Metamorphosis – the music of Gesualdo, and the works he inspired

The Choir of St James’ King Street, will mark the launch of their 2013 season with Metamorphosis, a concert featuring a range of Renaissance and contemporary pieces. Directed by Warren Trevelyan-Jones, the programme will centre on the work of Carlo Gesualdo, marking the 400th anniversary of his death. The beauty of  Gesualdo’s music is coloured by a dissonance borne of the passion and violence which drove him to murder his wife and lover.

Alongside, are several works written by composers influenced by Gesualdo, amongst them, Renaissance composer Josquin des Prez, and 20th century composers Igor Stravinsky, Spanish composer Cristóbal de Morales, and St James’ chorister Brooke Shelley.

Despite his dark temperament, Gesualdo was one of the most gifted composers of Renaissance times. The four Gesualdo motets being performed have religious themes full of potent emotions in intense harmonies. Three of these are set as prayers to Mary, while O vos omnes is based on the Biblical theme of personal suffering.

Stravinksy’s careful reconstruction of three of Gesualdo’s motets pays homage to the original pieces, said to create a fusion of the two composers. Three of Stravinsky’s own motets will also be performed, which convey differing sacred themes to startling effect.

Josquin’s chanson Mille regrets is a hauntingly exquisite setting for four voices. The piece portrays lovers parting, and heartrendingly conveys the troubled mindset of the lover bidding farewell to his beloved, a setting that has inspired many composers over the centuries.

Morales’ Credo from his Missa ‘Mille Regretz’ takes its inspiration from Josquin’s Mille regrets. Using a mournful tonality and masterful working of polyphony, Morales conveys both the sorrowful and jubilant mood of Eucharist, centred as it is on Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

St James chorister Brooke Shelley is a huge fan of Josquin, Iberian polyphony, and of the Renaissance period in general. Her beautiful Messe sans regretz was inspired by a mass by Morales which in turn drew on the chanson, Mille regrets, by Josquin. All three works will be performed in this concert, which celebrates inspiration and artistic creation coming alive.

The concert series Metamorphosis will, as the name suggests, portray in music, insights into the human condition, which many artists have broached across the centuries – tensions and interplay between transformation and stasis, mortality and immortality, love and loss, male and female, and the divide between the sacred and the secular.


Josquin Mille regrets

Shelley Messe sans regretz

Morales Missa ‘Mille Regretz’ – Credo


Gesualdo Motets: Ave, dulcissima Maria; Maria, mater gratiae; Ave regina coelorum; O vos omnes

Stravinsky Motets: Pater Noster; Ave Maria; Credo

Three Motets (after Gesualdo): Illumina nos; Da pacem Domine; Assumpta est Maria

Tickets: Adults $50, Concession/Pensioner $45. Booking fees may apply.

For tickets, call (02) 8256 2222 or click here to book.

Tickets will also be available at the door.


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