The title of the two-disc album, Vivaldi: Vespro a San Marco, implies that the composer wrote a set of pieces comparable to Monteverdi's Vespro della beata Vergine, but the title needs to be interpreted somewhat loosely. The program notes describe the collection of psalms, canticles, motets, and prefatory chants recorded here as an evocation of a service of vespers Vivaldi might have assembled rather than a reconstruction of one he actually ever did. These vespers are distinctly Vivaldian in idiom, but they resemble Monteverdi's in the use of some common texts and in the diversity of musical styles, genres, and performing forces assembled; there is not much of a sense of unity in the traditional sense, but a profusion of delightfully varied musical vignettes, including a cappella chants, solos, ensembles, choruses, and instrumental pieces.
The name of Leonardo Vinci, not to be confused with Leonardo da Vinci, is little known today, but he succeeded in the intensely competitive opera scene of the 1720s in Naples, at that time one of the greatest cities in the world. His comic operas were among the first to break up the Baroque style and push it toward the simplicity and lightness to come, but here the focus is on opera seria, which he wrote in abundance and for which he commanded libretti from Pietro Metastasio and other top writers of the day.