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- Tomás Luis de Victoria's Officium Defunctorum
He was born c1517 and died in Antwerp, 19 November 1595. Was a Flemish composer, music editor, singer and teacher. He was an innovator among mid-16th-century Flemish composers, and his style bridges the period between that of Gombert and the mature Lassus. His works are characterized by careful attention to the relationship between text and music, reflecting the current humanistic outlook, and by chromatic harmony and inventiveness in the use of dissonances.
Waelrant’s name appears with numerous spellings, including Waelrans, Waelramst, Waelranck, Waralt and Vuaelrant, but in his own publications he consistently used the forms Waelrant, Waelrand or Waelrandus. His life and activities were centred in Antwerp, but much confusion arises from the fact that there were several men with this name in the city at the time, including at least two lawyers named Hubertus Waelrant: a father and son (c1521–74 and c1546–1621). Persoons argued the existence of a third lawyer with this name; Spiessens maintains that this is not a separate man but is the elder of the father and son pair. The composer, some of whose children practised law, may have been related to the lawyers of this name. He was married at least three times: to Maria Loochenborch (c1547), with whom he had ten children, to Anna Ablyt (or Van Covelen, 28 July 1564) and to Johanna Cleerhaghen on 3 May 1581. Spiessens posits a fourth wife, Maeyken Corecopers, married to the composer on 23 July 1551. Three of the composer’s sons, Raymond, Peter and Paul, had careers as organists.
It is unclear where Waelrant received his musical training, although it has frequently been suggested that he studied in Italy, a suggestion supported by his close personal association with the Italian patron B.D. Inurea and by his preference for a progressive style in his madrigals. However, the claim that he studied with Willaert in Venice seems to have been based on a misreading, by Fétis and Kiesewetter, of Berardi and de Arteaga.
Early in his career Waelrant was active as a singer and teacher. The records of Antwerp Cathedral and the St Jacobskerk indicate that in 1544–5 he received payments as a tenor, and rent contracts show that from 1553 to 1556 he taught music in a school managed by his landlord, Gregorius de Coninck. Traditionally he has been credited with the extension of the hexachord to an octave system by the addition of the two syllables ni and ba (later altered to si and o), and with the invention of a new seven-syllable solmization system called bocedization (or voces belgicae). Sweerts, who claimed to have been his pupil, was the first to link him with the latter; other reports of the time attributed its invention to other musicians.
From about 1554 (possibly 1552) until 1558 Waelrant was associated with the printer jean de Laet. The dedications to their volumes indicate that Waelrant served as the publisher and bookseller, caring for finances, selection of repertory and, most likely, sales. Laet, as owner and printer, saw to the purchase of paper, layout, type-setting, operation of the press and proof reading. In two books (1566 and 1567) Waelrant called himself ‘typographus’, suggesting that he also took on some aspects of the role of printer. 16 products of this joint venture are extant. The type is notable for its elegant and simple face, as well as for its unique sharp sign on a space and for the unusual form of the G clef.
Almost nothing is known of Waelrant after 1558 apart from his publications, although the Antwerp Cathedral archives show that he served as a consultant for the tuning of three new bells acquired in 1563. A number of documents mark his participation in family events, including the weddings of his daughter Maria, in 1571, and his son Raymond, in 1574. In 1583–4, along with Trehou, Pevernage and Verdonck, Waelrant composed music to poems from Jan Van der Noot’s Lofsang van Braband (1580, the settings are lost). In 1585 he served as the editor for Phalèse and Bellère’s Symphonia angelica, a highly successful collection of four- to six-voice madrigals. Five of the 55 madrigals are by Waelrant himself. In the last years of his life Waelrant fell into debt; according to Sweerts, he died on 19 November 1595 at the age of 78, and was buried in front of the choir in the Church of our Lady on 22 November.
Certain aspects of Waelrant’s life and work suggest that he entertained Protestant sympathies. Becker pointed to the vernacular psalms and stressed that several of his volumes were confiscated by the Catholic authorities at Mons and Courtrai in 1568. Lowinsky argued that in view of his preference for New Testament texts dealing with Christ’s life and teachings, he may have been associated with the Anabaptists. Many of his texts certainly do seem to be in agreement with certain Protestant movements, in their emphasis on personal piety and morality grounded in the teachings of the life of Christ. But the multifarious theologies in the Netherlands in his time create difficulties in identifying a particular heresy, such as Anabaptism, Calvinism or some form of spiritualism, with the composer. Furthermore, a legal document of 1596 states that the Waelrants were Catholics.
