(c. 1561-1613)
Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa, was both a member of the high Neapolitan nobility and a composer of madrigals and other vocal music. A controversial figure, he is remembered today for his highly expressive chromatic composi­tional style as well as for the notorious double murder of his first wife and her lover. Gesualdo married his cousin, Maria d'Avalos, in Naples in 1586. The murder took place in 1590 and plunged Gesualdo deeper into a melancholia that affected him throughout his life. In 1594 he married Leonora d'Este, the niece of Alfonso II, duke of Ferrara. This second marriage was of great importance for his development as a musician in that it brought him into contact with many of the musicians at Ferrara. There he met Luzzasco Luzzaschi, a composer who profoundly influenced Gesualdo, and Nicola Vicentino, a music theorist whose arcicembalo, an experimental keyboard instrument, permitted performance of chromatic and microtonal intervals. While at Ferrara, Gesualdo had his first four books of madrigals published. These early works won him a reputation as a skilled composer and marked the development of his mature personal style.
The most recognizable aspect of Gesualdo's style is his use of chromaticism and dissonance for expressive effect. His works are complex, are irregular in form, and display the composer's concern to set each verbal image with its own unique musical representation. Gesualdo typically avoided pastoral and narrative texts, preferring short epigrammatic poems that allowed him to focus upon elab­orate musical settings. With his attention directed primarily toward the music, selecting poems of the highest literary quality became a secondary consideration for him.
Gesualdo's compositions consist of six books of five-voice madrigals, two volumes of motets (the Sacrae cantiones), and a collection of responsories for Holy Week. His works, including both secular and sacred compositions, gen­erally seem to be directed toward audiences with somewhat esoteric tastes and to be intended for private, aristocratic performance situations.
The music of Gesualdo seems to have had little immediate impact upon the history of music. His works, though admired by many, were too extreme in style to form the basis for future developments. These compositions, however, make up a remarkable body of work, often strikingly beautiful and strange. This is music of a composer highly skilled in contrapuntal technique, and it demon­strates the potential for intense chromaticism within the linear practice of the sixteenth century. It is music of an eccentric artist whose individual style marked the end of the late Renaissance.
S. Sadie, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 1980.
Tucker Robison

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gesualdo, Carlo, prince of Venosa — born March 8, 1566, Venosa died Sept. 8, 1613, Naples Italian composer. Nobly born, he was a passionate musical dilettante. In 1590 he had his first wife and her lover (a duke) murdered, which earned him great notoriety but no punishment. His… …   Universalium

  • Gesualdo, Carlo, príncipe de Venosa — (8 mar. 1566, Venosa–8 sep. 1613, Nápoles). Compositor italiano. Nacido en el seno de una familia noble, fue un apasionado diletante musical. En 1590 hizo asesinar a su primera esposa y al amante de ella (un duque), lo que le brindó gran… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa — Carlo Gesualdo, mit vollem Namen Don Carlo Gesualdo, Principe di Venosa (* 8. März 1566 wohl in Neapel oder Umgebung; † 8. September 1613 in Gesualdo, Provinz Avellino), war ein italienischer Fürst und Komponist. Carlo Gesualdo …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Carlo Gesualdo — Carlo Gesualdo, mit vollem Namen Don Carlo Gesualdo, Principe di Venosa (* 8. März 1566 wohl in Neapel oder Umgebung; † 8. September 1613 in Gesualdo, Provinz Avellino), war ein italienischer Fürst und Komponist …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Carlo Gesualdo — Nacimiento 8 …   Wikipedia Español

  • GESUALDO (C.) — GESUALDO CARLO, prince de Venosa (1560 env. 1613) Le prince de Venosa appartient à l’une des plus anciennes et des plus nobles familles du royaume des Deux Siciles, remontant au roi normand Roger II. Sa vie tourmentée qui a inspiré à Anatole… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Gesualdo — (Carlo) prince de Venosa (Naples, v. 1560 id., 1614), luthiste et compositeur italien …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Carlo Gesualdo — This article is about the composer; for the Italian town see Gesualdo, Campania. Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa. Carlo Gesualdo, known as Gesualdo di Venosa or Gesualdo da Venosa (March 8, 1566 – September 8, 1613), Prince of Venosa and Count… …   Wikipedia

  • Carlo Gesualdo — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Gesualdo. Carlo Gesualdo, prince de Venosa Carlo Gesualdo (né le 8 mars (?) 1566 et mort le 8 septembre …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Gesualdo (Italie) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Gesualdo. Gesualdo Administration Pays …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.