lunes, 17 de noviembre de 2014

The Choir Project al día | 08-XI-2014

Carlo Gesualdo [Napoli, c. 1561-Avelino, 1613]: Omnes amici mei á 6 | Feria Sexta, In Primo Nocturno | Responsoria et alia ad Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae spectantia [1611].
La Compagnia del Madrigale.
The expression of the passions.

Lorenzo Bianconi wrote about Carlo Gesualdo and his works:
«I. Life
    The Gesualdo family was invested with the principality of Venosa by Philip II in 1560, when Carlo’s father Fabrizio (d 1591) married Girolama Borromeo, niece of Pope Pius IV and sister of Cardinal Carlo Borromeo. About the same time (1561) Carlo’s uncle, Alfonso (Archbishop of Naples, 1596–1603), was elected cardinal. At Naples in 1586, after the death of Fabrizio and Girolama’s eldest son, Carlo Gesualdo, heir to the title, married his cousin Maria d’Avalos, daughter of the Marquis of Pescara. The outcry and rumour excited by the assassination on 16 October 1590 of Maria, surprised by her husband ‘in flagrante delicto di fragrante peccato’, and Fabrizio Carafa, the Duke of Andria, notorious for two years as her lover, reached a level commensurate with the noble rank attained by the Gesualdo family in Naples. The double aristocratic murder was given suitable publicity in the widely disseminated Corona Manuscript chronicle (see A. Borzelli: Successi tragici et amorosi, Naples, 1908), and in a collection of verses commemorating the tragic lovers composed by Tasso and the best-known Neapolitan poets including G.B. Marino, Pignatelli, G.C. Capaccio and Cortese (see A. Quondam in Storia di Napoli, v/1, Naples, 1972, pp.405ff). This event, romanticized by novelists from Brantôme to Anatole France, still results in accounts of Gesualdo with such titles as Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa: Musician and Murderer (C. Gray and P. Heseltine) or Assassinio a cinque voci (A. Consiglio, Naples, 1967); they show how effective has been his act of retribution in spreading his fame. Nevertheless, Gesualdo prudently retired to his estate at Gesualdo, which became his permanent residence. Because of the notoriety generated by the incident, his passionate dedication to music, which until then had been cultivated in semi-secrecy (his first book of madrigals was originally published under the name of Gioseppe Pilonij), also became renowned.
Music provided the chief interest of Gesualdo’s visit to Ferrara in 1594, as may be seen in the letters of Count Alfonso Fontanelli (see Newcomb, 1968 and Pirrotta, 1971), who was appointed the prince’s equerry by Duke Alfonso II. Gesualdo’s marriage to Leonora d’Este, the duke’s niece, contracted in 1593, offered Gesualdo not only the rehabilitative value of an illustrious marriage outside the kingdom of Naples, but also the attraction of a brilliant musical centre. In accordance with Ferrarese custom, music played a large part in the marriage celebrations on 21 February 1594. Bottrigari described the festivities in La mascara (in I-Bc), the organist Ercole Pasquini composed a favola boscareccia for the occasion, I fidi amanti (Verona, 1593), Vincenzo Rondinelli dedicated his treatise on acoustics De soni, e voci (in I-FEc) to the prince, and the local poets wrote special verses. Above all, Gesualdo was chiefly occupied with music-making throughout the time he spent at Ferrara, until early 1596, interrupted by at least two visits to Gesualdo, from 15 May to 29 December 1594, and from late summer to 4 December 1595.