Waelrant and Laet initiated their printing venture with a series of motets that eventually extended to eight volumes; five anthologies consist of five- and six-part works, one is devoted entirely to Waelrant’s works for five and six voices, and the other two are anthologies of four-part works (1564, 1565). Waelrant’s own music did not appear in this series until the fourth and fifth volumes, where he is represented by one and two motets respectively. Other composers presented in these anthologies include Crecquillon and Clemens non Papa; the remaining composers are mostly minor contemporaries from the Franco-Flemish region. In 1555 Waelrant and Laet published their first editions of French music: Jean Louys’s five-part settings of 50 psalms, in three volumes. They followed these with the Jardin musical, a collection of sacred and secular music to French texts in four volumes, one for three voices and three for four. These include 14 of Waelrant’s own works, eight of which are settings of psalm texts by Marot. The other three composers well represented in these books are Jean Caulery, Clemens and Crecquillon. The last extant publications by Waelrant and Laet (1558) are wholly devoted to five-part Italian madrigals, canzoni francesi and five- and six-voice motets, all by Waelrant himself.
The repertory that Waelrant and Laet published is much smaller than those of Susato and Phalèse. It is distinguished by its choice of progressive music, by the quality of the type used and by the care that Waelrant took over text underlay and musica ficta. For example, in his edition of Crecquillon’s Sancte Maria virgo he altered the original text placement so that speech and musical accents would be coordinated better.
Waelrant’s styles as editor and composer are closely related. His experience as a singer and teacher made him highly sensitive to the needs of the performer. An important feature of his editorial technique was his approach to text underlay. Wherever possible, he divided words into syllables and aligned them with the correct notes; he employed ligatures to clarify text setting and avoided the use of numerous shorthand iterum signs, often preferring to repeat the text in full. He was also explicit in his use of accidentals, which were applied in his own works to create colourful chords, many for the purposes of text expression. His plaintive setting of the scene from the story of Lazarus, Pater Abraham (Liber sextus), for example, makes extensive use of accidentals to create cross-relationships and dissonances as well as to realize for the performer the principles of musica ficta. His application of accidentals in his role as editor of the works of others was more cautious, revealing his respect of a composer’s personal style.
Interestingly, Waelrant’s sacred chansons often bear features of the note nere madrigal in their textures. In his setting of Donne secours, black notes feature in imitative textures or in homophonic semiminim pairs, with repeated chordal harmonies that create parlando rhythmic effects. The French texts with serious moods match the serious Italian compositions in their style; on the other hand, amusing texts, such as Un jour passé, have more lively rhythms and more passages in chordal style. In Moys amourex short four-note rhythmic units are repeated numerous times without harmonic change, resulting in a liveliness not present in the madrigals.
In the nine madrigals of the Primo libro Waelrant combined Netherlandish polyphonic techniques with typical madrigal devices, such as speech-like rhythms (in short imitative phrases, in homophony and in textures that mix the two) and chromatic harmonies (augmented triads, false relationships and strong dissonances), to emphasize words like ‘pain’ and ‘grief’. In the second parte of Ferma speranz’e fe pur, for example, cross-relations and unexpected chords, built on chromatic-shifting bass lines, illustrate the text ‘Grave travagli’ e afflitta gelosia’. To add further interest, Waelrant shifts between strict and free contrapuntal textures.
Robert Lee Weaver
Was born c1540 and died in Munich, 1603. Was a Flemish composer, active in Germany. The name suggests that he was a native of Fosses (in the province of Namur), a small town dependent on the principality of Liège. When he copied Guyot’s Te Deum he stated explicitly that he had been his pupil; he may well have studied under him at Liège for Guyot was choirmaster of St Paul there from 1546 to 1554 and of the cathedral from 1558 to 1563. Several musicians with the name ‘de Fossa’ figure in the archives at Liège; none, however, is called Johannes. A Johannes de Fossa is nevertheless mentioned in a letter from Duke Philibert of Savoy dated 12 January 1557. The first precise information known about Fossa is that in 1569 he was appointed second Kapellmeister at the Munich court. In 1571 he became master of the choristers and continued in the service of the Dukes of Bavaria until his death. After the death of Lassus in 1594 Fossa took responsibility for the chapel music and in 1597 he was given the official title of first Kapellmeister. On his retirement in 1602 he was succeeded by Ferdinand de Lassus, eldest son of Orlande.
