The Wire

The world's greatest print and online music magazine. Independent since 1982


Listen: Noël Akchoté performs madrigals by Carlo Gesualdo

September 2014

Stream tracks from Noël Akchoté's Gesualdo: Madrigals For Five Guitars

Guitarist, free improvisor and label runner Noël Akchoté's Madrigals For Five Guitars uses transcriptions of vocal madrigals by the late Renaissance Italian composer Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa (1566–1613), taken from his Quinto Libro Dei Madrigal A Cinque Voci/Fifth Book Of Madrigals For Five Voices from 1611.

Philip Clark writes about Madrigals for Five Guitars in The Wire 368: "Gesualdo’s music always did raise questions, and not all of them comfortable. Webern, Stravinsky, Schnittke, Maxwell Davies and Sciarrino were so taken with Gesualdo’s chromatic chess moves – a tonal patois that tells you how deeply it is obeying the rules by continually distorting and contradicting them – that their various homages, orchestrations and outright recompositions wrestled with rationalising and attempting to explain Gesualdo’s compositional mysteries. How is it possible that a composer working in the late 16th century had ideas about chromatic harmony, and implanting alien melodic intervals to divert a prevailing tonal centre, that would only become part of the lingua franca of music during the late 1800s, with Schumann, Mahler, Wagner and Schoenberg? Was Gesualdo a prophetic genius, a Nostradamus of notes? Perhaps these harmonic leanings were the product of an unhinged mind. Gesualdo was a murderer – a fact that can lend his expressive inclines a grisly, macabre chill."

Gesualdo: Madrigals for Five Guitars features Adam Levy (soprano one), Doug Wamble (soprano two), Noël Akchoté (alto, musical direction), David Grubbs (tenor), Julien Desprez (bass) and is out on Blue Chopsticks.


Hi Noel,

very beautiful and touching music. Thank you!

Greetings from almost unknown friends in Vienna, the town you left behind

Britta and Bernd

Leave a comment

Pseudonyms welcome.

Used to link to you.