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Posted February 7, 2011
Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo's life story is prime for a Hollywood film (besides the Werner Herzog pseudo-documentary). Although his music is mysterious and hauntingly beautiful, he is also known (and perhaps mostly) for ordering the murders of his first wife, Maria d'Avalos, and her lover. This act sent him into self-imposed exile, and may have been a strong contributing factor to the darkness of his compositions.
Delitiæ Musicæ, having recorded the complete madrigals of Monteverdi, have now begun a survey of the complete madrigals of Gesualdo. Under the direction of Marco Longhini, this disc of the First Book of Madrigals (1594) offers Gesualdo's eccentric views on love and death with clear articulation and good use of vocal blending. Instrumental accompaniment (harpsichord) is spare, allowing the focus to center on the voices. An excellent start to the series!
Posted October 1, 2010
The Italian nobleman Carlo Gesualdo was a late-Renaissance composer, lutenist, harpsichordist, and guitarist. Little is known of his early life. Gesualdo is famous for two things: his highly expressive madrigals, which use a chromatic language not heard again until the 19th century; and for the cold-blooded murders of his first wife and her lover. Even when young, he was passionately devoted to music and showed little interest in anything else. In 1586 he married his first cousin, Donna Maria d'Avalos, daughter of the Marquis of Pescara, who began an affair in 1588 with Fabrizio Carafa, Duke of Andria. Even though the affair was well-known, she somehow concealed it from her husband for almost two years. After hearing of the affair, Gesualdo feigned departure on a hunting trip; with help from servants, he returned at night, butchered the pair in her bed, and publicly displayed the mutilated bodies outside his castle.
Though immune from prosecution, he feared revenge, so fled from Gesualdo, near Naples, to Ferrara, then an Italian center of progressive musical activity. He married again, returned to his castle at Gesualdo in 1595, and became a recluse. In later life, he became chronically depressed.
Between 1594 and 1611, Gesualdo composed six books of madrigals. This CD contains Book 1, written in 1594, when Gesualdo was in Ferrara. All are for five voices. The singing is exemplary and the recording is crystal-clear; this CD is warmly recommended for lovers of the late Renaissance era.