Proske noted that in his compositions Fossa was influenced by Lassus, as one might expect, though not lacking a style and charm of his own.
José Quitin, Henri Vanhulst
Was born Douai (?) between 1540 and 1545 and died in Prague, 16 October 1599. Regnart was a Flemish composer, active mainly in Austria and Bohemia. His German secular songs, especially those for three voices, were immensely popular, and he was also a notable composer of church music.
Regnart probably received his first musical education at Douai. He himself stated that he served the Habsburgs from 1557, no doubt at first as a chorister in the Prague Hofkapelle of Archduke Maximilian, which was directed by Jacobus Vaet. His name first appears in the household lists in 1560 as a tenor, with a monthly salary of seven guilders, which was raised to the standard 12 guilders in 1564, after Maximilian’s election as emperor – if not earlier. It was in that year too that music by him first appeared in print. He now worked in Vienna. He studied in Italy from 1568 to October 1570. The first of his own volumes of music to be published, Il primo libro delle canzone italiane (1574), was doubtless stimulated by this visit, and it was quickly followed by a number of other volumes, both sacred and secular. His growing reputation as a composer was matched by success in his professional and personal life at the imperial court during this period. On 1 November 1570 he was appointed music teacher to the chapel choristers; in 1571 he was given a coat-of-arms and in 1573 a salary rise. Following the disbanding of Maximilian’s household after his death in 1576, the Emperor Rudolf II made Regnart a member of his Hofkapelle, which soon moved to Prague; his monthly salary rose to 15 guilders. By October 1579 he had succeeded Alard Du Gaucquier as vice-Kapellmeister. He continued to publish a good deal of music at this time. In 1580 Lassus recommended him as Antonio Scandello’s successor as Kapellmeister to the Saxon court at Dresden, but he chose to remain with the Habsburgs.
Soon, however, Archduke Ferdinand persuaded Regnart to succeed Alexander Utendal as his vice-Kapellmeister, and he arrived at Innsbruck on 9 April 1582. He was now somewhat less prolific, but among his works during this period was music for a moralizing comedy by the archduke himself (1584). On 1 January 1585 he was appointed Kapellmeister. Under his direction music at the Innsbruck court was reorganized and considerably raised in standard, to general admiration; in particular, new Dutch singers were engaged, as well as Italian solo singers and instrumentalists. In 1588 he emphasized his commitment to Catholic reform with his motet collection Mariale, and another interesting print from this period is a joint collection of motets by Regnart and three of his brothers (1590: see §3 below). By now he was becoming a rich man: in 1589 he bought himself a house (now 21 Innstrasse) and a plot of land, and in 1597 and 1598 he was even able to lend large sums of money to the Tyrol revenue office. Archduke Ferdinand decided to elevate him to the nobility for his outstanding services; the archduke’s death in 1595 frustrated this intention, which was, however, realized by Archduke Matthias in 1596. After Ferdinand’s death the Hofkapelle was disbanded, but Regnart stayed at Innsbruck until at least 27 April 1596. By November of that year he had moved to Prague, where he again entered imperial service as vice-Kapellmeister, under Monte. From 1 January 1598 until his death he received a monthly salary of 20 guilders.
