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Friday, August 12, 2011

A Vital New Recording of Gesualdo's Third Book of Madrigals

If Carlo Gesualdo di Venosa (1566-1613) had never entered his later compositional phase he would no doubt still be remembered for the architecture of his vocal polyphony, the charm and expressive inventiveness of his part writing. Along about the time of his Madrigals Book 3 (1595), he began utilizing dissonances, chromaticisms and expressive vocal phases that emulated sighs, laments and related outbursts of overwrought despair. In the era this was a notable departure from the norm. He was later looked upon (especially thanks to Stravinsky's late-1950's work Momentum Pro Gesualdo based on Gesualdo's music) as a precursor and prophet of expressive modernism.

Of course ultimately Gesualdo's music stands on its own. Remarkably beautiful, expressive, and of its own time as much or more than standing apart from it.

Marco Longhini and Delitiae Musicae give you a wonderful reading of the Third Book of Madrigals (Naxos 8.572136) for vocal sextet. The singing is quite engaging, with the countertenor part sung by the appropriate male exponent. (I've had versions where a mezzosoprano substituted and it did not quite suite the music as much. The unique timbre of the countertenor gives the music a more exotic, ancient sound and the parts seem more easily differentiated with that extra sound color added.)

Harpsichord continuo appears at appropiate points. (And again, I have had versions that leave this out to the detriment of the fullness and variety of sound you get with its inclusion.)

All in all this is a fabulous performance of music that should be a part of the musical library of anyone who wants a representative cross-section of early music. Marco Longhini gives us performances that are very near definitive. Bravo. Bring on Book Four!

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