We don't know with certainty when Nenna has been invited to the Neapolitan court of Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa and we don't have any evidence certifiyng the common view that Nenna has been the Prince's master. It rather seems that at the beginning there was a relationship of a deep mutual respect between them, born from their obvious stylistic and expressive affinities.
Yet the relationship between the two artists deteriotes afterwards. The nine common titles of their madrigals testify of this new rivalry. Madrigal competitions, tournaments and challenges between musicians were of course very common at the time. But for obvious reasons of social prestige, Gesualdo as a member of one of the richest and most powerful families in Italy, could publicly confront only a musician of the same rank; to respect the etiquette, it was moreover necessary that no rumor about these competitions was allowed to leak out from the palace's walls. As a member of Bari's nobility, Ceasar's knight and gentleman of the Neapolitan court, Pomponio Nenna perfectly met these requirements.
The Neapolitan chromatic madrigal completely upset the rhethorical relationships between text and music. The musical painting of every word as such yielded to an emotional expression most efficient in chromaticism and modulation. Beyond the rules of harmony, breaking any precept of ordinary counterpoint, a whole generation of musicians will create one of the most original style of madrigals in music history.
The list of its marvellous protagonists is long: Giovanni de Macque, Andrea Falconieri, Giovanni Trabaci, Fabrizio Fillomarino, Pomponio Nenna, Scipione la Corcia, Scipione Stella, Bernardo Storace, Ercole, Pasquini, Sebastiano Raval and many others...
Gesualdo da Venosa and Pomponio Nenna
Mercé, grido piangendo - P. Nenna
Stabat Mater dolorosa - S. Stella
La mia doglia s’avanza - P. Nenna
Mercé, grido piangendo - G. Da Venosa