    Cavalieri, whom Gesualdo met at Rome on his way to Ferrara on 19 December 1593, commented ironically in a letter on the prince’s mad passion for music, and Fontanelli, after his first meeting with Gesualdo on 18 February 1594, related that the prince was exhibiting the scores of his first two books of madrigals, that he praised Luzzaschi, that he took with him on his travels musicians such as Scipione Stella and (it seems) Francesco Rasi, and that he played the guitar and the lute. Alessandro Piccinini later recounted (Intavolatura di liuto … libro primo, Bologna, 1623) that in the same year (1594) he gave two of his archlutes to Gesualdo, who afterwards presented one of them to the ‘Cavalier del Liuto’. At Ferrara Gesualdo heard the famous nuns of S Vito. At Venice, according to Fontanelli’s letters of 21 and 23 May 1594, he chose to remain incognito in order to avoid official ceremonies, but continued to discuss music, praising the musicians of Ferrara and scorning those of Venice, including Giovanni Gabrieli. He also composed madrigals, and presumably arranged the printing rights of his madrigals with Gardane. At Padua he visited Costanzo Porta. In Gesualdo, between June and October 1594, he wrote some music for performance by the Ferrarese Concerto di donne, and during the Christmas period he was the guest of Jacopo Corsi at Florence. By the end of 1594 he had returned to Ferrara with the lutenist Fabrizio Filomarino and the singer and viol player Ettore Gesualdo.

    Gesualdo’s presence in Ferrara, and his obsessive melomania, sustained with an ‘affetto napoletanissimo’ (Fontanelli), seem to have provoked the ducal printer Baldini to start publishing again the most important local madrigalists, the earliest deliberate manifestation of the seconda pratica. After the publication between May and June 1594 of his first two books, signed by Stella, Gesualdo himself, having discarded ‘quel primo stile’, composed and published his third and fourth books in March 1595 and 1596 respectively. Ettore Gesualdo, who signed them, admired their ‘invention, artifice, imitation and observance of the words’, in contrast to the ‘lightness’ of the first two books. During the same period Fontanelli published his own Primo libro, and Luzzaschi three more books of madrigals of which the fourth, dated 10 September 1594, is dedicated to Gesualdo. These publications of 1594–6 consolidated the professional reputation of Gesualdo, who had previously been considered merely an accomplished amateur. Before 1594 there is only an unspecific mention of Gesualdo’s artistic merit, in canto xx of Tasso’s Gerusalemme conquistata, but in February 1595 Raval, a professional musician, described Gesualdo as a madrigal composer in his Madrigali a 3, 5, 8 voci (Rome, 1595). During his months at Ferrara, Gesualdo profited from the unique opportunity offered to him by the duke’s musical establishment, where he could meet Luzzaschi and virtuoso court musicians on a professional basis without departing from the aristocratic reserve that was a feature of avant-garde musical circles at Ferrara, where reserve, competence and esotericism were shared by composers, performers and listeners alike.

    Gesualdo’s attempt, from about 1595, to establish a group of court musicians at the castle of Gesualdo, outside the influence of the Neapolitan academies, was probably inspired by Ferrarese example. Micheli related in the preface to his Musica vaga et artificiosa (Venice, 1615) that he worked for Gesualdo before 1599, together with Stella, G.B. di Paola, Nenna and Effrem, only the last of whom is known to have served Gesualdo until 1613. From that time Gesualdo spent almost his entire time on his estate; his visits to Naples became infrequent, and music-making seems to have constituted his refuge from the world. In 1603 G.P. Capuccio, one of his courtiers, had Gesualdo’s two books of Sacrae cantiones published by Costantino Vitale at Naples, but in 1611, for his last works (the fifth and sixth books of madrigals, still signed by Capuccio, and the Responsoria), Gesualdo acquired his own palace printer, G.G. Carlino from Naples, perhaps in imitation of the court printer at Ferrara.

