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Work

Carlo Gesualdo Composer

Precibus et meritis beatae Mariae, W8.45 (a5)   

Performances: 3
Tracks: 3
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Musicology:
  • Precibus et meritis beatae Mariae, W8.45 (a5)
    Year: 1603
    Genre: Motet
    Pr. Instrument: Chorus/Choir
Overshadowed by the infamy of his madrigals, Gesualdo's superb sacred music was, for a long time, paid relatively little attention. Before the twentieth century it was barely known to exist, and although Stravinsky in the late fifties completed three of Gesualdo's motets (they survived with parts missing) that part of Gesualdo's output still tends to be overshadowed by his torturous secular works. This is sad for many reasons, among which is that the sacred music, being more diatonic, smooth and predictable than the madrigals, has far greater potential for popular, immediate appeal. The first of his sacred works were published quite late in his life, in 1603, in Naples, by Constantino Vitali. This consists of two full collections of Sacrae cantiones, or sacred motets. One was for five voices, the other for six and seven, both were called Liber Primus, although the successive volumes implied by the title never appeared.

The lateness of their appearance can be taken as an indication that the sacred works, among them the Marian motet Precibus et meritus, were composed when Gesualdo was at the height of his powers. This piece in fact is shows how delicately and carefully he could handle his infamous dissonances when he chose to. One of the main differences between sacred and secular music is the tempo; sacred music is half as quick as the norm for secular. Gesualdo this means that the well-known chromatic tendencies, although they are also toned down, come on slightly more gradually, so that their effect is perhaps more deeply felt. It may be true that "less is more". Certainly Gesualdo goes from seeming an almost brutal composer with litle or no tact, to an irrepressibly tender poet of the notes, exhuding a tender spiritual longing.

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