Carlo Gesualdo by: Jessica Lin

BIOGRAPHY - Carlo Gesualdo was born in Venosa, Italy on March 30, 1566. He spent most of his life in Venosa, which was part of Naples at the time. Gesualdo spent a few years in Ferrara with his 2nd wife, Eleonora d'Este, and returned to Naples in 1597. He was passionate and devoted to music from an early age and had a musical relationship with Pomponio Nenna. As for his lifestyle, he seemed to live a pretty wealthy one due to his family's position. After all, his mother was Pope Pius IV's niece and he eventually became prince and count. Carlo also didn't seem to have any patrons because he was so wealthy and highly-ranked.

WORK - Gesualdo created vocal and instrumental compositions. A lot of his works included expressionism, because they expressed his feelings clearly and with meaning, and classicism, because of the obvious Christian views and ideas. He ventured into the musical no-man’s-land and his compositions channeled his true feelings. 3 famous pieces of work are Si la mia morte brami (if you desire my death), Moro lasso al mio duolo (I die, alas in my suffering), and Tenebrae Responsoria. His musical style was very extreme and challenged everything due to its sudden harmony changes and extreme chromatic changes. That was what Gesualdo was known for: strangely beautiful music that always seemed to be changing and haunted the ears.

TENEBRAE RESPONSORIA - This composition has a very interesting description and story to it. Tenebrae Responsoria, created in 1611, narrates Jesus' trial, torture, execution, and burial. The three sets of nine pieces are madrigals (secular vocal composition) on sacred texts (the Bible and the Passion). The tone, harmonic, and chromatic changes clearly show the emotions and scenes occurring. Classicism is most closely linked to this piece because it is focused around history and has a strong Christian influence. I find the piece really interesting because of the way it tells a story about Jesus’ important events. Also, I like how he uses changes in harmony and the chromatic scale. It makes it sound really unique.

You can watch an excerpt at:

EXTRAS - Carlo wasn't only famous because of his music. His marital problems and what he did about them is what really gave him a reputation. After his first wife Donna Maria began an affair with another man, Gesualdo caught them "in flagrante" and gruesomely killed them. He later suffered from depression and many thought he was mentally ill or possessed.



Created with images by Dimitry B - "Cupola of Sant Andrea della Valle, Rome"

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