La Compagnia del Madrigale performs choral works by Gesualdo

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COMPOSERS: Gesualdo
LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: Gesualdo
WORKS: Terzo Libro di Madrigali, plus works by Stella, Luzzaschi and Fontanelli
PERFORMER: La Compagnia del Madrigale
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 922806

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Gesualdo’s third book of madrigals for five voices was published in 1595, some five years after he famously murdered his adulterous wife and her lover. Even so, we do not yet find the extreme chromaticism that adds a certain exoticism to his late works, and the rather short texts here, with few words per line, create problems for those who wish to give fluid performances. These are works of localised rhetorical flourishes rather than sweeping lyricism.

That said, this complete recording of the third book is superior to the two other available versions: Delitiae Musicae’s on Naxos and that by Quintetto Vocale Italiano from 1965 on Newton Classics. La Compagnia’s customary alertness to the meaning of particular words as well as the narrative is much in evidence as in the ‘reporting’ of the lover’s actions in Deh se gìa, and in the cheery Meraviglia d’Amore, though the downward transpositions here and elsewhere rob some items of their brightness.

The five voices are joined by a sixth in Donna, se m’ancidete and the larger group continues to maintain the same clarity of texture and articulation, as well as excellent tuning. Oddly, however, the old Quintetto Vocale Italiano version seems to have found a more interesting way of projecting the phrasing in this work, despite some rough tuning and awful sound quality. The liner notes are good but the writer seems to have prepared his copy before the track order was finally decided. The pieces are not presented in the same order as Gesualdo’s publication.

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Anthony Pryer