Gesualdo Consort from Britain at Prague Spring music festival

Gesualdo Consort ensemble from London

We're nearly half way through the Prague Spring international music festival and classical music lovers have already heard a number of musicians from around the world. One of the British ensembles performing at the festival was the Gesualdo Consort ensemble from London. Alena Skodova met them during a rehearsal in the church of Saint Simon and Saint Jude in the heart of old Prague.

The British singers' journey to the Czech Republic was a bit complicated: due to problems at Heathrow Airport on Friday night, they arrived in Prague at 6 in the morning on Saturday, while their concert was scheduled for 5 p.m.

I spoke with the Consort's artistic director, Gerald Place, and asked him first to explain who was Carlo Gesualdo, whose name the ensemble bears:

"Well, Gesualdo was - roughly speaking - contemporary of Monteverdi, he lived just outside Naples and he was renowned for murdering his wife and his wife's lover in the bedchamber. It would be nice to think that strange emotional behaviour is connected with very dramatic, very overtly expressive nature of his madrigals, but it does not quite work because the murder was very early on in his life and the music came later. But it's a nice idea."

Gerald Place told me that he is so enamoured with Gesualdo's work that the ensemble includes at least one of his works in each of their concerts, and they sang one of his madrigals in Prague as well. But their concert in the Baroque Prague church also featured Igor Stravinsky, to whom this year's Prague Spring is devoted, and 20th century composers W. H. Harris and Peter Warlock. Music has no boundaries, it is understandable for all - but does the same apply to singing as well? - was my next question to Gerald Place:

"I think so, yes, I think it's a universal language, a lot of music we're singing tonight is in Italian and Latin, but frankly I don't think it matters if people don't understand the words because the music itself is so expressive..."

In what languages do you sing?

"Pretty well everything. Most of the singers in this group at the moment also work regularly with the BBC Singers in London, and consequently we are used to working in every European language pretty well, including Finnish and Hungarian and Czech indeed, so yes, we are quite experienced in lots of languages."

The Gesualdo Consort's Czech repertoire includes works by Leos Janacek and Bohuslav Martinu but to hear them we'll have to wait for the ensemble's next visit to the Czech Republic.