Early avant-gardist

Bärenreiter begins a Complete Edition of the Works of Gesualdo

Bärenreiter-Verlag begins the publication of the Complete Edition of the Works of Carlo Gesualdo. The composer, steeped in legend, stood at the threshold of the Renaissance to the Baroque. He wrote secular and sacred vocal works which continue to exert their fascination through their often extravagant tonal language which challenges traditions. The “New Gesualdo Edition” will comprise twelve volumes. The first volume contains the Fifth Book of Madrigals of 1611. Two volumes will usually be published each year.

Carlo Gesualdo (1566–1613) was one of the most significant Italian aristocrats of his time; he was Prince of  Venosa and simultaneously “Prince of musicians”. Together with Monteverdi he was considered the greatest composer at the turn  of the 16th to 17th century, his personality attracting attention from intellectuals and artists both because of his tormented existence and the exceptional quality of his work. As early as the year of his death, an esteemed director of music from Genoa, Simone Molinaro, produced a score of his five books of 5 and 6-voice madrigals, designating them as models for the study of counterpoint and composition. In the last century, Igor Stravinsky’s enthusiasm for the daring chromatic writing of Gesualdo gave rise to a true “Gesualdo Renaissance”, greatly attracting the attention of scholars and listeners to the complex vocal polyphony of the Prince. Since then, a long series of research projects have been undertaken. However, despite their historical significance, the editions of Carlo Gesualdo di Venosa’s works published so far, have turned out to be inadequate in terms of textual criticism. Hence the urgent need for a truly critical edition carried out on the basis of concise modern methods and suited to the needs of both scholarly research and historically informed performance practice.

The music of Gesualdo is handed down in precious part-book prints produced by two famous 16th-century printers. Unfortunately, not all the first editions have survived in their entirety, hence the need to examine the surviving editions which immediately followed in order to reconstruct the complete musical texts. These reprints are also significant because they document the wide  circulation that the music of Gesualdo, in particular his madrigals, enjoyed from the beginning. Aside from the six books of five-part madrigals (a posthumous six-part book is unfortunately incomplete), three books by Gesualdo with sacred music of the same artistic level but not so experimental, composed at the Castle of Gesualdo, as well as some of his vocal and instrumental compositions found in anthologies or manuscripts have survived.The new critical edition starts with a review of all existing printed and manuscript sources, and proceeds to evaluate their degree of authoritativeness for the very first time. The very first editions are the preferred sources, since they were all issued under the direct supervision of Gesualdo. Molinaro’s Partitura is also taken into account for its unquestionable historical significance and as evidence of Gesualdo’s reception in modern times.

The “New Gesualdo Edition” sets itself a twofold aim:  to provide both a practical modern edition for performers as well as an in-depth research tool for scholars.

New Gesualdo Edition. Edited by Maria Caraci Vela, Dinko Fabris und Agostino Ziino. Bärenreiter-Verlag 2018. The first volume: Madrigale a cinque voci. Libro quinto (Gesualdo 1611). Edited by Maria Caraci Vela. BA 10385-01. € 249.–.

(Picture: Carlo Gesualdo, Madrigali a cinque voci. Libro quinto, Alto, front page. 1611.)

More information on the New Gesualdo Edition