Regnart’s music continued to be highly regarded after his death and appeared in a number of anthologies up to 1655. It is also listed in several inventories of the 17th century, especially in Germany and Austria. Works by him were admired by Friedrich Weissensee in his Opus melicum (1602) and by Michael Praetorius in the third volume of his Syntagma musicum (1618, 2/1619), and he is mentioned in Joachim Burmeister’s Hypomnematum musicae poeticae (1599). Many epigrams were written in his honour by a wide variety of authors. He enjoyed his greatest success as a composer with his Teutsche Lieder for three voices. They originally appeared in three volumes over a short period of time (in 1574, 1577 and 1579), the first two being reprinted twice and the third once up to 1580. In 1584 the original publisher, Gerlach of Nuremberg, brought out a complete edition, which was twice reprinted up to 1593. A rival publisher, Berg of Munich, had anticipated Gerlach with a complete edition in 1583, and this went into five editions, the last appearing in 1611. Thus these songs were continually in print for a period of over 35 years; moreover, they appeared in several arrangements too, for example in tablatures by E.N. Ammerbach (1583), Gregor Krengel (1584) and Matthäus Waissel (1592). Leonhard Lechner arranged 21 of them for five voices (1579, 2/1586). Johannes Brassicanus quoted three of them in his quodlibet Was wölln wir aber heben an?, Paul Luetkeman published a pavan on Ohn dich muss in 1597, and Francesco Rovigo based a Magnificat on Venus, du und dein Kind (1583). Two much greater composers also turned to this last song: Lassus drew on it in his four-part lied Die Gnad kombt oben her, and Schein published in his Cantional of 1627 a contrafactum, Auf meinen lieben Gott, which later found its way into Protestant hymnbooks, leading in turn to countless arrangements over many years.
These three-part songs were not only phenomenally popular but also highly important for the development of the lied. Regnart announced on all the title-pages that they were ‘in the style of napolitane or Italian villanellas’. His achievement in these songs lay in bringing the genre, which with other composers still adhered to the imitative style of classical vocal polyphony, closer to the popular style of the villanella. Italian influence is especially evident in the first book, but all of the songs display the essential features of the villanella – dancelike rhythms, moments of homophony, simple harmony and melodies (the latter often confined to the top voice in the texture), as well as parallel 5ths. In his Opusculum bipartitum (1624 2/1625) Joachim Thuringus classified them as ‘sortisatio’, which Johannes Nucius (in his Musices poeticae, 1613) described as a combination of ‘usus’ and ‘ars’, since it was cultivated by both artisans and the best court musicians. This is a useful indication of how to view these songs, which have frequently been condemned, both for their partly erotic content and for their compositional errors; they have also been altered and ‘improved’ as well as compared unfavourably with the apparently more ‘artistic’ tricinia of composers such as Ivo de Vento and Leonhard Lechner. Textually, the departure from normal German octosyllabic verse and the almost exclusive use in the first volume (1576) of Italian poetic forms – for example the decasyllabic or hendecasyllabic triplet with the rhyme pattern AAA, ABA, ABB, or else the six-line hexasyllabic or heptasyllabic, divided into three couplets with the rhyme pattern AA, BB, CC – indicate the extent to which Regnart was influenced by his Italian models; this influence is less marked, however, in the second and third books (1577–9). Regnart’s success in cultivating this popular genre was far greater than that of his contemporaries, Lassus included. In the preface to his 1576 volume he acknowledged that this was an unpretentious kind of music, and Lechner’s madrigalian arrangements for five voices can almost certainly be seen as an attempt to enhance their status in the sphere of art music.
Of Regnart’s four-part lieder (1591) only the treble part survives. Its melodic structure suggests that they were similar in style to his tricinia: they were not reprinted, however, indicating that they enjoyed less popularity. The five-part songs (1580), which were reprinted once, are quite different. Osthoff (1938), who rightly called them ‘by far the most important monuments of the polyphonic lied’, equally rightly saw them as ‘the closest approximation until then of the choral lied to the madrigal’. They are full of the refinement and polyphonic artistry that Regnart deliberately shunned in his three-part pieces. The two volumes of canzone italiane (1574–81) can also for the most part be classified as madrigals; the first volume was twice reprinted, and both volumes appeared in German translation in 1595.
Regnart’s sacred works have generally received far less attention. Yet they form the greater part of his extant music, and in them he again displayed his outstanding ability. In particular he made masterly use of the possibilities of musical rhetoric, and skilfully employed music to underline the meaning of his chosen texts; his Mariale (1588) in particular is one of the most notable products of the Counter-Reformation.
Jacob had four brothers, all of whom were born in Douai at unknown dates; it is not known where and when they died. All worked as musicians within the church: Charles and Pascasius served in the court chapel of Philip II of Spain between 1562 and 1565, the former as a soprano, the latter as a chaplain. Augustin, a canon at St Pierre, Lille, edited Novae cantiones sacrae (Douai, 1590¹0), a collection of 40 motets by the brothers; best represented within the anthology, with 24 motets, is françois Regnart, who studied at the University of Douai before securing ecclesiastical and courtly positions at Tournai.
