Gesualdo Konsort Amsterdam
A Renaissance prince who composed – passionate, impulsive, hot-blooded: when he surprised his wife and her lover in flagrante delicto, he murdered them both in a rage. The nobleman’s madrigals, with their dissonant harmonies and creeping chromaticism, fit this image – exaggerated in a way that brings his life and work into amazing congruence. The historical court records, however, reveal a somewhat less garish picture of the bloody deed. The double murder had apparently been planned well in advance, and there were accomplices. It may even have pre-empted an attempt to poison Gesualdo. Yet the eccentric Prince of Venosa’s reputation was fixed from that moment on, his image not infrequently associated by posterity with a certain psychopathology, while some have regarded him as a dilettante. “Shocking and disgusting” is how the famous British travelling music historian Charles Burney described Gesualdo’s music, whereas his French contemporary Jean-Jacques Rousseau praised his madrigals as “full of learning and taste”. We know that Gesualdo enjoyed a high reputation among his colleagues and was regarded as a master of his craft, and that he could not be reproached for compositional faults. In his settings, he consistently heightened the antithetical images – life and death, joy and despair – in the texts of his hyper-expressive madrigals. His contemporaries also used dissonance and chromaticism in interpreting texts, but only occasionally. That wasn’t enough for Gesualdo, who made extensive use of this expressive tool in his compositions, which are also pervaded by dramatic pauses. The depths of the passions and emotions that can grip human beings are depicted drastically, almost realistically. Two years after Gesualdo’s death his fifth and sixth books of madrigals appeared, the summation of his work. It is surprising that this composer who could so vividly represent human feelings took no part in the development of early opera in Italy.
Don Carlo Gesualdo, Principe di Venosa [1566–613]
Madrigals for five voices
from the Libro quinto and Libro sesto ,
combined with madrigals for several voices and compositions for chromatic cembalo of his contemporaries Ruggiero Giovannelli, Ascanio Maione, Agostino Agresta, Giuseppe Palazzotto di Tagliavia, Francesco Genuino, Crescentio Salzilli, Antonio de Metrio and Diego Personè