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Gesualdo's Madrigals with Delitiæ Musicæ

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Gesualdo, Madrigals, Book 2,
Delitiæ Musicæ, M. Longhini

(released on November 16, 2010)
Naxos 8.570549 | 57'12"

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Book 1

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S. Giora Shoham, Art, Crime, and Madness: Gesualdo, Caravaggio, Genet, Van Gogh, Artaud
We last had the work of the outstanding male vocal ensemble Delitiæ Musicæ in our ears as we considered their Monteverdi madrigal cycle for Naxos. The label has also launched the group on a madrigal cycle devoted to the late Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa (1566-1613). Actually, the tracks on the disc containing Book 2 were recorded back in 2007, and the sound here receives basically the same marks as those Monteverdi discs: very good with a few reservations. Marco Longhini's group is composed of six male voices, recorded in a good balance (one on a part, of course), with the countertenors not too present and able to recede in the texture when necessary. As noted before, there is no reason to think that Gesualdo would have opposed performance of his works by women, given his contact with the famous trio of singing women at Ferrara.

Gesualdo's life was notorious enough to have merited more than one biographical opera, by Alfred Schnittke and Marc-André Dalbavie, among others. His adventurous chromatic harmony fascinated Stravinsky and other composers, like Peter Maxwell Davies, in search of atonal solutions to modern harmonic crisis. He wrote much of the really daring music after he murdered his first wife, discovered in flagrante delicto with her lover, when Gesualdo secluded himself in one of his palaces. S. Giora Shoham, author of the recent book Art, Crime, and Madness: Gesualdo, Caravaggio, Genet, Van Gogh, Artaud, goes so far as to suggest that the composer's sexual perversion, especially an inclination toward sado-masochism, is behind the choice of poetry (Tasso, who stayed with Gesualdo on several visits, may even have written poetry specifically aimed at the prince's proclivities) and the musical extremes that accompany it. Gesualdo used many of the same expressive techniques in his sacred music.

Longhini's Volume 2 closes with two bonus instrumental tracks: the Canzon francese del Principe on a very fragile-sounding clavichord (the unequal temperament only adding to the hair-raising quality of the chromatic vagaries), and the Gagliarda del Principe di Venosa played by a consort of four lutes.

1 comment:

Akimon Azuki said...

Thanks for this review; I find it hard to keep up with all new Naxos releases, as there are simply too many of them, but I would hate to miss out on a new Gesualdo disc. I have Books I and II, but the performances are not quite as good as Delitiæ Musicæ's, and at these very sensible Naxos prices, this is a great catch. I especially like the Gagliarda here, in proper HIP setting and taken at brisk tempo compared to the only other recording I have of it. I am looking forward to other releases down the road, especially Books IV, V and VI, though there the competition is pretty stiff - Curtis, La Venexiana et al.
Incidentally, I am adamant about not purchasing any more physical CDs, but when I went to Amazon MP3 downloads for this album, I found that that Naxos has not yet discovered that new-fangled thing called PDF booklet. In case of great but somewhat obscure output like Gesualdo's, reading materials are nice to have with new releases. Luckily, I discovered that Naxos website has these "About this recording" write ups available. This just FYI, in case other Ionarts readers are torn between desire to purchase this music and aversion to plastic.. ;)