Sacrae Cantiones


The radiance of a “rediscovery”

Carlo Gesualdo – Caroline Marçot

In Renaissance times polyphonic music was edited in distinct parts (bass part, tenor part, etc.). This, of course, resulted in a number of disastrous losses, as dispatching books or leaflets could eventually mean that some disappeared definitely. That fate befell the second book of SACRAE CANTIONES by Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613), which did not survive time completely – thus impossible to perform except for a certain amount of rewriting or recomposing.

In 1960 Igor Stravinsky, a great admirer of Gesualdo, produced his own version of three SACRAE CANTIONES. In 2013 the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance (CESR) finally ordered a restitution backed by the most recent findings in musicology and aiming to reproduce the original sound most accurately. This is a true musical event, audible evidence of profound research which will be finalized by strong academic editing work. La Main Harmonique has been working with the CESR to perform this result in a series of concerts which will eventually open out into a CD production to be released in 2015.

Moreover, as an echo and an extension to this newly revived SACRAE CANTIONES, La Main Harmonique have commissioned a piece by Caroline Marçot, thus stretching their dialogue with Gesualdo’s work into a modern times creative act.


One of the most prominent composers of late Renaissance music, Carlo Gesualdo is yet a mystery to our modern ears. Can we actually tell precisely how we feel while listening to his madrigals? We are left without a reference, taken by a changing flow of chromatic dissonances. And yet, what beauty, what passion in this music!

About the man, we do not know much. He had his wife murdered together with her lover upon discovering them in flagrante delicto in his castle. After having led an eventful young man’s life composing passionate madrigals in the midst of public passion, hatred and revenge, the old Prince of Venosa lived as a remorseful recluse in his Gesualdo castle, crippled with illnesses and tormented by pain. Suffering of asthma, migraine, digestive problems and leg scars, he dedicated himself to sacred compositions, amongst the most prominent of which the Sacrae Cantiones enabled him to express his private devotion. This is where he hauntingly voiced his own spiritual and moral concerns, his own doubts about sin and redemption.

The very fact that these pieces, unlike so many others, have never been written on commission for liturgical purposes, but solely for private and unrewarded purposes is remarkable in itself. It mainly explains Gesualdo’s great and incredible liberty in composing pieces whose reception or success did not have to bother him. Thus we understand their rare dramatic intensity, especially produced by compositional figures borrowed from his own madrigal style, but even more by stunning chromatic effects added to masterly clever contrapuntal techniques inherited from the great polyphonic tradition, such as strict canon or cantus firmus.

« This is yet one more evidence of his work’s incredible ambiguousness, as Gesualdo was torn between a visionary understanding of how music should express human affects and a deep-rooted fondness for Renaissance polyphony. » (Catherine Deutsch, in Carlo Gesualdo. Année?)


Caroline Marçot was born in Paris in 1974. Her piano training triggered her passion for sound as a threefold phenomenon – sound created, sound performed, sound heard. While gathering a strong experience of vocal music at the Maîtrise and then at the Jeune Choeur de Radio-France, both leading young choral ensembles of the French National Broadcasting Corporation, at the same time she was schooled at the Paris Conservatoire and won honours degrees in musical analysis, Renaissance counterpoint, 20th-centruy composition, orchestration and acoustics.

Since her 2003 Natexis-Banque Populaire fellowship, Caroline has been building up an impressive list of works printed by Editions Jobert-Lemoine. Some of her vocal and instrumental pieces were commissioned by Ariam Île de France, ADDIM Haute-Saône, the Orchestre des Jeunes de la Méditerrannée, the Paris Cité de la Musique, Musique Nouvelle en Liberté, and performed by Geofffroy Jourdain, Rachid Safir, Laurence Equilbey, Roland Hayrabedian, Gildas Pungier, Lionel Sow, Daniel Reuss, l’ensemble Clément Janequin…

As a singer Caroline has regularly performed with various chamber choirs and can be heard in an eclectic repertoire ranging from Baroque to contemporary music – i.e. with Mora Vocis, a soloist’s ensemble dedicated to mediaeval, opera and oral transmission styles, or with L’Échelle, an ensemble exploring the humanism of Renaissance vocal music. As she feels particularly attracted by staged vocal perfomances, she is now decidedly turning towards musical and acrobatic performances such as with Cahin-Caha, a contemporary circus company based in Marseilles.

Programme details

First part

Com’ esser puo a V passegiato, pour harpe (sur le madrigal de Gesualdo) – Girolamo Kapsberger (1580-1651)

Da pacem – Caroline Marçot

Da pacem – Carlo Gesualdo

Verba mea – Carlo Gesualdo

Virgo benedicta – Carlo Gesualdo

Ne de Caroline Marçot

Ne derelinquas me – Carlo Gesualdo

Franciscus humilis et pauper – Carlo Gesualdo

Ardens cor – Caroline Marçot

Ardens est cor meum – Carlo Gesualdo

Ad te levavi – Carlo Gesualdo

Second part

Canzone francese del Principe, pour harpe – Carlo Gesualdo

Veni sponsa – Carlo Gesualdo

Gaudeamus – Caroline Marçot

Gaudeamus omnes – Carlo Gesualdo

O anima sanctissima – Carlo Gesualdo

Assumpta es – Carlo Gesualdo

O- O ! – Caroline Marçot

O oriens – Carlo Gesualdo

Veni – Caroline Marçot

Veni creator spiritus – Carlo Gesualdo

Sana me domine – Carlo Gesualdo

Lucerna de Caroline Marçot

O beata mater – Carlo Gesualdo

Illumina nos – Carlo Gesualdo

Pictures & Videos

Sacrae Cantiones - Abbaye de Sylvanès - ©Jean-Marc Saumade
Sacrae Cantiones – Abbaye de Sylvanès – ©Jean-Marc Saumade

Technicals Informations

Durée du concert : 1h15
9 interprètes (7 chanteurs solistes, 1 instrumentiste (harpe triple) et un chef)
Renseignements :

Programme créé dans le cadre d’une Résidence-association à l’Astrada de Marciac et soutenue par la Région Midi-Pyrénées
En partenariat avec les Rencontres des musiques anciennes-Odyssud et le Festival international de musiques sacrées de l’Abbaye de Sylvanès

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