ALBUM TITLE: Gesualdo
WORKS: Madrigals (selection)
PERFORMER: Musica Ficta/Bo Holten
CATALOGUE NO: DACOCD 760
The Danish musician Bo Holten has not only performed Gesualdo’s music on numerous occasions but he has also written an opera about the ‘prince and murderer’ whose compositions are a by-word in strange harmonies. This is a live recording of his 2013 concert in Bari in Southern Italy and, if the 60 minutes of music here seems short measure for a CD these days, you should be warned that, in addition (or rather, subtraction) the last four tracks are a repeat of the first four.
That said, these performances are impressive. These singers can be mercurial (Beltà poi), delicately quiet (Asciugate), bombastic (the opening of Il sol), and conversational (Io parto) by turn. The clarity of the part-writing suffers a little from the live acoustic (Se la mia), and the middle voices are not always equally balanced with the outer ones – though the startlingly steely voice of the soprano Anne-Christine Ingels has to be heard to be believed. She pings onto her notes with deadly accuracy from almost anywhere in the tonal universe. The one rival to these performances is the recording of the sixth book of madrigals by La Compagnia del Madrigal (Glossa). They take things a little slower, their voices are more evenly matched, and their tuning is very slightly better. But in places (eg Mille volte) it is Bo Holten’s singers that make more of those words ‘sighs’, ‘death’, etc that provide the core of the Italian-madrigal experience. Anthony Pryer