Les Arts Florissants, Paul Agnew
Harmonia Mundi HAF890530910
After winning last year’s Gramophone early music award, this second instalment in Les Arts Florissants’ Gesualdo series continues to offer performances which balance the chromatic adventurousness of these works with what Fabrice Fitch described as ‘the solid craftsmanship and dramatic sensibility’ that characterise Gesualdo’s early books of madrigals (Gramophone Awards 2020).
Opening with the exquisite Voi volete ch’io mora (You wish me to die) we experience all four seasons of expression in as many lines of poetry. There is despair in the opening, descending phrase, an immediate complication, a sudden blend of voices and then an extraordinary surge of energy on the last line which closes with kaleidoscopic harmony.
Will such fluency and naturalism hold as they approach the later works and Gesulado’s development of a more extreme chromaticism? If they pull this off, Agnew might well finally shift some focus away from Gesualdo’s murderous private life.
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