Gesualdo, Luzzaschi, Nenna, Monte & Montella

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COMPOSERS: Gesualdo,Luzzaschi,Monte & Montella,Nenna
LABELS: Opus 111
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: O Dolorosa Gioia
WORKS: Madrigals
PERFORMER: Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
CATALOGUE NO: OPS 30-238
Carlo Gesualdo has been sensationalised as an eccentric nobleman, infamous for murdering his first wife and her lover. Gesualdo’s psychopathic melancholia found artistic expression in his fifth and sixth books of madrigals. However, the shocking dissonance of his music was not original, but an extreme manifestation of the contrapuntal practice he learned from composers such as Luzzaschi in Ferrara and Nenna in Naples.

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Concerto Italiano’s latest outstanding release illuminates Gesualdo’s character with brilliance. To set the scene, rich chromatic harmonies and highly descriptive word-painting depict the trials of love with agonising sighs in Monte’s ‘Di mie dogliose’, searing grief in Nenna’s ‘Occhi miei’ and sweet sorrow in Montella’s ‘Se lontana voi sete’. At the end, they sing Luzzaschi’s ‘Lungi da te cor’ with ardent sensuality and pointedly reveal the irony in ‘Ahi cruda sorte mia’ and ‘Itene mie querele’.

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Gesualdo eschewed the basso continuo in his own madrigals, his a cappella style giving heightened intensity to the painful longing in ‘Moro, lasso, al mio duolo’ and ‘Beltà poiché t’assenti’, the swooning death throes in ‘Languisce al fin’, and bitter disillusionment in ‘Tu m’uccidi o crudele’. A fine performance of the ‘Canzone del Principe’ on harp keeps the palate fresh.