    The prince’s melancholy, already known before 1594, grew deeper. A secret and therefore reliable political document draws an eloquent portrait of Gesualdo in 1600: ‘he has an income of more than 40,000 ducats-worth of grain. His ancestors were very French [i.e. anti-Spanish] in outlook, but he is opposed to innovation, attends to money-making and does not delight in anything but music. He keeps a company of men-at-arms’. There are also reports on the ill-treatment of his wife, and of divorce proceedings begun by the Este family. Leonora frequently complained of the boredom she suffered on the estate, where in fact she did not arrive until the end of 1597, after the inevitable transfer of the duchy of Ferrara to the papacy; even then she spent long periods at Modena with her brother Duke Cesare, thus provoking urgent messages from Gesualdo, who disapproved of her absences. A letter written in September 1609 confirms that, contrary to the general state of the Neapolitan nobility, the prince’s financial position was good, and that he was willing to purchase the domain of Castellammare di Stabia from the Farnese family, so that Leonora, who disliked the climate at Gesualdo, could enjoy more salubrious air. The letter also illustrates the prince’s social intolerance; he proposed that Leonora should spend the winter at one of his villas in the outskirts of Naples, where he would not be able to join her, because his own ill-health would not allow him to attend the vice-regal court. The prince’s psychopathic deterioration during his last years is amply documented; and Gesualdo’s morbid, bigoted veneration for his uncle, Carlo Borromeo, canonized in 1610, as seen in his obstinate correspondence with Cardinal Federico Borromeo to obtain relics and a portrait (see illustration and Piccardi), completes the clinical picture of the prince’s melancholy. After the death in October 1600 of Alfonsino, his son by Leonora, he commissioned the famous altarpiece in the church of the Capuchins at Gesualdo; beneath a sacra conversazione, it depicts Carlo Borromeo, Leonora, Gesualdo himself and the purified soul of their dead son. Gesualdo’s preoccupation with the extinction of his line proved justified: his death came three weeks after that of his only surviving child, Emanuele, his son by his first marriage, who had been entrusted with the entire management of the family estates.

    Gesualdo’s complete retirement from city life was part of a general return to feudalism in the kingdom of Naples during a period of grave economic, social and political crises which resulted in direct control by the nobility over its own lands. Nevertheless, his renunciation even of the exercise of this power, despite his relatively flourishing financial position, and his refuge in music, imply an anguished knowledge of his loss of real power, exclusion from the world and the absence of any future.

II. Literary and stylistics sources
    Gesualdo’s output can be divided neatly into two sections; the works he formally acknowledged (his six books of five-voice madrigals, the two books of Sacrarum cantionum and the Responsoria) but had published, as was the custom of the nobility, by a courtier; and those not originally intended for publication. To the latter category belong the few works printed after his death: the madrigals for six voices published by Effrem in 1626, three canzonettas for five voices (in RISM 161615 and 161811), a psalm in the Salmi delle compiete (Naples, 1620), and some works known only in manuscript. This latter group comprises two canzonettas in a book of spiritual parodies, mostly Neapolitan in origin, a chromatic galliard for four voices entitled ‘Principe di Venosa’ in a keyboard manuscript, and an extensive and complex ‘Canzon francese del Principe’ in the extravagant and fantastic style of Macque (ed. in CEKM, xxiv). The works that Fontanelli mentioned in his letter of 25 June 1594, ‘a motet, an aria’ and ‘a dialogue for three soprano lines’ as well as five or six ‘madrigals full of artifice’, can also be placed in this category. This list not only demonstrates Gesualdo’s versatility in every kind of musical style, including monody, but also clearly underlines his intentional discrimination between the lighter sorts of composition and the deliberate contrapuntal complexity of the works destined for publication. A. Bossarelli Mondolfi, with some justification, suggested the attribution to Gesualdo of an unsigned piece in Verovio’s Lodi (RISM 15956) and it is possible to suspect Gesualdo as the composer of much other anonymous music, such as the responses for Holy Week, ‘written by a composer who wishes to conceal his name’, included in Fabrizio Dentice’s Lamentationi(Milan, 1593); but this is to ignore the essential fact that with his nine official publications Gesualdo purposely gave a specific image of himself. This image is itself problematic enough, as an examination of his choice of poetry for the madrigals shows.

