Carlo Gesualdo


Born: 1566; Naples, Italy   Died: September 8, 1613; Naples, Italy  
Gesualdo's strength was his ability to combine a variety of unconventional strategies into the service of a deeply felt and psychologically effective whole. Gesualdo's style, once regarded as unique, has helped to open up an entire field of study relating to the avant-garde of the late sixteenth century, sometimes referred to by scholars as the "Mannerist Revolution." This movement vanished once Baroque style came to the forefront of music in Read more Italy.

Gesualdo was born the second son of the Second Prince of Venosa, probably in the town that bears his family's name. After receiving musical training from Stefano Felis and Giovanni de Macque, Gesualdo's earliest known work appears in 1585, when he was 19. That same year, his elder brother died at 20, making marriage an imperative for the younger Gesualdo. The bride was his first cousin, Maria d'Avalos, at age 25 already twice-widowed. They wed in Naples in 1586, and the following year an heir was born. Gesualdo discovered d'Avalos in an affair with the Duke of Andria. On October 17, 1590, Gesualdo, assisted by three servants, killed them both. The incident attracted public outrage, but there would be no trial, as authorities from both Church and State convened to dispose of the matter. Gesualdo's father died in 1591, and another marriage was arranged to Donna Leonora d'Este, taking place in Ferrara in February, 1594. In Ferrara, Gesualdo came into contact with court composer Luzzascho Luzzaschi and his "secret music," and became a close friend of the poet Torquato Tasso. Upon returning to his estate late in 1596, Gesualdo resolved to travel no more. In 1597, d'Este bore Gesualdo a second son who died in 1600, an event that plunged the Prince into a deep despair. The couple separated in 1608, and in 1610 d'Este began divorce proceedings against Gesualdo, but changed her mind and returned. In 1613, Gesualdo's elder son died, and Gesualdo himself followed on September 8 at age 47. He was known to be violently asthmatic his whole life. In later years, he would pursue masochistic practices which chronically served to weaken him physically, his spirit already broken by a decade of insanity.

Gesualdo's six books of Madrigals constitute the main body of his work. Books I and II (1594) are rooted in standard practice, but when compared to contemporary settings of the same poetry, they reveal a stubbornly individual mind at work. Book III (1595) shows a decreased reliance on pre-existing settings, and by Book IV (1596), all the texts used are original. Here, Gesualdo's mature style begins to emerge. Books V and VI did not appear until 1611, but in these editions, Gesualdo states the madrigals were written "15 years" prior to the date of publication, and were printed only to protect the works from plagiarists. While essentially diatonic in character, madrigals such as Beltŕ, poi che t'assenti and Moro lasso contain music which modulates so frequently it results in a disoriented sense of key. Dissonance is used liberally; passing tones cross relate, and there are passages of stepwise chromatic motion resulting in a suspended tonality. Gesualdo published three books of sacred music. The first two, entitled Sacre Cantiones, appeared in 1603, and in the second book Gesualdo expanded his usual five-part texture into six and seven parts, though two of the partbooks are lost. The third book, Responsoria (1611), represents Gesualdo's final musical statement. It is entirely in his late style, and the responses composed for the Good Friday service contains some of the most assured and eloquent music that Gesualdo composed. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 114 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Choral Collection
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8503298 Release Date: 10/25/2019   Number of Discs: 30
    Composer:  Alexander Agricola,  Kim Andre Arnesen,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Alicia Rigsby,  Beryl Fanslow,  Sara Michael,  Juliane Dowell  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Posch,  Joel Rinsema,  Hilary Davan Wetton,  Marin Alsop  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Unicorn,  Kantorei,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 2.
    Gesualdo: Madrigali, Books 1 & 2 / Agnew, Les Arts Florissants
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 8905307 Release Date: 10/25/2019   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Carlo Gesualdo
    Conductor:  Paul Agnew
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Arts Florissants
    CD: $22.49
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  • 3.
    Este libro es de Don Luis Ross / Fourquier, Ensemble Poiesis
    Label: Alpha Classics   Catalog: 496 Release Date: 08/23/2019   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Francesco Lambardi,  Jacopo Peri,  Giovanni de Macque,  Carlo Gesualdo  ... 
    Performer:  Marion Fourquier
    Conductor:  Marion Fourquier
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Poďesis
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  • 4.
