La Compagnia del Madrigale completes Gesualdo cycle

Carlo Gesualdo murdered his wife and her lover. That’s pretty much all most people know about this Renaissance composer — if anything. This release presents Gesualdo’s first book of madrigals. It was published around the time of the murders.

There’s no question Gesualdo was a tortured soul. He abused both his first and second wives. His actions drove the first to an affair and her death. it caused his second wife to abandon him, with the blessing and help of her family. Plus, Gesualdo apparently suffered bouts of depression.

And to contemporary ears, his music sounded as tormented as the composer. Gesualdo used chromatic motion and unresolved harmonies that anticipate the late 19th Century.

This release features music published in 1591, the year after the double murder. But it was a collection of earlier works, many written well before 1590.

In these madrigals, Gesualdo’s hyper-expressive style isn’t fully developed. The works follow the madrigal conventions of the day. And while they’re not as daring as Gesulado’s later works, they do have an edge.

This release marks the end of a project. La Compagnia del Madrigale has now recorded all six madrigal books of Gesualdo. And it only took them twenty years.

Given the group’s long performance history with this composer, I expected top-flight performance. And I got them.

La Compagnia has a wonderful vocal blend. The members sing with clear tones, making interweaving lines easy to follow. And their expressive phrasing is superb. It not only illuminates the text. It brings out the emotional uneasiness that underlies these madrigals.

Carlo Gesualdo: Primo Libro di madrigali a Cinque Voci
La Compagnia del Madrigale
Glossa, GCD 922811

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