An aristocrat who forged an idiosyncratic style of musical expression, Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, was one of those composers in music history who can truly be described as being ahead of his time. Gesualdo was a highly expressive composer and a virtuoso performer on the bass lute. Yet his chromatic progressions baffled his contemporaries and had to wait until the 19th-century era to find resonance in artistic parallels. Among his most important compositions are six books of five-part madrigals dating from between 1594 and 1611. The last two books in particular – this recording by the Hilliard Ensemble brings new performances of Book 5 – displays his dissonant musical language with its extreme harmonic disruptions, striking tempo contrasts and a distinctly modern feel for drama. The Hilliard Ensemble’s expressive singing, here also featuring soprano Monika Mauch and countertenor David Gould, conjures up that sound described by the great music historian Hans Redlich as growing out of “the antithesis between extravagant/debauched eroticism and self-castigating longing for death”.