Gesualdo, Carlo

Gesualdo, Carlo kär´lō jāzo͞oäl´dō [key], Prince of Venosa, c.1560–1613, Italian composer. Gesualdo's first musical work was published in 1585. His complex later madrigals, contained in the last two (1611) of his six published books of madrigals, are striking in their harmonic and dramatic boldness and dissonant density. He also wrote two books of religious pieces. His 27-part Responsoria cycle (1611) uses the tortured harmonies of the madrigals in a sacred context. Gesualdo was a vivid, flamboyant, and even sinister personality; he had many love affairs, and his beautiful and adulterous first wife and her lover were murdered by his own hand or at his order. His life and work have inspired a number of operas and a film (1995) by Werner Herzog, and his works have influenced composers from Stravinsky to G. F. Haas.

See studies by C. Gray and P. Heseltine (1926, repr. 1971) and G. Watkins (1973 and 2010).

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