Pinchgut Opera continues its exploration of Claudio Monteverdi’s music with The Spiritual Forest, ten selections of mostly psalm settings from the challenging 1641 opus, Selva morale e spirituale. This collection of nearly 40 works was written over three decades whist Monteverdi served as maestro di cappella of San Marco, Venice. Monteverdi, now 74, was at the pinnacle of his career, full of flair and confidence borne of the surety of age and experience. Liberated from the constraints of earlier styles, Monteverdi had honed his compositional and expressive skills, blending words and music, voices and instruments. Despite its spiritual purpose, the collection is rich with drama, dance and madrigalesque settings, gathering the diverse elements of Monteverdi’s craft in new and old styles, and in monodic and imitative writing.

The Spiritual Forest

The Spiritual Forest, Pinchgut Opera, 2022. Photo © Cassandra Hannagan

Selva morale e spirituale is written for eight voices in different configurations, with instrumental ensemble. Apart from specifying two violins and basso continuo, the annotation Strumenti ad libitum (instruments as desired) is frequently seen, leaving the composition of the band and the allocation of parts to the discretion of the director....