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As said, the all-important supporting documentation is informative, though scarcely overwhelming; French, Latin, German and English versions of the texts are simply reproduced. Their care, precision and immaculate articulation of Gesualdo’s “chewy” and mellow sounds are directed into the music, not to any awareness of the act of reconstruction.

Wood’s work has more than paid off. Probably driven as much by a determination not to let the mythology which has afflicted Gesualdo for instance, his status as renown murderer, his experimentalism, and seemingly wayward chromaticism inform his efforts as by his admiration for Gesualdo, the composer James Wood, also Director of the Vocalconsort Berlin,spent three years of his musicological life from reconstructing the Liber Secundus as a contribution to the four hundredth anniversary of the composer’s death this year.

Tempi are sedate, beautifully paced, in fact: This work took stylistic characteristics from Gesualdo’s sacred music as well as the other two collections of his sacred music to serve as models in what must have been a difficult analysis. Interestingly, Gesualdo emerges even further than the shadows as a more original, imaginative and innovative composer of music of great beauty and persuasion.

Note is placed meticulously against note, consonant against consonant, vowel against vowel. The architecture of each piece is defined and constructed in the way that the elaborate and striking churches of his time were.

C01 – Liber Cantiones.pdf (4.94 MB)

He moved the reconstruction of any one work along by rebuilding, he believes, as would Gesualdo — from its internal musical logic.


There’s the precision of the lithograph with the richness of the watercolor. Of these the best known is the collection for Holy Week, Responsoria. And in fact both the first and second books both published in bore the name Liber primus. So when the Bassus and Sextus parts of the second of the two sets to be published were lost, the collection was apparently effectively useless and unperformable.

Sentiments are invariably justified.

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The result — albeit courtesy of James Wood — is oil. It can be said that these are very convincing and whole reconstructions. The rest of the performance of the perfectly-proportioned piece shows unambiguously why we should rejoice; but without ever making too much of the gusto, of the forward and upward sentiment, without trying mere rousing sounds for their own sake.

Out of a perfect blend between emotional engagement and detachment the sublime beauty of Gesualdo’s music emerges not unnoticed, but never ostentatiously pressed. This is a well-produced CD by Harmonia Mundi.


Liber Cantiones : Zaubersprüche des Schwarzen Auges

CD Review Carlo Gesualdo. The acoustic is as close and intimate without being cloying as it should be. Sentiment is privileged; but so are restraint and reflection. The same holds true consistently throughout the CD.

The CD consists of almost two dozen short pieces none lasts longer than eight minutes; most are under two which have been grouped according to emotion or religious evocation… prayers for salvation, despair and weeping, peace and hope, praise and thanks.

Wood cantilnes a precise meaning for “rules”: Renaissance compositions of this type were usually written and published in separate parts for llber. Nothing is hurried; nothing overly dramatic; it never has to be.

Home News Contacts Copyright. There is also a variety in atmosphere and tenor of the singing: You’re there with the singers, at their lliber as each new idea emerges and is developed; yet they’re singing not for you, but for on behalf of, almost the sentiments with which Gesualdo is so intensely occupied.


Carlo Gesualdo wrote less sacred than secular music: Lovers of Gesualdo should not hesitate.

Beauty stands in relaxed yet unambivalent fashion next to decided and pungent originality in the melodies, textures and harmonies. The music is clearly Gesualdo’s: Gesualdo’s “tendencies became rules” for Wood as explained in the latter’s excellent and informative liner notes for this CD from Harmonia Mundi and his direction became clearer. Recommended on all counts. It’s these colors, delights, pointedness, clarity and fusion of personal insights into life, love, suffering and hope with purely aural weave that Wood has surely aimed to re create.

Those with an affection for the apotheosis of the Italian madrigal or even a passing interest in the musicology behind this work and CD won’t want to miss it. No lover of Gesualdo should overlook this set.

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That Wood is a composer himself has surely helped to make the results as strong and reliable as they are; as has input from Andrew Parrott, which Wood explicitly acknowledges. Fortunately Wood was aided by consistencies and similarities which emerged between Gesualdo’s works: And he — cantioness the 16 singers variously distributed across the 22 items on the CD of Vocalconsort Berlin — have succeeded with amazing grace cajtiones decisiveness.

Gesualdo’s richness is apparent in its own right and its own ways.

Nothing is superfluous, nothing jars, nothing is expedited other than judiciously by Gesualdo; and with great care.