The University of York has held a conference to mark the four-hundredth anniversary of the death of the Renaissance composer Don Carlo Gesualdo. In a wide-ranging weekend of events – from a forensic analysis of the murder of Gesualdo’s first wife, to madrigal performances, workshops, concerts by I Fagiolini and the university’s own vocal ensemble, The 24 – the conference offered both practical and academic routes into the life of a composer whose colourful music, as well as colourful life, attracts considerable research attention.

Consultant forensic psychiatrist, Dr Ruth McAllister, a Gesualdo enthusiast, gave a forensic analysis of the murder of his first wife, Donna Maria d’Avalos,  and concluded that there was no evidence to prove he killed her himself.

The conference also included a paper by James Wood, discussing his recent reconstructions of Gesualdo’s Sacrae Cantiones à 6, Bo Holten talking about his opera Gesualdo his Shadows, which will be performed in Copenhagen next year, and John Milsom, on how Gesualdo conceived his compositions and, he asked ‘whether a performer or audience needs to know how a composition was made, or is our intuitive response to the finished work all that matters?’

Singing workshops were led by Bo Holten and Justin Doyle and attracted, the organisers said, not only academics and students but amateur singers from the area as well.

Robert Hollingworth, anniversary reader at the University of York, directed both the weekend’s concerts: I Fagiolini’s ‘Strange Harmony of Love’ and the university’s own vocal ensemble, The 24, as well as impromptu performances by students.

The conference was run in conjunction with The Royal Musical Association, Gesualdo Domani and the North East Early Music Forum.

I Fagiolini, directed by Robert Hollingworth, will perform ‘Strange Harmony of Love’, Renaissance music of sweet and strange beauty, on 30 January 2014 at The Great Hall, Lancaster University.

www.gesualdo.co.uk/400; www.ifagiolini.com

RHIAN MORGAN

(Image credit: Eric Richmond)

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