Ensemble Céladon - Monferrato: Salve Regina - American Record Guide
Natale Monferrato (1603-85) held senior positions at St Mark’s Venice; and his sacred motets, published in 1666, have clear similarities to the operatic style of that time and place. Themes, musical forms, and characters in the motets leap to life as if they were on stage in the theater: ‘Convenite Terrigenae’ is a forceful command for the populace of Heaven to gather round and behold the Virgin’s splendors, ‘Vigila Mortalis’ is a lively warning to all mortals to be on guard against Satan’s traps, and ‘Sic Ergo Jesu’ takes the form of a recitative and aria. Led by countertenor Paulin Bundgen, Ensemble Caledon fuels the drama with a strong continuo engine of harp, violone, bass viol, theorbo, organ, and harpsichord. In ‘Propera Domine’ an active bass line spurs on the bold theatrical vocal line as the singer petitions insistently for the Lord to act and relieve people who seek help. Fervor and urgency are palpable, conveyed by an elegant tempo, ebb and flow in the phrasing, and eager propulsion from the continuo group. This is fine music, well performed, with graceful devotion and theatrical flair. Interpretive choices—bold, direct, impassioned— certainly favor the latter, which suits Bundgen’s strong skills as a singer. The performers can also be very delicate, expressing reflective ecstasy at the end of ‘Salve Regina’ and the stillness of devotion in the central section of ‘Convenite Terrigenae’. This is described as the first recording devoted to Monterrato, and I hope that Ensemble Caledon and other ensembles will perform and record more of his music.