    The Early Music Collection
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8503297 Release Date: 06/14/2019   Number of Discs: 30
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Hildegard of Bingen,  Berenguier de Palazol,  Giraut de Bornelh  ... 
    Performer:  Marco Ambrosini,  Maria D. Lafitte,  Thomas Wimmer,  Riccardo Delfino  ... 
    Conductor:  Alberto Turco,  Jeremy Summerly,  Michael Posch,  Marco Ambrosini  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nova Schola Gregoriana,  Oxford Camerata,  Ensemble Unicorn  ... 
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  • 5.
    La morte della ragione / Antonini, Il Giardino Armonico
    Label: Alpha Productions   Catalog: 450 Release Date: 05/10/2019   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Giorgio Mainerio,  Christopher Tye,  Hayne van Ghizeghem  ... 
    Performer:  Giovanni Antonini
    Conductor:  Giovanni Antonini
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Giardino Armonico
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  • 6.
    40 Years (1979-2019) / Christie, Agnew, Les Arts Florissants
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 8908972 Release Date: 04/12/2019   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Marc-Antoine Charpentier,  Jean-Baptiste Lully,  Jean-Philippe Rameau,  André Campra  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Arts Florissants
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  • 7.
    c.1300 - c.2000 / Denk
    Label: Nonesuch   Catalog: 563316 Release Date: 02/08/2019   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Guillaume de Machaut,  Gilles Binchois,  Johannes Ockeghem,  Guillaume Dufay  ... 
    Performer:  Jeremy Denk
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  • 8.
    Melancholia / Jourdain, Les Cris De Paris
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 902298 Release Date: 09/14/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Wilbye,  William Byrd,  Cesare Tudino,  Carlo Gesualdo  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Cris de Paris
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  • 9.
    Festival: Classical Music in Switzerland
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 88985476732 Release Date: 09/07/2018   Number of Discs: 13
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Sir Edward Elgar,  Giya Kancheli  ... 
    Performer:  Francesco Piemontesi,  Felix Froschhammer,  Sebastian Bohren,  Andreas Fleck  ... 
    Conductor:  Roger Norrington,  Jérémie Rhorer,  Willem De Bordes,  Daniel Bard  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe,  Le Cercle de l'Harmonie,  Schumann Quartett  ... 
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  • 10.
    Generation Harmonia Mundi, Vol. 1: The Age of Revolutions
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 2908904 Release Date: 05/11/2018   Number of Discs: 16
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Francisco Soto de Langa,  Nicolas Gombert,  Josquin Des Préz  ... 
    Performer:  Francis Chapelet,  René Saorgin,  Helmut Winter,  Iegor Reznikoff  ... 
    Conductor:  Gregorio Paniagua,  Alfred Deller,  Marcel Pérčs,  Dominique Visse  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atrium Musicae,  Deller Consort,  Ensemble Organum  ... 
    CD: $34.99
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  • 11.
    Timeless / Bohlin, Cappella SF
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3553 Release Date: 04/20/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hildegard of Bingen,  Guillaume de Machaut,  Carlo Gesualdo,  Heinrich Schütz  ... 
    Conductor:  Ragnar Bohlin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella SF
    CD: $17.99
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  • 12.
    In War & Peace - Harmony Through Music / DiDonata, Emelyanychev, Il Pomo d'Oro
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 567656 Release Date: 04/06/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Leonardo Leo,  George Frideric Handel,  Henry Purcell,  Niccolň Jommelli  ... 
    Performer:  Joyce DiDonato,  Maxim Emelyanychev,  Magdalena Karolak,  Anna Fusek
    Conductor:  Maxim Emelyanychev
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Pomo D’oro
    On sale! $25.99
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  • 13.
    In War & Peace - Harmony Through Music / DiDonata, Emelyanychev, Il Pomo d'Oro [Blu-ray]
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 567656 Release Date: 04/06/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Leonardo Leo,  George Frideric Handel,  Henry Purcell,  Niccolň Jommelli  ... 
    Performer:  Joyce DiDonato,  Maxim Emelyanychev,  Magdalena Karolak,  Anna Fusek
    Conductor:  Maxim Emelyanychev
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Pomo D’oro
    On sale! $27.99
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  • 14.
    Renaissance Choral Masterworks
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 95662 Release Date: 03/23/2018   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Gregorio Allegri,  Thomas Tallis,  Giovanni Palestrina,  Pier Francesco Cavalli  ... 
