Antonio Valente (Neapolitan, c. 1520-c.1580) and Carlo Gesualdo (Neapolitan, 1566-1613): Music for Viol Consort
When the violin was first invented, it was considered somewhat garish and uncivilized. For the upper classes, the preferred instruments were the viols, which came in all sizes and pitches. They had a darker, rounder sonority than the violin. A Viol “Consort” is an ensemble of many different viols. Because the instruments are all constructed and played similarly, the consort has a unique blended sound, but consort music can be at any speed and in any mood. In this way, consorts are the predecessors of the modern string quartet.
Listen to at least some of both tracks, to get a sense of the variety possible with consorts. I personally found it hard to stop listening to this after two tracks!
(Not-so-“fun” facts: Valente was blind from childhood, and Gesualdo was a prince who murdered his wife and her lover in bed. You can tell by his music that he was...weird.)
In May 2017 I challenged my students to practice every day for 30 days in a row. In addition, I asked them to listen to 30 bite-sized musical selections I emailed daily. I collected my picks in this blog for posterity. So these are works I find particularly fun, interesting, or important, including a handful by composers who were born or who died in May. Please enjoy!