Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1631). As a composer of the late Renaissance, he is famous for writing intensely expressive madrigals and sacred music with a chromatic language, which is not heard again until the late 19th century. For the music student, Gesualdo is usually the composer most remembered from Music History classes as the one with the "bad boy" image -- a murderer obsessed with guilt and physical punishment among other things -- and the composer of madrigals with daring harmonies.

      Itene o miei sospiri   is 5 voices Italian text secular madrigal composed by Gesualdo in 1613, Book 5, and No.3.




Itene, o miei sospiri

Precipitate il volo a lei

Che m’è cagion d’aspri martiri.

Ditele per pietà

Del mio gran duolo

Ch’or mai ella mi sia 

Come bella, ancor pia

Che l’amaro mio pianto

Cangerò lieto in amoroso canto.

English Translation:

My sighs, may you wing your way to her 

who is causing me bitter torment - Itene.

For pity's sake, tell her of my great suffering.

If she will be as merciful

as she is beautiful,

I shall cease my bitter lament 

and sing a love song.

    One of the most obvious characteristics of Gesualdo's music is his unique text, which presents the specific emotion like "love", "pain", and “death". In this madrigal Itene o miei sospiri, he wrote " bitter", "torment", "lament", and “merciful". These kinds of words occur frequently in his text. From my point of view, most of which he probably wrote himself. Also, this type of word-painting is common among the late 16th century that highly developed by Gesualdo. 


    Itene o miei sospiri is written for 5 voices: Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Alto, Tenor, and Bass opens in F major. Unexpected major and minor triads can be found through the whole piece where the exceptional chords arise from colorful alterations. The relationships between counterpoint and chromaticism is Gesualdo's madrigal language. This madrigal also uses rapid changes in time signatures. These changes do not precede new sections, but seem to depict rapid tempo changes. The phrase reads: Che l’amaro mio pianto, cangerò lieto in amoroso canto (I shall cease my bitter lament, and sing a love song) On the word cangero he changes time signature from C to 3 changing back again to C two bars later.


    Compare with Gesualdo's another madrigal "S'io non miro non moro" from same book 5, they both have the similar text characteristic and rapid changes in time signatures. "Daring" chromatism and dissonance is obvious in both two madrigals. While there is not many unexpected chords appear on "S'io non miro non moro". Sounds like there are more unison characters than "Itene o miei sospiri". 

     S'io non miro non moro--Gesualdo (youtube)


     I chose Gesualdo's madrigal because of his unique text that reflects himself interested me most. What's more, his new harmony is made up of an unpredictable tendency to chromaticism, and the use of prepared and unprepared dissonances. Those harmonic surprises are made horribly impressive. It is feverish, intense, and totally Italian.

Work Cited

“ Gesualdo_ Itene o miei sospiri (score).” Youtube video. Posted by “gpagannone.” Uploaded Oct 11, 2012. Accessed on February 17, 2014.

“Gesualdo Se non miro me moro. Marianne Stokes ” Youtube video. Posted by “argevigno.” Uploaded Oct 6, 2011 Accessed on February 17, 2014.