8 Dec 2019
Gesualdo: Madrigali, Libri primo & secondo
Les Arts Florissants and Paul Agnew
Harmonia Mundi HAF890530708
Some 30 years ago Iain Fenlon referred to Les Arts Florissants’ initial Gesualdo disc as their ‘first foray into the schizophrenic world of Gesualdo’s five-voice madrigals’ (10/88). His words encapsulated perfectly a common overarching view of Gesualdo’s virtuoso chromaticism which suited the text-centred, quick-fire responses of William’s Christie’s original singers so well. Now the ensemble return to Gesualdo’s madrigals with Paul Agnew at the helm and a new generation of voices as they celebrate their 40th-anniversary concerts. Beginning with Books 1 and 2, we encounter lesser-known and less extrovert works but find the ensemble crackling with that same intellectual energy.
With the sound of their Award-winning Monteverdi madrigals (1/15, 7/15, 2/17) fresh in our ears, this new disc, also made from live recordings, offers fresh views of that famous madrigalian fork-in-the-road: Monteverdi’s experimental laboratory veered towards monody, Gesualdo’s led him to push further into the polyphonic web, fracturing texts and harmonies. The sheer inquisitive delight that these singers bring to Gesualdo’s extraordinary world indicates a very exciting series ahead.
To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Dec 2019)