    The first two books, disguised under a false name until their unexpected publication at Ferrara in 1594, set epigrammatic texts by Guarini, Gatti, Alberti, Celiano, Grillo and particularly Tasso, which had frequently been set to music before. Tasso was acquainted with Gesualdo, and during November and December 1592 sent him from Rome 36 madrigals to set, of which Gesualdo published only one, Se così dolce e il duolo. The textual parody Sento che nel partire of d’Avalos’s famous Ancor che col partire is also the most chromatic of the madrigals in the first two books. It is particularly remarkable that Gesualdo, then and later, invariably used the madrigal form alone, renouncing the sonnet (with the exception of Mentre madonna il lasso fianco posa) and therefore all Petrarchism, and the sestina and ottava and therefore all epic texts. Of authors of the verses in books three to six, issued after his first experience of Ferrara, only three (all Ferrarese and including Guarini) are identifiable. Many texts of the later madrigals are in the style of Guarini, and one by Guarini himself, T’amo mia vita, appears at the end of the fifth book – a madrigal that had already been issued in a collection of previously unpublished works by Neapolitan composers (RISM 160916). It shows Gesualdo’s most ‘public’ vein, characterized by an exceptionally sparing use of dissonance, chromaticism and widely ranging note values, in contrast to the other madrigals in the fifth book. Guarini, Pocaterra and Marino figure among the authors of the posthumous madrigals. It is worth noting that, despite Gesualdo’s preference for epigrammatic, conceptual texts, Marino, the paragon among writers of such poetry, does not appear in the six five-voice madrigal books, possibly because Gesualdo did not wish to borrow from his Rime, which had been too extensively plundered by composers since their first publication in 1602.

    It is important to realize that the selections made in the last two books are from musical rather than poetic models, made by the rejection of certain possibilities rather than by adherence to them. The madrigals in the first two books include those set to music during the 1580s by many other composers (e.g. Marenzio, Monte, Macque and Monteverdi), and it is impossible to pick out any definite stylistic influences from this broad and unspecific relationship, apart from those in the Libro secondo written ‘all’imitazione del Luzzasco’. The 1595 and 1596 books, on the other hand, consist mainly of compositions with few previous connections. The last two books (and the madrigals for six voices) contain, as well as numerous texts set only by Gesualdo, many shared with Luzzaschi’s sixth and seventh books (11), and with the madrigals of Nenna (six) and Fontanelli (two). The debt to Luzzaschi and Nenna is immediately evident since most of these texts had not been set by any other composer. It is known from Leonora d’Este’s letter of 7 April 1600 that Nenna was no longer among Gesualdo’s courtiers at that date, so it may be presumed that the madrigals in Gesualdo’s fifth and sixth books that reveal a considerable adherence to Nenna, not merely textually, but particularly musically, were all composed before 1600, and that they were written in rivalry or in imitation of each other. The textual borrowings from Luzzaschi’s sixth book (1596) also probably date from the period immediately after Gesualdo’s stay at Ferrara, or perhaps from a time when he was still in personal touch with Luzzaschi. The retrospective dating inferred by G.P. Capuccio when in 1611 he published the fifth and sixth books, ‘after the world had been waiting avidly for 15 years since they were composed’, does not sound totally fictitious. Nor is it impossible that Nenna, who published his Gesualdian madrigals only after he left the prince’s service, should figure among those unnamed imitators and plagiarists of the prince’s madrigals, intended solely for ‘domestic consumption’, who were denounced by Capuccio.

