The composer of experimental works and Neapolitan nobleman, Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa who constantly explored new expressive means provided both the name and the stimulus for the Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam, the madrigal ensemble founded by Harry van der Kamp in the 1980s. Gesualdo stands on the threshold between the old musical style (prima prattica) and the new style (seconda prattica) , a clear transition in music history that occurred around 1600. As a Janus-like figure, he commands a view of what happened in the past and at the same time looks ahead to the future, thereby inspiring many composers right up to the present.
The Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam aims to achieve this special expressivity in its programmes and performances. The whole madrigal repertoire of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries belongs to the repertoire of the Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam, with much attention being also given to the other genres and, where possible, connections being made with the music of later centuries. In addition, several composers have dedicated works to the Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam.
The Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam has appeared at many European festivals such as those in Innsbruck, Bremen, Dollard, Utrecht and Leipzig. Previous recordings have endeavoured to match the Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam’s capacity to enrich their audiences’ musical knowledge and consciousness with highly-rated discs devoted to composers such as Emilio de’ Cavalieri as well as by Gesualdo himself.
The recording of the complete vocal works of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck on Glossa (to be released between 2009 and 2011) also fits with this vision. Until now, this important oeuvre has never been made completely available on CD. It is of particular interest to note that, 360 years after the end of the Eighty Years’ War (The Revolt of The Netherlands), a Spanish label is developing and issuing this “Sweelinck Monument”, thereby conferring a great honour on this “rebellious” Dutchman.
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The internationally renowned bass Harry van der Kamp studied with Alfred Deller, Pierre Bernac, Max van Egmond and Herman Woltman at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam and in other places. He was one of the founder members (in 1970) of the similarly renowned Cappella Amsterdam directed by Jan Boeke. After that he worked for the Netherlands Chamber Choir for 20 years (1974-94) and as its artistic adviser (1980-87) he introduced much new repertoire and many new conductors. With his own Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam he has appeared in Europe and America with revolutionary works from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries.
As a bass soloist, Van der Kamp has appeared on many international concert podia from New York to Peking with repertoire from 1300 to the present. He has appeared in operas by Peri, Monteverdi, Vivier, Knaifel and others, in Requiems from Pierre de la Rue to Giuseppe Verdi and Lamentations from Tallis to Stravinsky. He has recorded some 120 CDs, both as part of a solo team and also by himself in solo pieces and bass solo cantatas. As a conductor he has directed projects with Kapel van de Lage Landen, Cappella Amsterdam and the Netherlands Chamber Choir .
Since 1986 Harry van der Kamp has held a professorship in early music at the Hochschule für Künste in Bremen (Germany). He has been a visiting professor at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and is regularly active in master classes and on juries (the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition Leipzig among others).