There are now TWO superb performances of Gesualdo's "Quarto Libro de Madrigali" available on CDs, by La Venexiana and by The Kassiopeia Quintet. I've spent a good part of the morning trying to decide which I prefer, and I can't. La Venexiana is lighter and more "Petrarchan" in affect; Kassiopeia is darker and more "Tasso-esque". Morning and evening ragas, if you will.
The CD notes by singer Tido Vasser of Kassiopeia assert that all six of Gesualdo's books of madrigals were written within a single decade, though the publication of V & VI was long delayed. Vasser maintains that the first three books were Gesualdo's apprenticeship in madrigalism; I certainly agree that books I & II are 'generic' in comparison to IV, V, & VI, but I find Book III too exciting to denigrate it in any way. To my ears, Gesualdo's stature as one of the supreme composers of his age has never been fully demonstrated until these performances by La Venexiana and Kassiopeia. I've recently reviewed the latter ensemble's recording of Libro VI. It's a musical miracle.
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