    But it is more likely that this was a conscious if limited concession to a fundamental principle of madrigal composition, the imitation of other composers’ works. An obvious example is Itene, o miei sospiri, a parody of Luzzaschi’s Itene mie querele, which uses not only the verbal imagery, but also, one by one, the musical metaphors of its model. An even more striking case, if it is not a plagiarism, is Mercè grido piangendo; the motifs and their treatment by Nenna and Gesualdo are practically the same, and at the words ‘morrò dunque tacendo’, both use a simultaneous chromatic alteration for all the voices (‘quae omnibus chordis signum usurpat’, as Doni noted in 1647, Lyra Barberina, i, 243). It is not possible in such circumstances to establish the order of priority between model and imitation, nor is it very important; Gesualdo’s compositions are always the more audacious and complex. That he purposely reserved his imitations to a court musician (Luzzaschi) and to a ‘cavalier di Cesare’ (Nenna) confirms that membership of the avant garde of the seconda pratica was then the prerogative of nobility, and in this respect it is noteworthy that Monteverdi’s examples of seconda pratica composers are all noblemen: Gesualdo, Cavalieri, Fontanelli, Branciforte, Del Turco and Pecci (preface to C. Monteverdi: Scherzi musicali, Venice, 1607).

    Gesualdo’s admitted admiration for Luzzaschi, shared by the entire Neapolitan circle of musicians, had several causes. The prince wholeheartedly followed Luzzaschi’s habit of clothing even the least pretentious madrigal in serious, expressive, richly worked music. In practice this ‘nuova maniera’, outlined in the preface to Luzzaschi’s Sesto libro, justified any compositional or stylistic licence in the interests of musical effect or affect. In Farnetico savio (Ferrara, 1610), Alessandro Guarini compared Luzzaschi and Gesualdo with Dante, because, ‘in imitation of the words … they do not avoid harshness, nor shun dissonance itself, artistic against the rules of the art’ and ‘do not fear to employ hard, unusual and strange sounds’ (see F. Degrada, Chigiana, xxii, 1965, p.268). But while the eccentric style of a madrigal such as Itene mie querele represents an extreme case in Luzzaschi’s works, Gesualdo, ‘with his nobility and fanciful talent’, used the style constantly. In the same way, the striking similarity between the expressive music of Nenna and Gesualdo does not extend to Nenna’s sacred music, which, unlike Gesualdo’s, conforms to the stylistic limits prescribed by liturgical rules.

    Gesualdo shared Luzzaschi’s interest in the chromatic arcicembalo made by Vicentino and kept at the court of Ferrara. The chronicler Sardi related that Luzzaschi played this instrument during the Este–Venosa wedding celebrations, and it is known that Stella and Gesualdo later tried, in vain, to construct a similar chromatic instrument in Naples. The practice and theory of such an instrument had an undoubted influence on Gesualdo’s stylistic evolution; his writing encompassed an almost complete chromatic scale (the only chromatic change which never appears is F), and frequently used variations on the ancient chromatic tetrachord (ex.1 and ex.3, bars 5–7 below). Had the arcicembalo been less impractical, it would have constituted the one possible link between chromatic counterpoint and the newer forms of mixed vocal and instrumental music; thus Gesualdo’s coherent choice of the madrigal style based on artifice rather than any kind of ‘nuova musica’ should be seen in the light of the inability of contemporary keyboard instruments to cope with extreme chromaticism. It also destroys the myth, believed by Ambros among others, of an empirical, irrational Gesualdo, trying out his chromaticism ‘auf dem Klavier oder der Orgel’.

