The Duke Vespers Ensemble has released a world premiere recording of a grand, 17th century musical setting of the Catholic mass. The recording is part of the group’s new album “Viva Italia,” which was recorded live in concert last spring in Duke University Chapel.
The CD will be available for purchase at the Duke Vespers Ensemble’s final Choral Vespers worship service of the semester at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, in Goodson Chapel at Duke Divinity School.
The album features 16th and 17th century composers connected to the Collegio Germanico in Rome, the Vatican’s training center for German-speaking priests at time. The music emphasizes splendor and majesty in worship services.
“There is so much great Baroque music that modern ears just haven’t heard,” said Brian Schmidt, the conductor of the Duke Vespers Ensemble and assistant conductor at Duke Chapel. “Duke Chapel has the right acoustics and musical tradition for rediscovering this festive and monumental music.”
The album was recorded during rehearsals and at a concert on April 18, 2015, presented in collaboration with the Mallarmé Chamber Players and the Washington Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble (watch highlights from the concert in the video feature embedded on this page). The groups played on period instruments to recreate what the music may have sounded like in 17th century Rome.
Among the pieces on the album is “Missa Sancta Maria Magdalenae,” the first commercial recording of the composition by the Italian composer Giovanni Felice Sances. It is a musical setting for choir, strings and brass for many elements of the Catholic Mass, including the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.
The Duke Vespers Ensemble is a chamber choir based at Duke Chapel, consisting of approximately 20 members from the Duke and Durham communities. The group leads candlelit worship services every Thursday during the academic year, as well as a popular All Hallows Eve Service. They recently sang backup vocals in concert for the Rolling Stones. Their first commercial album was a recording of Dieterich Buxtehude’s “Membra Jesu Nostri.”