Genius composer... shame about the murdering! Gesualdo at the Brighton Early Music Festival

As Clare Norburn says, putting it distinctly mildly, he really wasn’t very nice.

But the music he composed was extraordinary, and it is the music in the context of the man that Clare offers as part of this year’s Brighton Early Music Festival.

Clare, one of the festival’s two co-artistic directors, is the script writer for Breaking the Rules, a new music-drama on the life of Carlo Gesualdo (1560-1613).

It will be presented by The Marian Consort, Jadran Duncumb (theorbo) and Celestial Sirens, with Finbar Lynch as the murderer and composer Gesualdo.

The performance will be in St Bartholomew’s Church, Ann Street, Brighton, on November Sunday 3 at 7.30pm.

Close to his final moments, isolated in his castle at Gesualdo, Southern Italy, Carlo Gesualdo struggles to come to terms with his past. Can he exorcise the ghost of his first wife whom he killed along with her lover?

His journey towards salvation or damnation takes us back to his childhood, his two difficult marriages, his obsession with retribution and purgatory and his moments of revelation in the musical hothouse of Ferrara.

“Not only was he a murderer, he was a bully. He was just really difficult socially! I think he was a weird mix of the arrogant and the overconfident, and yet underneath, he was quite fragile. He veered from this fragile side to great bluster, particularly with his second wife, Leonora. He wanted her to be there when she wasn’t, and when she was, he couldn’t bear the sight of her. He was very difficult!”

And even more difficult with his first wife.

“He murdered her, but the murder in itself was not that unusual. If your wife was an adulteress and you were a nobleman, it was the expected thing to do to go and murder her and her lover. Lots of people would do that. Lots of people would have done the same.

“It was a crime in the eyes of the authorities, but if you had money and power, they would turn a blind eye. His real fear was retribution from his first wife’s family.

“But his music was absolutely extraordinary. It was unlike anybody else at the time and yet of its time. A lot of contemporaries were experimenting with chromaticism, but the thing was that Gesualdo had no patron. He wrote to please himself. He took that chromaticism and turned it into something intensely personal. Gesualdo took on the mantle and made it into his own musical language.”

Tickets www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee).

Friday 25th October, 8pm

St George’s Church, St George’s Road, Brighton BN2 1ED

Songs of Sinne & Subversion

Joglaresa

Belinda Sykes director

The mere idea of music and musicians in the Middle Ages was a subversive one from the church’s standpoint, and Joglaresa have always emphasised this in their 20th and 21st century performances. With more than a passing nod to Iron Maiden, Deep Purple and the Sex Pistols, Joglaresa explore links between songs from the Crusades to the present day. With searing vocals, fidel, harp, citole, bass

and percussion, Joglaresa will drag you out of the dusty world of medieval music kicking into the

here and now.

Tickets: £23 (£21 conc) / £18.50 (£16.50 conc) / £12 (£10 conc) / £6 (restricted view) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Saturday 26th October, 1pm

Sallis Benney Theatre, University of Brighton, 58-64 Grand Parade, Brighton BN2 0JY

Passion Body & Soul

Philomel

Emma Murphy director

Philomel performs sacred and secular songs expressing passionate emotions of both a physical and spiritual nature, alongside dazzling instrumental divisions on some of the most popular music of the Renaissance. Composers include Josquin, Palestrina, Victoria, Rore, Lassus and Certon

Recorded by BBC Radio 3 for later broadcast

Tickets: £12 (£10 conc) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Saturday 26th October, 8pm until late – come and go as you wish

St Bartholomew’s Church, Ann Street, Brighton BN1 4GP

Early Music Club Night: Cool Passion

Various Ensembles and Artists:

Little Baroque Company (baroque chamber group); Il Nuovo Chiaroscuro (sackbut quartet); Borromini String Quartet; I Flautisti (recorder quartet); Flauguissimo (classical flute and guitar) plus Alison Kinder (viols and renaissance winds); Esther Brazil (soprano); and Greg Skidmore (baritone).

The pick of the new generation of artists come together, with a surprise presenter, in an informal evening of music from the Renaissance to the 19th century. The spectacular setting of St Bartholomew’s Church, with dramatic lighting, three separate stages and freedom to move between sets will make this a perfect introduction to early music as well as a memorable night for all.

Recorded by BBC Radio 3 for later broadcast

Tickets: £8 (£5 conc) in advance from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee); £10 (£5 conc) on door

Sunday 27th October, 12 noon

St Andrew’s Church, Waterloo Street, Hove BN3 1AQ

The Wool Merchant & The Harp

Leah Stuttard harp and voice

Harpist Leah Stuttard tells the intriguing story of George Cely, a late 15th century English wool merchant, whose remarkable notebooks refer to his harp lessons. Designed to hone social skills by showing off artistic talents, playing a musical instrument was a sure-fire way to impress the ladies (or the men)! Leah’s illustrated lecture recital tells of the gorgeous songs that he learnt, full of yearning and beauty, alongside the lively dance tunes he played for the discerning gentry.