Lassus was born at Mons in Hainaut, a Franco-Flemish province notable for the number of distinguished musicians born and trained there during the Renaissance. Nothing definite is known of his parents, nor is there any solid proof that he was a choirboy at the church of St Nicholas – much less for the legend that he was three times abducted because of the beauty of his voice. The first known fact about him, attested to by his contemporary and earliest biographer, Samuel Quickelberg, is that at about the age of 12 he entered the service of Ferrante Gonzaga, a cadet of the Mantuan ducal house and a general in the service of Charles V. Gonzaga was in the Low Countries in summer 1544; when he headed south the boy Lassus presumably accompanied him. After a stop near Paris (Fontainebleau) Gonzaga returned to Italy at the beginning of 1545; he stayed in Mantua until mid-September, before proceeding to Sicily. Thus Lassus’s first experience of Italy was at the Mantuan court. From Palermo, Gonzaga went as imperial governor to Milan, where Lassus apparently spent the years 1546–9. It is likely that at this time he met other musicians in the service of the Gonzagas, particularly Hoste da Reggio, a madrigalist who headed whatever musical establishment Ferrante Gonzaga maintained.
According to Quickelberg, Lassus next went to Naples (early in 1549), where he entered, informally, the service of Constantino Castrioto and lived in the household of G.B. d’Azzia della Terza, a man of letters. It is thought that Lassus began to compose while in Naples (though there may be a few pieces from the Milanese period), and that the villanescas printed in Antwerp in 1555 may have been written at this time. From Naples he went, at the end of 1551, to Rome; after a period in the household of Antonio Altoviti, Archbishop of Florence but then resident in Rome, he became maestro di cappella at S Giovanni in Laterano in spring 1553. Although young and as yet not well known as a composer – at least in print – Lassus must by this time have acquired a certain reputation as a musician in order to get a post such as this.
A little over a year later Lassus left Rome, for a visit to his parents who were ill, but they were already dead by the time he arrived. His whereabouts for a short period after this are unknown, and it has been claimed, though not proved, that he visited France and England in the company of the singer-diplomat-adventurer G.C. Brancaccio. Early in 1555 (possibly by autumn, 1554) Lassus was in Antwerp. Although he is not known to have held any official post, he seems to have made friends quickly there, with prominent figures such as Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle and with helpful people such as the printers Tylman Susato and Jean de Laet; he may have worked as a corrector in Susato’s shop. In 1555 Susato printed what has been called Lassus’s ‘op.1’, a collection of ‘madrigali, vilanesche, canzoni francesi e motetti’ for four voices; meanwhile Antonio Gardane in Venice had issued Lassus’s first book of five-part madrigals. In 1556 the first book of five- and six-part motets appeared in Antwerp; it seems that Lassus had waited to publish his music until he had accumulated a substantial number of pieces. How much other music he had written up to this time we do not know; but it is probable that some of the madrigals appearing in Antonio Barrè’s Roman anthologies of the late 1550s date from Lassus’s stay in Rome, that at least one mass, the Missa ‘Domine secundum actum meum’, was written before 1556, and that the Sacrae lectiones novem ex propheta Iob, though not printed until 1565, belong to this period. The Prophetiae Sibyllarum, a collection of highly chromatic settings of humanistic Latin texts that was not published until after Lassus’s death although it had periods of notoriety during his lifetime – including the amazed response of Charles IX of France in 1571 – may also belong to Lassus’s Italian years (it survives in a manuscript containing a portrait of the composer at the age of 28).
In 1556 Lassus received and accepted an invitation to join the court of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria in Munich. The circumstances of this appointment are not clear, but it is evident that Johann Jakob Fugger and Granvelle were involved, and that Dr Seld, the imperial vice-chancellor at Brussels, played a part in the negotiations (having first recommended Philippe de Monte for the post). Lassus was engaged as a tenor in a chapel headed by Ludwig Daser; a half-dozen other newly engaged Flemish singers also arrived in Munich in 1556–7, the result of a deliberate plan to ‘netherlandize’ a chapel which had perhaps come to seem too provincially German in character (Albrecht V’s ambitions to revitalize his chapel may have been spurred by news of the dissolution of Charles V’s chapel in 1555).
