Carlo GESUALDO (c.1566-1613)/Ascanio MAIONE
see end of review for track listing
Concerto Soave/Jean-Marc Aymes (also organ and harpsichord)
Mara Galassi (harp)
rec. 3-7 September 2012, Église Évangélique, Allemande,
Paris; 7-11 October 2012, Abbey of Saint-Michel-en-Thierache
ZIG ZAG TERRITOIRES ZZT319 [51:26 + 67:50]
Writing as I am at almost exactly the date of Carlo
Gesualdo’s death - which occurred 400 years ago in early September
1613 - I feel a strong sense of his spirit in this new CD. It offers
us an opportunity to overview some aspects of his extensive output.
In the neat box there are two discs and a booklet with a wide-ranging
essay by Concerto Soave’s director Jean-Marc Aymes. All texts
are supplied with good, approachable translations. The Prince of Venosa
is represented by both sacred and secular pieces and is pitted alongside
an underrated contemporary who concentrated on instrumental works and
was well known at the time as a great improviser, Ascanio Maione.
Disc 1 contains seven pieces by Maione from his Second book ‘Di
Diversi Capricci per Sonare’, published in Naples in 1609. These
are played by a combination of harp, harpsichord and organ. The Gesualdo
pieces are purely sacred and taken from three separate collections,
one for five voices and another for six, both published in Naples, one
in 1603 and the other in 1611. The booklet makes it quite clear which
motet comes from which collection. Amongst the masterpieces that have
almost become part of the repertoire there is O Vos Omnes for
five voices and Ecce Videmus Eum for six.
With Disc 2 the Gesualdo items are solely concentrated on the composer’s
last most extreme book of madrigals, the sixth of 1611. Again the seven
instrumental items are from Maione’s second book.
One immediately striking thing about the vocal performances is the use
throughout of an accompanying instrument. There’s a harpsichord
for the madrigals - Aymes has two different ones at his disposal: one
for solo pieces and one for the voices. A harp is employed in the sacred
works. It seems, by the way, that Gesualdo was a fine player of the
chittarone or theorbo and may have accompanied his own performers. Even
as long ago as 1988 ‘Les Arts Florissants’ did just that
- not always throughout each madrigal, however - under William Christie
(HM901268). There, the harp, and appropriately the theorbo or lyrone
are sensitively employed. Whereas the Italian group ‘La Venexiana’
in say Gesualdo’s Fourth book (Glossa 920907) and the Kassiopeia
Quintet in their complete recordings for Globe never use instrumental
support. A professional singer recently commented to me that, as the
“madrigals were so difficult to tune with their almost illogical
harmonic progressions then instrumental support was considered obligatory”.
I accept that this is not the case with Concerto Soave.
There is a difference in language used by Gesualdo in both sacred and
secular works but it is subtle. Madrigal composers had to find a way
of unifying words and music. In the madrigals Gesualdo wants to paint
every line separately or even each word and yet wants to keep an overall
logic but in a sort of Fantasia form. Only about a quarter of his surviving
music is sacred and in this genre, although the harmonies can be as
challenging and as extreme, there is more of a sense of continuity.
Even so, ideas can often be repeated as are the words but this only
occasionally happens in the madrigals, and that comment certainly applies
to those found in this, the last book. For this reviewer it’s
the sacred music however which is found to be the most remarkable and
Maione’s instrumental works are remarkably varied as shown here.
Some, like the brilliant Canzona Francesca Terza are played purely
on the harpsichord, the Toccata Seconda completely on the harp.
Others like the Recercar sopra il Canto Fermo di Constanza Festa
are played by the organ - sustaining the cantus firmus - and
by the harp playing the passagio or divisions. Also on disc one we hear
the curious Toccata Quarte per il Cembalo Cromatico. As Aymes
tells us in the notes, this was for an instrument, partially reconstructed
here, for which, for example, a D sharp is not quite the same pitch
as its enharmonic equivalent, an E flat. To our ears there may be a
sense of being ‘out of tune’. Speaking of Toccatas, the
Toccata Prima on disc two seems to be more of a florid baroque
work pointing forward stylistically to Johann Froberger (1616-1667).
In the case of Io Mi Son giovanetta we are offered diminutions
(the same as divisions) cleverly in the style of Maione himself and
also of one Scipione Stella and Domenico Montella. These are divided
between the harpsichord and harp. All of these men lived alongside each
other and also knew the Netherlander Giovanni de Macque (d.1614) who
was Gesualdo’s teacher.
All of the performances are very attractive, the instrumentalists especially
so. They are meticulously neat in the complex passage work. On the downside,
the singers, although beautifully well balanced and having clear diction,
just lack that little extra bite and attack. This is to be lamented
when these very qualities seem to be most crucial as in some of the
madrigals like Tu piangi, O filli. Perhaps the overly closely
miked harpsichord does not help.
We are also offered in addition a brief nod in the direction of Stravinsky
in one of his ‘Three Gesualdo Motets’ of 1960.
This is a fitting tribute to Carlo Gesualdo and puts this flawed but
arguably great composer into more of a context than we are usually able
A fitting tribute to Gesualdo.
Tribulationem et Dolorem [3.07]
O Vos Omnes [2.29]
Ecce Videmus a sei voce [6.09]
Recercar del Decimo Tono [5.17]
Ave Dulcissima Maria [3.30]
Venit Lumen Tuum [2.07]
Peccantem me qutidie [3.51]
Da Pacem Domine (compl. Stravinsky) [2.09]
Recercar Sopra il Canto Firmo di Constanza Festa [1.53]
Recercar del Decimo Tono [5.17]
Recercar Del Decimo Tono [5.17]
Canzona Francesca Terz [2.47]
Recercar sopra il canto firmo di Constanzo Festa per l’arpa
Toccata Seconda [4.39]
Toccata quarte per il cembalo cromatico [4.13]
Moro, lasso, al mio duolo [3.30]
Mille volte il di [3.23]
Alma d’amor Rubelle [1.57]
Ardite Zanzaretta [3.04]
Tu Piangi, O filli [3.28]
Gia Piansi nel dolore [2.34]
Deh, come invan sospiro [3.12]
Toccata quinta per il cembalo cromatico [4.46]
Io mi son Giovanetta, diminuito da stella, Montella e Maione
Toccata Prima [3.47]
Canzona Francesca Prima [2.18]
Partita sopra il tenore antico, O Romanesca [14.37]
Recercar del Quarto tono [4.26]