    Gesualdo’s artistic ‘models’ are not confined to Luzzaschi and Nenna. His formation probably took place through an interchange of experiences with the musicians frequenting Fabrizio Gesualdo’s house about 1585, and the early madrigals are not unlike those dedicated to Michele and Scipione Gesualdo by Marien. But Carlo Gesualdo’s first published composition was a motet in the Liber secundus motectorum by Felis (RISM 15852), so he was presumably a disciple of the latter, and also of Macque, who included three of Gesualdo’s ricercares in his Ricercate et canzone francesi, dedicated on 1 October 1586 to Gesualdo himself. Felis’s membership of Fabrizio Gesualdo’s academy is conjectural; Macque’s is verified. Moreover, Gesualdo adopted a number of devices typical of Macque’s later madrigals, such as the deliberately archaic use of the falsobordone for the three upper voices (cf Macque, Tu segui, o bella Clori and Gesualdo); chromatic tetrachords (Macque, Io piango and Gesualdo); a falling sequence of chromatic semitones (cf Macque, Poi che’l cammin, and Gesualdo, Or, che in gioia credea, and see Doni, ii, 73); relationes non harmonicae (Macque, La mia doglia, and Gesualdo, Resta di darmi noia, penultimate bar); and sudden rests and emphatic repetitions, or unexpected changes of rhythm. More generally, a madrigal such as Macque’s cheerful Cantan gli augelli (RISM 160916) shows that harmonic progressions by 3rds, far from representing any kind of ‘triadic atonality’, are rather a neutral extension of modality as commonly practised by Neapolitan musicians, and not only by Gesualdo. But while Macque freely scattered such devices through his works, Gesualdo used similar methods and irregularities continuously, sometimes simultaneously and inevitably ostentatiously.

III. Sacred works.
    The musical characteristics of Gesualdo’s sacred works are, in diluted form, those of his madrigals, with the exception of the rhythmic scheme and of the graphic appearance; while the madrigals are always written with the C mensuration sign, the motets and responses are in C. In the Sacrarum cantionum contrapuntally through-composed motets are the norm, sometimes with canonic artifice and cantus firmus (Da pacem, Domine and Assumpta est Maria: their missing parts and those of Illumina nos misericordiarum were imaginatively fabricated by Stravinsky in 1957–9). Some of the motets make discreet but manifest expressive use of harmony and dissonance; the five-voice setting of O vos omnes almost literally anticipates the more complex and grief-ridden six-voice version in the Responsoria (1611). The latter are treated, in disturbing contravention of all rules of post-Tridentine liturgical practice, in a free style enriched with the molles flexiones of the madrigals. In there is a concentration of dissonance, chromaticism and melodic extravagance, especially in the sextus part, which is nearly as affecting as the elaboration of the erotic madrigals; despite the textual clarity of the setting, it contravenes the liturgical decree that ordains a complete renunciation of all ornament during Holy Week. Throughout the Responsoria Gesualdo used the emotive style that his contemporaries reserved for rare single motets (Wert’s Vox in Rama or Lassus’s Timor et tremor) and for their sacred madrigals. It must be admitted that like the madrigals, the Responsoria were meant for private performance at Gesualdo’s castle, and, moreover, were intended for one listener, the composer himself. His paradoxical identification with the religious theme is also evident in the 1603 motets, settings of antiphonal, responsorial or para-liturgical texts, which dwell on contrition, self-deprecation and a sinner’s supplications to the Virgin Mary and to St Francis. Following a practice that is again characteristic of the madrigal, Gesualdo borrowed no fewer than 14 of the motet texts from Scipione Stella’s motet publication at Ferrara in 1595.»

    The Responsoria by Carlo Gesualdo, published in 1611, represent a remarkable emotional outpouring in sacred repertory from a composer who was living out his final years amidst melancholy thoughts and an increasingly precarious state of health. It was also significant that these Holy Week pieces should appear in the same year as the complex works in the Sesto Libro di Madrigali Madrigals: an association which La Compagnia del Madrigale are keen to make with their new recording of the Responsoria in a striking new release from Glossa. Having already responded to the stylistic subjectiveness of the madrigals the highly-skilled a cappella vocal ensemble (which includes singers of the calibre and experience of Giuseppe Maletto, Daniele Carnovich or Rossana Bertini) turns its attention to subject matter covering torment, suffering, blood and death. Over three CDs Gesualdo’s creative musical response to the Passion of Christ is interspersed with spiritual madrigals from some of his best-known contemporaries (Luzzaschi, Marenzio, de Macque and Vinci), whose religious texts further underline the madrigalesque nature of the Responsoria. Also included are two comparative rarities from Gesualdo’s sacred output, In te Domine speravi and Ne reminiscaris, Domine.
This is simply essential.

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