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Carlo GESUALDO da Venosa (1566-1613)
Terzo Libro Di Madrigali (1595) [53:17]
Scipione STELLA (c.1558-1622)
Sento dentr'al cor mio [2:39]
Luzzasco LUZZASCHI (1545-1607)
Dolorosi martir [4:22]
Alfonso FONTANELLI (1557-1622)
Colei che già si bella [3:13]
La Compagnia del Madrigale – Rossana Bertini, Francesca Cassinari (sopranos); Elena Carzaniga (alto); Giuseppe Maletto,; Raffaele Giordani (tenors); Daniele Carnovich (bass)
Joined by: Laura Fabris (soprano); Annalisa Mazzoni (alto)
rec. September-November 2015, Chiesa della BV al Colletto, Roletto, Italy
GLOSSA GCD922806 [63:31]

Carlo GESUALDO da Venosa
O Dolce Mio Tesoro
Sesto Libro Di Madrigali (1611) [75:15]
Hana Blažíková, Barbora Kabatková (sopranos); Marnix De Cat (alto); Thomas Hobbs, David Munderloh (tenors); Peter Kooij (bass); Thomas Dunford (lute)
Collegium Vocale Gent/Philippe Herreweghe
rec. 1-3 August 2015, Chiesa San Francesco, Asciano, Italy
PHI LPH024 [75:15]

It was a CD featuring the Tenebrae Responses for Good Friday from the Taverner Consort and choir under Andrew Parrott that first introduced me to the music of Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa. My interest aroused, I then progressed enthusiastically onto the Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday with the Tallis Scholars on Gimell Records. What I found appealing in this man's music was his highly individual style, waywardness, piquant harmonies and tortuously complex chromaticism. Until now, his madrigals have been an unknown quantity for me, so I was pleased that two recordings came along for review in quick succession. Gesualdo's infamous biography has been discussed many times. Suffice it to say here, his life was action packed with intrigue, drama and accusations of a double murder, witchcraft and even masochism. All of this forms a backdrop to his unique idiosyncratic style.

In his short life of forty-seven years, Gesualdo published six books of madrigals, and listening to the two books I'm reviewing here – nos. 3 and 6 – I’m immediately struck by the ingenuity and invention of these highly developed scores. The themes explored dwell on joy, sorrow, love, rejection, life and death. Many sound anguished and intense. He seems to have no regard for the rules of harmony, but bends the rules to gain expressive effects. Aldous Huxley made the pertinent remark that Gesualdo's music inhabits 'a kind of musical no-man's land’.

Book 3 was published in Ferrara in 1595 by Vittorio Baldini. It was a significant milestone for the composer who finally parted company with his contemporaries, breaking new ground. It can be thus viewed as transitional. The music becomes more emotionally charged and dissonant harmonies are brought prominently into play. No longer reliant on Torquato Tasso for his texts, Gesualdo sourced his material from such literary figures as Battista Guarini, Ridolfo Arlotti and Annibale Pocaterra. Some texts derive from anonymous sources, others could be by Gesualdo himself.

The final two books of madrigals were published in 1611. Gesualdo's compositional skill had grown by leaps and bounds by the time Book 6 was penned. I was amazed by the music's harmonic flow. At times it seems to sit on the edge of tonality. Tu piangi, o Filli mia (no. 3) is a perfect example – harmonically complex, rhythmically charged and contrapuntally convoluted. Wonderfully realized by Herreweghe and his vocal ensemble. One can understand, listening to this music, why it aroused the interest of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. I have to say that I have a preference for this later book, for its sheer stunning writing and innovation.

The two recordings are well produced, and both benefit from sympathetic acoustics, conferring a spacious and suitably resonant ambience on proceedings. I would imagine that the madrigals are fiendishly difficult to perform and that straying off pitch could be problematic. In these recordings technical accomplishment is second to none, with intonation being flawless. Both vocal groups bring intelligence and profound musicality to their readings. There's an instinctive contouring of the ebb and flow of the musical line. Gesualdo's dynamic shifts are adroitly addressed. I'm particularly drawn to Herreweghe's employment of a lute, which adds that extra fillip of colour, delicately reinforcing the line, yet always discreet. La Compagnia del Madrigale are equally engaging and offer a bonus of three tracks featuring composers closely associated with Gesualdo.

Italian texts, with English, French and German translations are provided with both releases.

Stephen Greenbank

Terzo Libro di Madrigali (1595)
Ancidetemi pur, grievi martiri
Sospirava il mio core
Del bel de' bei vostri occhi
Ahi, dispietata e cruda
Deh, se già fu crudele
Ahi, disperata vita
Dolcissimo sospiro
Meraviglia d'Amore
Voi volete ch'io mora
Se vi miro pietosa
Crudelissima doglia
Dolce spirto d'amore
Languisco e moro, ahi, cruda
Se piange, ohimè, la donna
Veggio, sì, dal mio sole
Non t'amo, o voce ingrata
Donna, se m’ancidete
Bonus tracks:
Scipione Stella: Sento dentr'al cor mio
Luzzasco Luzzaschi: Dolorosi martir
Alfonso Fontanelli: Colei che già si bella

Sesto Libro Di Madrigali (1611)
Se la mia morte brami
Beltà poi che t'assenti
Tu piangi o Fille mia
Resta di darmi noia
Chiaro risplender suole
Io parto e non più dissi
Mille volte il dì moro
O dolce mio tesoro
Deh come in van sospiro
Io pur respiro in così gran dolore
Alme d'amor rubelle
Candido e verde fiore
Ardita zanzaretta
Ardo per te mio bene
Ancide sol la morte
Quel 'no' crudel che la mia speme ancise
Moro, lasso, al mio duolo
Volan quasi farfalle
Al mio gioir il ciel si fa sereno
Tu segui o bella Clori, un fuggitivo core
Ancor che per amarti io mi consumi
Già piansi nel dolore
Quando ridente e bella



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