Benedictus was written to commemorate the 425th anniversary of the birth of Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) – a composer of great stylistic diversity, whose works often served as models in the teaching of Nadia Boulanger. While the central berceuse of Benedictus is designed to reflect upon the operatic side of Monteverdi, the preceding section is based on a “Benedictus” from one of Monteverdi’s Masses, unfolding to include a three-measure quotation. The toccata-like writing alludes to the 17th century organ repertoire, here embodied within chromatic and bi-tonal harmonies, thus setting a dissonant contrast to the rather plaintive central sections.
The registration, as notated in the score, serves as a suggestion only. Several markings are optional and may be omitted altogether. Likewise, several markings calling for a change in voicing may be omitted at the discretion of the interpreter. In fact, the registration can be quite simple, much simpler then that marked in the score or used in the premiere performance.