Tickets: £12 (£10 conc) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Sunday 27th October, 7.30pm

St Bartholomew’s Church, Ann Street, Brighton BN1 4GP

40 Shades of Spem in Alium

BREMF Consort of Voices; Deborah Roberts director

Chantage (Choir of the Year 2006 winners); James Davey director

Nigel Pittman narrator

Music by William Byrd and Thomas Tallis is set against the turbulent history of religious conflict in England that led these two composers, both Catholic, to such coded but passionate outpourings in their music. Works including Tallis’s great 40-part motet, Spem in Alium (recently popularised by the book Fifty Shades of Grey), along with sacred music from the period of Henry VIII to Queen Elizabeth I, and from both the Catholic and Protestant churches.

Tickets: £16 (£14 conc) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

NOVEMBER 2013

Friday 1st November, 8pm

All Saints Church, The Drive, Hove BN3 3QE

Handel in the Wind

Red Priest

Following the success of their programmes of Bach and Vivaldi, Red Priest will take you on a whirlwind tour through the music of that other titan of the Baroque, George Frideric Handel. Their completely new programme includes trio sonatas, chaconnes and virtuoso variations, transcriptions both sublime and tempestuous from operatic works including Rinaldo and Solomon, and an audacious suite drawn from his most celebrated work, Messiah. Handel’s music will be interspersed with works by other 18th century masters including Vivaldi and Forqueray.

Tickets: £23 (£21 conc) / £18.50 (£16.50 conc) / £12 (£10 conc) / £6 (restricted view) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Saturday 2nd November, 1pm

The Old Market, 11A Upper Market Street, Hove BN3 1AS

Instruments of Passion: Chamber Music by Haydn & Beethoven

Trio Goya

Three of the finest chamber musicians in the world play trios by Haydn and Beethoven, written within a span of only six years. Whilst they are worlds apart in terms of dynamic extremes, the three works here illustrate a shared passion for startling key relationships and sheer improvisatory genius. These qualities are displayed abundantly through the sound world of fortepiano and period strings.

Tickets: £12 (£10 conc) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Saturday 2nd November, 7.30pm

The Old Market, 11A Upper Market Street, Hove BN3 1AS

Passion & The Princess: Marriage, murder and madness at the court of Ferrara

Musica Secreta

Deborah Roberts & Sophia Brumfitt sopranos; Rosie Midgley mezzo soprano;

Lynda Sayce lute and chitarrone; Claire Williams harpsichord

Deborah Roberts director

Devised and introduced by Laurie Stras

Meet the true impresario of the singing ladies of Ferrara. Named after her grandmother Lucrezia Borgia, the princess Lucrezia d’Este was participant, patron and witness to the greatest music of the 16th-century at the court of Ferrara. Passion, violence, murder and treachery weave through her story, with music her one delight in the brutal world of renaissance politics. Music by Willaert, Rore, Wert, Luzzaschi and Monteverdi, and other rare gems of the Ferrarese court.

Tickets: £18.50 (£16.50 conc) / £12 (£10 conc) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Sunday 3rd November, 7.30pm

St Bartholomew’s Church, Ann Street, Brighton BN1 4GP

Breaking the Rules: a new music-drama on the life of Carlo Gesualdo (1560-1613)

The Marian Consort

Jadran Duncumb theorbo

Celestial Sirens; Actor TBA; Script by Clare Norburn

This concert-drama explores the strange world of Carlo Gesualdo and his extraordinary music. Close to his final moments, isolated in his castle at Gesualdo, Southern Italy, Carlo Gesualdo struggles to come to terms with his past. Can he exorcise the ghost of his first wife whom he killed along with her lover? His journey towards salvation or damnation takes us back to his childhood, his two difficult marriages, his obsession with retribution and purgatory and his moments of revelation in the musical hothouse of Ferrara. Includes some of Gesualdo’s startling Tenebrae Responsories as well as madrigals by Gesualdo and Luzzaschi, performed by The Marian Consort: one of the most exciting young vocal ensembles on the early music scene.

Tickets: £23 (£21 conc) / £18.50 (£16.50 conc) / £12 (£10 conc) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Thursday 7th November, 7.30pm

St George’s Church, St George’s Road, Brighton BN2 1ED

Dowland’s Den: A public masterclass with Emma Kirkby & Jacob Heringman

Providing a fascinating insight into the art of interpretation, three young professional lute-song duos are coached by two of the world’s greatest experts in our first top level masterclass.

Tickets: £15 (£13 conc) / £12 (£10 conc) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Friday 8th November, 8pm

St George’s Church, St George’s Road, Brighton BN2 1ED

The Image of Melancholy: Music by John Dowland

Emma Kirkby soprano and Jacob Heringman lute

With Gwendolen Martin soprano and Toby Carr lute; Michael Solomon Williams tenor and Niki Andronikou lute; Anna Thunström soprano and Wezi Elliot lute

Emma Kirkby writes: ‘John Dowland’s gorgeous music has been part of my awareness for nearly half a century, ever since at 15 I joined in a four-part version of “Wilt thou unkind thus reave me” – the refrain: “kiss me, sweet my jewel”, must have ricocheted intriguingly between high and low teenage voices! – but all I remember was the thrill of my first encounter with renaissance polyphony, and a joy which has never left me. Now for Dowland’s 450th I want to celebrate his enduring power, with singers and players of the new generation, sharing the platform with them for a programme ranging through all his printed song books. The intimate opulence of St. George’s Church will complement this endeavour perfectly – do join us!’

