Saturday, October 16, 2010
I mentioned in my last composer post that most western classical music written prior to the 20th century doesn't interest me. Carlo Gesualdo is one of the other exceptions. He was born in the middle of the 16th century and lived until 1613.
Gesualdo was an Italian prince and a musical enthusiast from early on. He shredded the axe which is sort of interesting to me since that instrument was considered to be of lesser value then, say, a violin.
Anyway lets get down to business. Carlo married in his twenties and everything went well, for the first four years at least. Around two years into the marriage his wife started having an affair with another nobleman. Apparently this affair was fairly public. Almost everyone knew about it, except Carlo. Finally, two years into this adulterous relationship, Gesualdo caught wind of it. He scheduled a trip and then doubled back once his wife's lover had arrived. He caught them in the act, and in a fit of rage murdered both of them. Wikipedia broke it down like this...
"Details on the murders are not lacking, as the depositions of witnesses to the magistrates have survived in full. While they disagree on some details, they agree on the principal points, and it is apparent that Gesualdo had help from his servants, who may have done most of the killing; however, Gesualdo certainly stabbed Maria multiple times, shouting as he did, "she's not dead yet!" The Duke of Andria was found slaughtered by numerous deep sword wounds, as well as by a shot through the head. When he was found, he was dressed in women's clothing (specifically, Maria's night dress). His own clothing was found piled up by the bedside, unbloodied." "Afterward, he left their mutilated bodies in front of the palace for all to see." Some accounts say that he also killed his second born son as well, since he doubted it was his.
Brutal. At that time his social status prevented him from any legal consequences. He was, however, susceptible to revenge from the families of the deceased. He fled to castle and hired a group of soldiers to protect him. He composed music often over the rest of his life. He composed primarily for vocalists. He published six books of madrigals in his lifetime. One of the most notable things about his music is that he composed chromatic music that didn't come into fashion until the 20th century. He was a good four-hundred years ahead of his time.
Many 20th century composers rediscovered his music and payed tribute to him in more recent years. If you don't have a real ear for it you may not notice it right away. This doesn't sound like Penderecki or Schönberg. Think more Wagner or Ives. What? We haven't talked about them yet? In good time dear reader, in good time. Subtly avant-garde or not these are really nice pieces of music. Easy on the ears you might say. You'll want this around to counter what I dump on you next...
There was a gap of roughly fifteen years between the first four books and the final two. Five and six are the most chromatic of all. I just so happened to include both. Your welcome.
Madrigal Book 5
Madrigal Book 6
Im having a hard time finding complete recordings of these books for sale but I did find a collection of the six books for under $10 here.
Posted by Peter at 2:00 PM