Lassus’s duties included a morning service, for which polyphonic masses, elaborate or simple as the occasion required, were prepared. Judging from his enormous output of Magnificat settings, Vespers must have been celebrated solemnly a good deal of the time. It is less clear for what services much of the repertory of motets was created, though many could have fitted into celebrations of the Mass and Offices. Music for special occasions was provided by the ducal chapel; this included state visits, banquets for which ‘Tafelmusik’ was customary and hunting parties. Indeed Albrecht’s love of musical display and his munificence towards musicians was much criticized in some court quarters. In addition Lassus supervised the musical education of the choirboys; he saw to the copying of manuscripts and perhaps to the collection of printed music for the ducal library. He also became a friend and companion to the duke and especially to his heir, the future Wilhelm V.
In 1558 Lassus married Regina Wäckinger, the daughter of a Bavarian court official. Among their children two sons, were to become musicians. He settled into what seems to have been a stable and comfortable existence, apparently one that he never seriously considered changing. This was varied by journeys undertaken at ducal behest. Thus in 1560 he went to Flanders to recruit singers; in 1562 he was in Prague for the coronation of the Archduke Maximilian as king of Bohemia, and in Frankfurt for the latter’s enthronement as ‘king of the Romans’. Andrea Gabrieli joined Lassus’s chapel for this visit, and may have remained in Munich for a year or two thereafter. In 1567 Lassus was in northern Italy, visiting Ferrara and Venice – and reminding Italians that, as he said in the dedication to his fourth book of five-part madrigals, good Italian music could be written even in far-off ‘Germania’.
Lassus’s fame was steadily growing, at home and abroad. He began, perhaps at the duke’s request, to collect and put in order his own compositions, particularly the motets. The Venetian and Flemish printers who published his first works continued to issue madrigals, chansons and sacred music; in the 1560s Berg in Munich, Montanus and Neuber in Nuremberg (now Nürnberg), and Le Roy; Ballard in Paris began to print individual works, then series of volumes devoted to the music of the man becoming known as ‘princeps musicorum’ and the ‘divin Orlande’.
Lassus was in Venice and Vienna for brief periods; in 1574 he visited Trent, Mantua, Bologna, Rome and Naples. His motet Domine Jesu Christe was awarded first prize at Evreux in 1575; he won again in 1583 with the Cecilian motet Cantantibus organis. He may have had as a pupil Giovanni Gabrieli, who was in Munich during the 1570s. From these years a charming correspondence between the composer and Duke Wilhelm, Albrecht’s son and heir, survives; these letters, and some correspondence between Wilhelm and his father, are proof of the high regard felt by both men for Lassus. Before his death, Albrecht V made provisions that the composer was to receive his salary for the rest of his life. The five magisterial volumes of sacred works called Patrocinium musices appeared during these years, and numerous reprints of his earlier music testify to Lassus’s continuing popularity all over Europe.
On the accession of Wilhelm V in 1579 the ducal chapel was much reduced in size. Whatever Lassus may have felt about this, he did not consider leaving. Refusing an invitation (1580) to succeed Antonio Scandello in Dresden, he wrote to the Duke of Saxony that he did not want to leave his house, garden and other good things in Munich, and that he was now beginning to feel old. His activity as a composer did not diminish, however; the years 1581–5 are marked by a number of new publications, of masses, Magnificat settings, motets, psalms and German lieder. He made a brief visit to Verona in 1582. In 1584 Ferdinand Lassus took over some of his father’s duties, and the next year Lassus made a pilgrimage to Loreto. On this journey he visited Ferrara, where he heard new Italian music of an advanced style. The conservatism of his own later music was the result of deliberate choice, viewed by the composer himself with some wryness, and not because of ignorance of what was happening in Italy.
Although Lassus’s final years were marked by some poor health and by a ‘melancholia hypocondriaca’ for which he sought the help of a physician, Thomas Mermann, he continued to write music, if only intermittently. Shortly before his death he dedicated to Pope Clement VIII his last cycle of compositions, the Lagrime di S Pietro, adding to it a seven-voice motet, Vide homo quae pro te patior.
