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As a composer he is best known for writing intensely expressive madrigals and pieces of sacred music that use a chromatic language not heard again until the late 19th century. The best known fact of his life is his brutal and violent killing of his first wife and her aristocratic lover upon finding them in flagrante delicto.
The fascination for his music and for his crimes have gone hand in hand. Gesualdo’s family had acquired the principality of Venosa in what is now the Province of PotenzaSouthern Italy, in He was probably born on March 8,three years after his older brother Luigi. Older ones give the year of birth as c. A modern letter from Gesualdo’s mother, Geronima Borromeo, indicates that the year is most likely In addition, his mother was the niece of Pope Pius IV.
Most likely Carlo was born at Venosa, then part of the Kingdom of Naplesbut little else is known about his early life. There he was placed under the protection of his uncle, Alfonso d. Abandoning the prospect of an ecclesiastical career, he married in his first cousin, Donna Maria d’Avalos, the daughter of Carlo d’Avalos, prince of Montesarchio and Sveva Gesualdo, princess of Venosa. They had a son, Emanuele.
Gesualdo had a musical relationship with Pomponio Nennathough whether it was student to teacher, or colleague to colleague, is uncertain. Regardless of this, however, he had a single-minded devotion to music from an early age, and showed little interest in anything else. In addition to the lutehe also played the harpsichord and guitar. For almost two years, Gesualdo did not have knowledge about this, although the news was spreading and well-known elsewhere.
On the night of October 16,Gesualdo allegedly announced that he was going on a hunting expedition and it is rumored that he arranged with his servants to leave the doors unlocked. Later, Carlo Gesualdo fled to his castle at Gesualdo, Campania to be safe from any relatives of the murdered ones swearing vengeance. The day after the murders, a delegation of Neapolitan officials inspected the room in Gesualdo’s apartment where the killings had taken place, and interrogated witnesses.
The delegation’s report did not lack in gruesome details, including the mutilation of the corpses, and, according to the witnesses, Gesualdo going into the bedroom a second time “because he wasn’t certain yet they were dead”. Due to his status as a nobleman, The Gran Corte della Vicaria found that Gesualdo had not committed a crime. About a year after the gruesome end of his first marriage Gesualdo’s father died and he thus became the third Prince of Venosa and eighth Count of Conza.
In that year Gesualdo ventured to Ferrarathe home of the d’Este court and also one of the centers of progressive musical activity in Italy, especially the madrigal ; Gesualdo was especially interested in meeting Luzzasco Luzzaschione of the most forward-looking composers in the genre.
Leonora was married to Gesualdo and moved with him back to his estate in In the meantime, he engaged in more than two years of creative activity in the innovative environment of Ferrara, surrounded by some of the finest musicians in Italy. While in Ferrara, he published his first book of madrigals.
He also worked with the concerto delle donnethe three virtuoso female singers who were among the most renowned performers in the country, and for whom many other composers wrote music. After returning to his castle at Gesualdo from Ferrara inhe set up a situation similar to the one that existed in Ferrara, with a group of resident virtuoso musicians who would sing his own music.
While his estate became a center of music-making, it was for Gesualdo alone.
With his considerable financial resources, he was able to hire singers and instrumentalists for his own pleasure. He rarely left his castle, taking delight in nothing but music.
The most notoriously chromatic and difficult portions of it were all written during his period of self-imposed isolation. The relationship between Gesualdo and his new wife was not good; she accused him of abuse, and the Este family attempted to obtain a divorce. She spent more and more time away from the isolated estate. Gesualdo wrote many angry letters to Modena where she often went to stay with her brother.
InGesualdo’s son by his second marriage died. It has been postulated that after this Gesualdo had a large painting commissioned for the church of the Capuchins at Gesualdo, showing Gesualdo, his uncle Carlo Borromeo, his second wife Leonora, and his son, underneath a group of angelic figures; however, some sources suspect the painting was commissioned earlier, as the identity of the child is unclear.
Late in life he suffered from depression. Whether or not it was related to the guilt over his multiple murders is difficult to prove, but the evidence is suggestive. According to Campanellawriting in Lyon inGesualdo had himself beaten daily by his servants, keeping a special servant whose duty it was to beat him “at stool”,  and he engaged in a relentless, and fruitless, correspondence with Cardinal Federico Borromeo to obtain relicsi.
Gesualdo’s late setting of Psalm 51, the Miserereis distinguished by its insistent and imploring musical repetitions, alternating lines of monophonic chant with pungently chromatic polyphony in a low vocal tessitura.
Gesualdo died in isolation, at his castle Gesualdo in Avellinothree weeks after the death of his son Emanuelehis first son by his marriage to Maria. One 20th-century biographer has raised the possibility that he was murdered by his wife. The sepulchre was destroyed in the earthquake of When the church was rebuilt, the tomb was covered over, and now lies beneath it.