    Conductor:  Timothy Brown,  Alistair Dixon,  Stephen Cleobury,  Christopher Robinson  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Clare College Choir,  Chapelle du Roi,  Cambridge King's College Choir  ... 
    CD: $17.99
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  • 15.
    Tenebrae / Amarcord
    Label: Raum Klang   Catalog: 101171 Release Date: 02/02/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Tallis,  Guillaume de Machaut,  Sixt Dietrich,  Thomas Stoltzer  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amarcord
    CD: $19.99
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  • 16.
    Gesualdo Madrigals / Holten, Musica Ficta
    Label: Danacord   Catalog: 760 Release Date: 01/05/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carlo Gesualdo
    Conductor:  Bo Holten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Musica Ficta Vocal Ensemble Copenhagen
    CD: $17.99
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  • 17.
    Amore Contraffatto / Safir, Ensemble Solistes XXI
    Label: Digressione Music   Catalog: 23 Release Date: 08/04/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gianvincenzo Cresta,  Carlo Gesualdo
    Performer:  Christophe Desjardins
    Conductor:  Rachid Safir
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Solistes XXI
    CD: $17.99
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  • 18.
    Cosmography of Polyphony / Royal Wind Music
    Label: Pan Classics   Catalog: 10377 Release Date: 07/07/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Adrian Willaert,  Hernando de Cabezón,  Johannes Ockeghem,  Nicolas Gombert  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Wind Music
    CD: $18.99
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  • 19.
    The Complete Argo Recordings / The Choir of St. John's College Cambridge, Guest
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 4831252 Release Date: 06/23/2017   Number of Discs: 42
    Composer:  Otto Goldschmidt,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  Alastair Roberts,  Peter White,  George Guest,  Richard Lewis  ... 
    Conductor:  George Guest
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge St. John's College Choir,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  London Brass  ... 
    CD: $148.49
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  • 20.
    A Conversation with Camille de Rijck / Herreweghe
    Label: Phi   Catalog: 26 Release Date: 06/09/2017   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Carlo Gesualdo,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Hector Berlioz  ... 
    Performer:  Thomas Hobbs,  Damien Guillon,  Hana Blazikova,  Peter Kooy  ... 
    Conductor:  Philippe Herreweghe
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ghent Collegium Vocale,  Ghent Collegium Vocale Orchestra,  Champs-Élysées Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $44.49
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  • 21.
    Frescobaldi, Gesualdo & Solbiati: Music for Accordion / Gesualdi
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 94972 Release Date: 02/24/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Girolamo Frescobaldi,  Carlo Gesualdo,  Alessandro Solbiati
    Performer:  Francesco Gesualdi
    CD: $8.99
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  • 22.
    Medieval & Renaissance
    Label: L'oiseau Lyre   Catalog: 002550302 Release Date: 01/06/2017   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Jaquemin de Senleches,  Guido Lange] [de,  Johannes Olivier  ... 
    Performer:  Rogers Covey-Crump,  Paul Elliot,  Margaret Philpot,  Catherine Bott  ... 
    Conductor:  Philip Pickett,  Anthony Rooley,  Trevor [viola da gamba] Jones,  Christopher Hogwood  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Medieval Ensemble,  New London Consort,  Consort of Musicke  ... 
    CD: $134.49
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  • 23.
    European Tour / Nordic Brass Ensemble [Blu-ray Audio]
    Label: Two-l   Catalog: 128 Release Date: 11/18/2016   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  B. Ramos De Pareja,  Francisco de la Torre,  Johann Weck,  Michael Praetorius  ... 
    Blu-ray Audio: $34.99
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  • 24.
    L'arte del madrigale / La Venexiana
    Label: Glossa   Catalog: 920930 Release Date: 10/28/2016   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Giaches de Wert,  Luca Marenzio,  Luzzasco Luzzaschi,  Carlo Gesualdo  ... 
    Performer:  Rossana Bertini,  Claudio Cavina,  Sandro Naglia,  Giuseppe Maletto  ... 
    Conductor:  Claudio Cavina
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Venexiana
    CD: $58.99
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  • 25.
    Schubert: Death and the Maiden / Kopatchinskaja, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
    Label: Alpha Productions   Catalog: 265 Release Date: 10/28/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  John Dowland,  Carlo Gesualdo,  György Kurtág  ... 
    Conductor:  Patricia Kopatchinskaya
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
    On sale! $18.99
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