Gesualdo: Terzo Libro di Madrigale

Reviewed on Wed 07 Jun, 2017

The results are vibrant and engaging, the tone bright but warm, and with valuable clarity of texture, though the words are difficult to catch.

Gesualdo’s Third Book of Madrigals (1595) marks a turning point, introducing the radical harmonies that would characterise his late work, while otherwise conforming broadly to the conventions of the day. The Italian vocal ensemble La Compagnia del Madrigale finds an ideal balance between the two, giving the piquant dissonances their due, but without exaggerating the strangeness. The singing is one to a part and is captured in a modestly sized church acoustic. The results are vibrant and engaging, the tone bright but warm, and with valuable clarity of texture, though the words are difficult to catch. Tempos are brisk but supple and never feel rushed (but are considerably faster than on the recent Delitiae Musicae version for Naxos). Three madrigals by Gesualdo’s contemporaries Stella, Luzzaschi and Fontanelli are included as welcome fillers. Attractive packaging and a well-translated essay about the music’s colourful history round out a very attractive release.
–Gavin Dixon