on 21 March 2011
After the vigorous experimentation of his secular madrigals, Gesualdo's more restrained, so-called "sacred style", can on first hearing seem less interesting. But listen closely and you will be rewarded. His first collection of motets based on religious texts, the Sacrae Cantiones, was published in 1603 (between the middle-period and late-period madrigals), comprising 19 pieces, most of madrigal length with a few edging towards five minutes. Oxford Camerata conducted by Jeremy Summerly present the whole collection on 'Gesualdo: Complete Sacred Music For Five Voices' - a bargain price disc with, sadly, bargain price presentation. Summerly's sleevenotes offer brief biography followed by brief comments on the motets; some of his comments about Gesualdo are decidedly frosty, leading me to wonder why he even bothered to make this recording of a composer he seems to be less than fully enthusiastic about. Texts and translations are not provided.
If, as Denis Arnold suggests (Gesualdo, BBC Music Guides, 1984), that Gesualdo's sacred music would have been composed for a small group of monks, one voice taking each of the five parts, then it's rather frustrating to say the least to find Oxford Camerata's version employing 12 voices instead of the recommended five. While performances are uniformly sensitive, the weight of these additional voices tends to obscure the subtleties of Gesualdo's less forceful chromaticism and dissonances, presenting an expansiveness, even grandeur, where an essentially private, more intimate atmosphere is called for. However, without another complete recording of the Sacrae Cantiones currently available, the Camerata disc is all we have, but it should be cautiously greeted.
It's high time that groups of the calibre of La Venexiana, Concerto Italiano, Hilliard Ensemble or The Kassiopeia Quintet recorded these motets in their entirety.
on 30 January 2013
The quality of both the performance and the recording on this disc of Carlo Gesualdo's sacred music for five voices are excellent. As another reviewer has pointed out, there are more than five voices performing the works presented here, so if authenticity is what you are after you'd best look elswhere. If you want a sublime listening experience, look no further.
on 26 March 2011
I discovered Gesualdos art through lectures of "Bach & the High Baroque",by comparisons of the earlier Renaissance style.At that time I had not listened that much to that style of music (by the exception of the music of Hildegard of Bingen, an even earlier composed music,which I recommend strongly!).
I was stunned of the beauty & sublimety of Gesualdos works.
He may have composed lovely beautiful music,but he had a dark past.
He discovered that his wife had a lover and killed them both!
At the time though,they didn't charge him for murder,cuz they thought the act was righteous.
Many have pointed out that Gesualdo was in many ways way before his time with his works for the human voice.
One explanation to that is that he composed his music for his own pleasure,he hadn't some patron to satisfy,he was avery wealthy man in his own right.
The earlier reviewer had reservations about the arrengements on this naxos recording by Jeremy Summerly & Oxford Camerata.
I don't think that such reservations can change that this recording has lovely music that you even can listen to and feel that relaxes you ,even if you(like me sometimes)have a migraine headache!
For me this recording deserves the highest ranking!