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Carlo GESUALDO (1566-1613)
Madrigals - Book 2 (1594)
Caro amoroso neo [2:11]
Ma se tale ha costei [1:57]
Hai rotto e sciolto e spento [3:18]
Se per lieve ferita (part 1) [2:10]
Che sentir deve il petto (part 2) [2:43]
In piu leggiadro velo [2:06]
Se cosi dolce e il duolo (part 1) [1:27]
Ma se avverra ch'io moia [2:38]
Se taccio, il duol s'avanza [2:28]
O com'e gran martire (part 1) [2:05]
O mio soave ardore (part 2) [1:21]
Sento che nel partire [4:12]
Non e questa la mano (part 1) [1:31]
Ne tien face o saetta (part 2) [2:43]
Candida man qual neve [3:36]
Dalle odorate spoglie (part 1) [1:21]
E quell'arpa felice (part 2) [1:40]
Non mai non cangero stato [2:54]
All'apparir di quelle luci [2:40]
Non mi toglia il ben mio [2:06]
Canzon francese [6:25]
Gagliarda del Principe di Venosa [3:39]
Delitię Musicę/Marco Longhini
rec. 27-28 July, 21-25 October 2007, Chiesa di San Pietro in Vincoli, Azzago, Verona, Italy. DDD
NAXOS 8.570549 [56:59]

Experience Classicsonline

This is beautiful, intense yet measured music sung beautifully, idiomatically and with spirit and spontaneity by Delitię Musicę. Their conductor Marco Longhini, also prepared the text and score for this, the second CD from Naxos in a series of the madrigals by Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa. This Book was published in 1594 and contains almost two dozen short - none from the main body of the Book is much longer than four minutes - pieces with a relatively restricted range of melodic, tonal and textual sentiments and exploration.

For all Gesualdo's famed experiments with tonality and near dissonance, there is a stately, somewhat conservative, 'safe' feel to the music throughout the hour of music presented here by the respected Italian early music specialist group. They're on ground less well-trodden that that occupied by the last three Books of Gesualdo's six in particular. And accordingly there’s a respect, though hardly any undue caution or reticence, on the part of Delitię Musicę in order - it seems - to expose the music as simply as possible.

"Let's not approach it," they seem to be urging, "as the rantings of an uxoricide and musical iconoclast who styled his persona in Renaissance melancholy and self-indulgence." Rather, their style recognises this gentle, communicative, very human marriage of text and song - and instrumental accompaniment or solo playing in half a dozen or so of the tracks - for what it is. That's music which is undemonstrative yet full of feeling; which follows accepted praxes yet is fresh and penetrating; and which is completely able to carry full feelings without relying on effect or novelty.

The performers have clearly absorbed these madrigals' many qualities successfully; one waits in keen anticipation for the later Books in the series. It would perhaps have been better for Naxos to have released a double set of Books I and II since they were both published at almost the same time. What's more, certain madrigals both from this and the earlier release (Book I, Naxos 8.570548 - see review) are in (presumably) two parts but one or the other only is to be heard each time. To compensate, the music is of sufficient weight and drive for us to find each piece wholly satisfying.

Gesualdo was able to squeeze from his authors' poetry just as much as he needed for each madrigal - or, indeed, each type of madrigal - to make its impact. He never pulled the texts too thin. Interestingly, only Tasso, Guarini and Alfonso d'Avalos - the grandfather of Gesualdo's first wife, who was also his cousin - have been positively identified as having provided texts for the composer.

They're secular texts, distilled, intense and minimal. Yet for the maximum impact and enjoyment they require just the delicacy and sensitivity which these six singers (two countertenors, two tenors, baritone and bass) bring to the music. Their stylishness clearly extends to humour and awareness of the oddities of Gesualdo's existence, and his art. Yet the singers are never tempted to mock or distance themselves from it and its reputation. For the most part, they could be performing it for the first time. There are even some appropriately rough (not ragged) round the edges passages when syllables and timing take on a life of their own in the interests of realism.

Books III and IV are already in the works: the liner notes (which contain the full texts of Book II in Italian and English) refer to Naxos 8.572136/7. That's when the fireworks will begin; harmonic lines will squirm and chordal writing will stretch. Until then, this Book II, while it sees no need to keep any lids on, is unhistrionic and dour. Which is just what the music needs. The acoustic is close and helpful to the music.

Alternatives? The Gesualdo Consort's recording with Harry Van der Kamp on CPO 777 138 contains Books I, II and III and makes an excellent comparison; their pace is quicker too. It makes every sense to work through Gesualdo's madrigals as much in sequence as is possible in order to arrive at a good understanding of his world. Buy Book I and now Book II while waiting for III and IV, it is to be hoped in 2011 on the current release schedule. You will not be disappointed.

Mark Sealey












































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