A series of letters from Lassus to Duke Wilhelm, son and heir of Albrecht V, survives. The letters, dated between 1572 and 1579 and for the most part written from Munich to the duke’s establishment at Landshut, are celebrated for their mixture of languages, passing back and forth from a playful, half-macaronic Latin to Italian, French and German. A few are partly in doggerel verse, strengthening the supposition that Lassus wrote some of his own texts for occasional and humorous pieces. The tone of these letters and their amusing signatures (‘Orlando Lasso col cor non basso’; ‘Orlandissimo lassissimo, amorevolissimo’; ‘secretaire publique, Orlando magnifique’) show Lassus to have been on terms of easy familiarity with Wilhelm. There are occasional references to music, as in a letter of 22 March 1576, when he wrote: ‘I send a copy of Io son ferito; if it seems good to you, I will hope to hear my work at Landshut or elsewhere’ (this must refer to Lassus’s mass written on Palestrina’s well-known madrigal and published in 1589). Wilhelm apparently knew a good deal about music and liked to talk about it; thus Lassus could send him a letter (11 March 1578) entirely made up of musical puns and jokes, mentioning other composers such as Rore, Clemens non Papa and Arcadelt, and referring jokingly to musical terms, as in the description of ‘una baligia senza pause, coperta di passagi di molte cadenze fatte in falso bordone a misura di macaroni’ (‘a valise without rests, covered with passage-work of many cadences made from falsobordoni the size of macaroni’). These letters suggest that Lassus had read Italian epistolary writers such as Pietro Aretino and Antonfrancesco Doni; they confirm his reputation as – when the occasion required and perhaps when the mood was on him – an amusing friend and boon companion.
The earliest surviving printed volume devoted entirely to masses by Lassus, issued by Claudio Merulo in Venice in 1570 (1570e), is a ‘volume two’; an earlier first volume must have existed. Some of Lassus’s masses belong to the first years of his residence in Munich in the late 1550s; the latest, a five-voice mass based on Gombert’s Triste départ, was written as a kind of valedictory gesture near the end of his life. The 60 or so masses known to be authentic (there are a number of doubtful works in this genre) make up a not inconsiderable part of his oeuvre. Since their publication in the new Lassus edition, the traditional view that Lassus’s masses are of peripheral importance in his work, and indeed of largely perfunctory character, has been modified. Certainly they were not considered of negligible value during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Although no single mass attained the popularity of some of the more celebrated motets, many were reprinted during and after his lifetime; several groups were included in the Patrocinium musices; and Le Roy; Ballard’s resplendent Missae variis concentibus ornatae of 1577–8 (1577b) suggests that the Parisian publishers planned (although they did not carry out) a complete edition of his masses.
Most of Lassus’s settings are parody masses, based on motets (chiefly his own), French chansons (by Gombert, Willaert, Monte and members of the Parisian school), or Italian madrigals (by Sebastiano Festa, Arcadelt, Rore and Palestrina). They provide a highly instructive anthology of the techniques of parody. His rearrangement and recomposition of his own music, as in the Missa ‘Locutus sum’, show Lassus’s technical prowess; his striking transformation of a rather simple model, such as Daser’s motet for the Missa ‘Ecce nunc benedicite’, illustrates his ability to raise the level of music of his lesser contemporaries. More remarkable still is the sensitivity he displayed in adapting secular models as diverse as Arcadelt’s Quand’io pens’al martire, the densely polyphonic texture of Gombert’s chansons, and the supple and subtle flow of Rore’s madrigals. The masses based on these pieces are reminiscent of their models in style yet show no musical incongruity or technical strain. A work like the Missa ‘Qual donna attende’, based on Rore’s distinguished madrigal, must have provided a rich treat for connoisseurs of this genre.
At the other extreme in Lassus’s masses are the short, syllabic missae breves. Some of these are parodies of works, like Sermisy’s La, la, maistre Pierre, themselves in concise syllabic style. The shortest of all these works is the ‘Jäger’ Mass or Missa venatorum, a work designed for a brief service on days the court spent hunting. Some of the masses based on plainchant are of this succinct type; an exception is the impressive five-voice Missa pro defunctis with its curious bass intonations. Whether or not because they fit post-Tridentine ideas about music for the Mass (Lassus is known to have been stubborn about changing things at Munich to conform to new ideas coming from Rome), some of the shortest and simplest of Lassus’s masses were among his most popular works in the genre. It should be stressed, however, that these works do not represent him fully or entirely characteristically as a composer of masses.
