by telephone at 800-595-4849.