This new disc of Gesualdo madrigals from Philippe Herreweghe and his Collegium Vocale Gent highlights the awesome beauty and incredible strangeness of the music of the powerful and cruel Italian Prince. This is music of an oddly superficial beauty, but there are clearly intense emotions under the surface. All of this is presented with Herreweghe's customary calm, clear, polished, focussed musicality.
I've long been more than a bit squeamish about the tone of many writings about Gesualdo's life, and
I definitely take umbrage with the liner notes written for this disc by Jens van Durme. He writes of Gesualdo's murder of his wife in this fashion:
The extramarital freedoms that Maria allowed herself culminated in outright tragedy in the early morning of 17 October 1590, when she was lured into a trap by her husband, caught in flagrante delicto with her lover Fabrizio Carafa, and horribly murdered. The reputation of Carlo Gesualdo as a psychopath was born. Yet, according to local custom, he had not only the right but also the duty to settle this matter of honour as he did.And that's the end of the matter, right? Nothing about Gesualdo's mutilation of the corpses after he had done the deed. A Prince who did his duty. I'll discount some of the unproven tales of his other outrages, which are outlined in Werner Herzog's 1994 film Death for Five Voices, and still call him a murderous psychopath.
Here is the beauty that comes from the psychopath. It's a mystery.