Miserere mei, Deus (Gesualdo, Carlo) – IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library: Free Public Domain Sheet Music
The burial plaque, however, remains visible. The evidence that Gesualdo was tortured by guilt for the remainder of his life is considerable, and he may have given expression to it in his music. One of the most obvious characteristics of his music is the extravagant text setting of words representing extremes of emotion: While this type of word-painting is common among madrigalists of the late 16th century, it reached an extreme development in Gesualdo’s music. His music is among the most experimental and expressive of the Renaissanceand without question is the most wildly chromatic.
Carlo Gesualdo – Wikipedia
Progressions such as those written by Gesualdo did not appear again in music until the 19th century, and then in a context of tonality. Gesualdo’s published music falls into three categories: His most famous compositions are his six books of madrigals, published between andas well as his Tenebrae Responsoriawhich are very much like madrigals, except that they use texts from the Passiona form Tenebrae used by many other composers.
In addition to the works gesyaldo he published, he left a large quantity gesauldo music in manuscript. This contains some of his richest experiments in chromaticism, as well as compositions in such gesualdk avant-garde forms as monody. Some of these were products of the years he spent in Ferrara, and some were specifically written for the virtuoso singers there, the three women of the concerto di donne.
Miserere Mei, Deus, motet for 6 voices, W. 7/92
The first books of madrigals that Gesualdo published are close in style to the work of other contemporary madrigalists. There is evidence that Gesualdo had these works in score form, geualdo order to better display his contrapuntal inventions to other musicians, and also that Gesualdo intended his works to be sung by equal voices, as opposed to the concerted madrigal style popular in the period, which involved doubling and replacing voices with instruments. Characteristic of the Gesualdo style is a sectional format in which relatively misserere passages of wild, occasionally shocking chromaticism alternate with quick-tempo diatonic passages.
The text is closely wedded to the music, with individual words being given maximum attention. Some of the chromatic passages include all twelve notes of the chromatic scale within a single phrase, although scattered throughout different voices.
Gesualdo was particularly fond of chromatic third relations, for instance juxtaposing the chords of A major and F majoror even C-sharp major and A misserereas he does for example at the beginning of “Moro, lasso, al mio duolo”. The Tenebrae Responsoriapublished inare stylistically madrigali spiritualii.
As in the later books of madrigals, he uses particularly sharp dissonance and shocking chromatic juxtapositions, especially in the miserete highlighting text passages having to do with Christ’s suffering, or the guilt of St. Peter in having betrayed him. The fascination for Gesualdo’s music mieerere been fuelled by the sensational aspects of his biography.
If Gesualdo had not committed such shocking acts, we might not pay such close attention to his music.
But if he had not written such shocking music we would not care so much about his deeds. In his own lifetime, the salacious details of Gesualdo’s killing of his first wife and her lover were widely publicized, including in verse by poets such as Tasso and an entire flock of Neapolitan poets, eager to capitalize on gesulado sensation.
After the Renaissance Gesualdo’s life story and his music were largely forgotten until the 20th century: In Alfred Schnittke wrote an opera based on Gesualdo’s life.
Another Gesualdo opera was gesuwldo by Franz Hummel in as a commission from the city of Kaiserslautern. Mozart’s C-Minor Piano Concerto was interrupted after the first movement, and a recording of some madrigals by Gesualdo took its place. And a bridge they remained even while singing the most startlingly chromatic of the mad prince’s compositions. Through the uneven phrases of mieerere madrigals, the music pursued its course, never sticking to the same key for two bars together.
In Gesualdo, that fantastic character out of a Webster jiserere, psychological disintegration had exaggerated, had pushed to the extreme moserere, a tendency inherent in modal as opposed to fully tonal music. The resulting works sounded as though they might have been written by the later Schoenberg.
The whole is disorganized. But each individual fragment is in order, is a representative of a Higher Order. The Highest Order prevails even in the disintegration. The totality is present even in the broken pieces. More clearly present, perhaps, than in a completely coherent work.
At least you aren’t lulled into a sense of false security gezualdo some merely human, merely fabricated order. You have to rely on your immediate perception of the ultimate order. So in a certain sense disintegration may have its advantages. But of course it’s dangerous, horribly dangerous. Suppose you couldn’t get back, mmiserere of the chaos InWerner Herzog directed the film Gesualdo: Gesualdo was an Italian composer who, because of mental illness, murdered his wife and her lover, and wrote music in the 16th century that was so progressive and extreme that no one attempted to recreate his style until the 20th century It wasn’t until centuries later that he was rediscovered, and his work is a huge inspiration to me.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the composer. For the Italian town, see Gesualdo, Campania.
Moro lasso al mio duolo 2: List of compositions by Carlo Gesualdo. This section ,iserere additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. October Learn how and when to remove this template message.