Tickets: £23 (£21 conc) / £18.50 (£16.50 conc) / £12 (£10 conc) / £6 (restricted view) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Saturday 9th November, 1pm

St Mary’s Church, Rock Gardens, Brighton BN2 1PR

Tall Towers, Husbands – & Other Obstacles to Love

The Telling: Clare Norburn and Yvonne Eddy sopranos;

Leah Stuttard harp; Clare Salaman vielle and hurdy gurdy

It was tough being a troubadour in love! Join The Telling on a musical journey around and over the obstacles of courtly love, such as strict parents, tall towers, and husbands with bad breath and red tickly beards! Troubadour and trouvère music and poetry, and foot-tapping dances.

Tickets: £12 (£10 conc) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Saturday 9th November, 4.30pm

Brighton College, Eastern Road, Brighton BN2 0AL

Public Masterclass with Rachel Podger

Internationally renowned soloist, Rachel Podger, will be demonstrating the secrets behind her baroque

violin playing. This is a unique opportunity to follow the development of performance practice by observing an eminent specialist working with young musicians from Brighton and Hove. Rachel has taught at various institutions including the Royal Academy of Music in London, The Juilliard School of Music in New York, the New England Conservatory in Boston, as well as many establishments in Europe.

Tickets: £5 (£3.50 conc) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets), www.brightondome.org or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Saturday 9th November, 7.30pm

St George’s Church, St George’s Road, Brighton BN2 1ED

Profane Deliriums: Passionate love songs from Portugal and Brazil

L’Avventura

Žak Ozmo director and Spanish and English guitars

Marta Gonçalves flute; Joanna Lawrence violin; Natasha Kraemer cello; Taro Takeuchi six-course guitar and English guitar; David Gordon harpsichord; with Joana Seara and Sandra Medeiros sopranos

In a romantic, candle-lit cabaret setting, this exciting ensemble performs music so passionate that 18th-century English novelist and travel writer William Beckford described it as: ‘an original sort of music different from any I ever heard, the most seducing, the most voluptuous imaginable, the best calculated to throw saints off their guard and to inspire profane deliriums’. Bring a picnic to enjoy while listening to Portuguese and Brazilian modinhas and related instrumental music from the 18th century. Composed for the era’s virtuoso singers and first rate guitarists, these popular works fused the musical traditions of Portugal with the African infused traditions of Brazil, producing a unique vocal genre characterised by captivating melodies, unusual rhythms and colourful instrumental effects.

Tickets: £18.50 (£16.50 conc) / £12 (£10 conc) / £6 (restricted view) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Sunday 10th November, 11am

Brighton Dome Corn Exchange, Church Street, Brighton BN1 1UE

Guardian Angel: Violin Recital

Rachel Podger violin

Showcasing her ‘intoxicating combination of power and grace’ (Toronto Star), internationally renowned baroque violinist Rachel Podger presents a delectable selection of virtuosic solo repertoire to tempt your musical taste buds. The programme, taken from her latest solo disc (released in September), includes sonatas by Tartini, Matteis and Pisendel. The performance will also include Bach’s wonderful Flute Partita in G minor transposed for violin, and Biber’s hauntingly beautiful Guardian Angel, the final work from his Mystery Sonatas.

A Brighton Dome/Strings Attached/BREMF collaboration as part of the Coffee Concert series

Tickets: £17.50 (£15 conc) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets), www.brightondome.org or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)

Sunday 10th November, 7pm

St Bartholomew’s Church, Ann Street, Brighton BN1 4GP

J S Bach: St John Passion

Andrew Griffiths tenor (Evangelist); George Humphreys bass (Christus)

Mhairi Lawson soprano; Esther Brazil mezzo soprano; Nick Pritchard tenor; Robert Davies bass

The BREMF Players; Alison Bury leader

The BREMF Singers; John Hancorn director

Bach’s sublime St John Passion closes this year’s festival with music that expresses a full range of passionate emotions, from the mindless howl of a crowd to the silent dignity of self-sacrifice, and passing through fear, greed, guilt, despair, rage, hope, love and acceptance. How a man of Bach’s

quiet modesty could capture every shade of human emotion and feeling and produce a work that is one of the most universally loved and admired expressions of musical art ever, is something, perhaps, that can never be put into words

Tickets: £23 (£21 conc) / £18.50 (£16.50 conc) / £12 (£10 conc) from www.bremf.org.uk (no fee for e-tickets) or from the Dome Box Office 01273 709709 (£2.25 fee)