It's become almost a cliche to hear a wiseacre remark about a particularly pungent Carlo Gesualdo madrigal: 'That's crazier than most new music you hear these days, and it's over 400 years old!' Well, there's some truth at the core of most cliches, and indeed, Gesualdo is known for some rollickingly chromatic harmonies that sound perpetually unusual.
Coupled with a crazy life story that involves grisly royal murders, deception, revenge, and all manner of personality disorders, and you have a perfect storm of fascination and inspiration for composers still working today. The Brothers Balliett trace some of this inspiration through a set of Gesualdo di Venosa-inspired pieces: a classic suite of orchestrated madrigals by Igor Stravinsky, commentary on some sacred choral works by Peter Maxwell Davies, and a highly entertaining puppet opera based on the Prince of Venosa's life by Salvatore Sciarrino.
Get into a Gesualdo state of mind and enjoy the music, but please — for the love of all that is good and decent — don't murder any family members.