The Midle Ages and the Renaissance

12th to 16th century

(Classical Music Map)


I. History of Classical Music  (by John Stanley)
The great composers and their masterworks in MP3 format
Albeniz Borodin Donizetti Hindemith Prokofiev Schutz
Albinoni Brahms Dowland Janacek Puccini Scriabin
Allegri Britten Dvorak Kodaly Purcell Sibelius
Arne Bruckner Falla Leoncavallo Rachmaninov Smetana
Auber Busoni Field Liszt Rameau Strauss J.S.
Bach Byrd Gabrieli Lully Ravel Strauss R.
Barber Carissimi Gershwin Mahler Respighi Stravinsky
Bartok Charpentier Gesualdo Mendelssohn Rimsky-Korsakov Tallis
Beethoven Cherubini Glinka Meyerbeer Rossini Tchaikovsky
Bellini Chopin Gluck Monteverdi Saint-Saens Telemann
Bernstein Clementi Gounod Mozart Scarlatti Verdi
Berwald Corelli Grieg Mussorgsky Schoenberg Victoria
Berlioz Couperin Handel Pachelbel Shostakovich Villa-Lobos
Bizet Debussy Haydn Paganini Schubert Vivaldi
Boccherini Delibes Hildegard Palestrina Schumann Wagner
Orff  "Carmina Burana"
II. History of Jazz

Carlo Gesualdo



A man of violent temperament and ferocious passions, Carlo Gesualdo was as notorious for having murdered his first wife and her lover as he was famous for his music. One of classical music's great experimenters, he displayed an individual approach seen clearly in his madrigals.

Don Carlo Gesualdo was an Italian nobleman, Prince of Venosa. He lived most of his life in Naples, where his uncle was archbishop (later a cardinal). Although he initially used a pseudonym to disguise his real love of writing music, discretion was not his best trait. His controversial marriage to his own cousin, Maria d'Avalos, came to an abrupt end in 1590 when he discovered that she was engaged in an affair with another nobleman: Gesualdo murdered them both. After this incident he continued his musical career under his own name.

In 1594 he entered a rather more conventionally acceptable marriage with Leonora d'Este, the niece of Duke Alfonso of Ferrara. The couple led largely separate lives; but the Ferrara court, being a thriving centre of musical and artistic activity, was ideal for Gesualdo, and he published his first four books of madrigals there between 1593 and 1596. He returned to Naples in 1597, and as he grew older became distinctly world-weary, turning more and more to his music. Rumours circulated of possible divorce and there was speculation concerning his sanity. He became preoccupied by morbid reverence towards his late uncle; he was also deeply concerned about the end of the family line. His and Leonora's only son, Alfonsino, died in 1600, a tragedy that prompted him to commission the famous altarpiece in the church of the Capuchins at Gesualdo which portrays himself, Leonora, his revered uncle and the purified soul of the child.

Writing during the transitional period when the controlled style of the Renaissance was giving way to the more dramatic expressiveness of the Baroque, Gesualdo brought an extreme, ardent individuality to his music. Nowhere is this more evident than in his madrigals (especially in his fifth and sixth books, published in 1611). To express changes in mood — doubtless a reflection of his unstable emotional state — he used a violent chromaticism. (Chromaticism is the use of chords containing notes not included in the basic scale.) Although he was writing within the strong madrigal tradition, and like his peers producing works for three to five unaccompanied voices, his unorthodox techniques were far in advance of his time and can border on the eccentric. As such Gesualdo's style did not influence future generations (although Stravinsky was intrigued by the chromatic explorations of his madrigals). Nevertheless his compositions display a truly original voice made comprehensible by his mastery of the technical requirements of writing music and by an undeniably compelling emotional power.


Carlo Gesualdo



Carlo Gesualdo (1561-1613)



Io tacero I

Io tacero II












Orff  "Carmina Burana"


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