Gesualdo: Sacrae Cantiones

Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa and Count of Conza, has become notorious for the eccentricities of both his life and his music. The gruesome murder of his first wife and her lover in flagrante, his mistreatment of his second wife, his isolation at his family seat and his penchant for masochism and flagellation have all fuelled the myth of Gesualdo as madman, deviant and tortured pariah, qualities seen to be replicated in his rule-defying music.

Yet his work was admired by his contemporaries, one of them remarking that he was ‘inferior to no other composer, having discovered new inventions of composition adorned with thought and caprice so that all musicians and singers of the world have been given to marvel’. Marking Gesualdo’s 450th birthday year, this idiomatic and committed reading by Rory McCleery and The Marian Consort of the composer’s five-voice motets invites us to marvel afresh – at their pictorial immediacy, their surprising chromaticism, their melodic word-painting and unique blend of melisma and homophony.

Gesualdo turned his prodigious compositional talent to the creation of a collection of pieces that betray his obsession with his own personal sin, remorse and need for absolution. Today, they speak to us as strongly as ever.

"Highly-charged dissonances, strange harmonic progressions paint words that implore and plead and cry out for mercy. Though they are as dramatic as Gesualdo’s madrigals, these sacred works inhabit a very different world, which the ensemble enhanced with its ethereal sound. The voices float in a transparent acoustic…these are haunting accounts"

"These are impeccable performances, easily the finest on record."

"Singing one person to a part, The Marian Consort give sublimely refined, spacious and impeccably tuned performances"

"[The Marian Consort] make a sound of rapt, quiet intensity, which is restrained without being over-cool. Their tuning is always perfect, so Gesualdo’s strange groping harmonies register with maximum effect…unfailingly beautiful"

"The consort, under the direction of countertenor Rory McCleery, sings with cool beauty and fervent expression"

"singing of impeccable blend and deep musical sensitivity. The first thing that strikes you is the crystalline clarity of their sound, and that’s a tribute both to the musicians and to the beautifully resonant recording, captured expertly in the perfect acoustic of Merton College Chapel."

"sung by an undoubtedly gifted ensemble."


Producer: Paul Baxter
Recording venue(s): Chapel of Merton College, Oxford
Recording dates: 6-8 January 2016
Physical format: Jewel case
Number of discs: 1
Number of tracks: 19
Release date: 26 August 2016
Total playing time: 1:00:55
Album ID: DCD34176

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