Lassus’s four Passions are responsorial and of the kind cultivated by north Italian composers throughout most of the 16th century. In two of them (the St Matthew and St John) the words of the turbae and of the various individuals are set polyphonically, the first group for five-part chorus and the second for solo duos and trios; the words of Christ and the evangelists’ narrative are to be chanted. The Passions according to St Mark and St Luke are shorter works in which chordal polyphony is provided only for the turbae. In the St Matthew Passion, first published in 1575, a clear stylistic distinction is made between the music of the turbae – chordal successions with ponderously decorated cadences – and the supple imitative style of the duos and trios used for the words of Peter, Judas and other characters. This work enjoyed great and lasting popularity. Various later Passions borrowed from it, and a manuscript dated 1743, complete with added thoroughbass part, shows that it was still performed 150 years after its composition. The other three Passions survive only in manuscript, with convincing though not absolutely definitive attributions to Lassus.
Lassus’s more than 100 settings of the Magnificat, all but ten of them collected in a posthumous edition (1619) by his son Rudolph, far outnumber those of any other 16th-century composer (Palestrina, for example, wrote 35). Their wide circulation in print and manuscript is testimony to their lasting popularity; only those of Morales had anything like this success. All but a few are alternatim settings of the even verses, leaving the odd verses to be chanted, as was customary, or perhaps played on the organ.
In 1567 Lassus published three cycles each containing a six-verse setting for all eight tones (1567b). He went on to write at least two more such cycles; all are based on the appropriate chant tones of the Magnificat, with widely varied use of cantus-firmus technique. Some 60 settings use the psalmodic tones; a number of others have monophonic tunes used as cantus firmi. He respected the Magnificat tones in his choice of mode, and tended not to embellish the cantus firmus when using it intact; but no brief description could do justice to the flexible virtuosity with which the time-honoured device of the cantus firmus is used in these works. There is of course much integration of cantus firmus with other voices through melodic paraphrase and contrapuntal imitation.
A Magnificat parodying Rore’s celebrated madrigal Ancor che col partire was published in the collection of 1576. Some 40 of the Magnificat settings appearing in subsequent years are parody works; Lassus was the first to make consistent use of parody technique in this genre, and he seems to have liked using the procedure almost as much as he did in the masses. His own motets (and an occasional chanson) were favoured sources, but he ranged widely through 16th-century literature, from Josquin (whose Praeter rerum seriem served as model for a magnificently elaborate six-voice work) to Striggio and Vecchi, from motets to madrigals. As in the masses, parody technique is used here in an almost bewilderingly varied fashion, and with a sure instinct for blending the style of the model with that of the ‘copy’.
Lassus’s settings of the Magnificat vary greatly in length and complexity, from concise settings resembling falsobordoni to resplendently contrapuntal works over 200 bars long. His tendency to write more compact, harmonically conceived works in his later years may be seen in these pieces, but not in any easily predictable way. The opening and closing verses are generally closer to their melodic or contrapuntal models, the middle verses correspondingly freer. All voices respect to some degree the bipartite structure of the psalm verses.
There are a large number of liturgical and quasiliturgical works in other genres. Some were printed in the composer’s lifetime: the mass propers for Christmas, Easter and Pentecost in the third volume of the Patrocinium musices (1574); the Christmas Lessons of volume iv (1575) in that series; the Lamentations of Jeremiah, some of which were printed in 1585; the Lessons from Job (two sets, printed in 1565 and 1582); and the seven Psalmi Davidis poenitentiales (printed in 1584 but composed much earlier). Posthumously published works include 12 litanies (1596; four others survive in manuscript copies). None of these works was included in the Magnum opus musicum (1604) and therefore none appear in Haberl’s edition. All have now been published in the new collected edition.
An important category of Office polyphony in Lassus’s works is the Nunc dimittis. 13 settings survive, none of them ever printed: five, based on chant, date from about 1565, and eight (not all confirmed as genuine), parody works based on motets and madrigals, from the last period of his life. Still other groups of liturgical pieces survive only in manuscript and were apparently never printed (they were perhaps considered in a way the private property of the Bavarian court chapel): these include a group of falsobordoni, an important hymn cycle written after local adoption of the Roman hymn sequence in 1581, and a group of responsories (from the 1580s).
In motet composition, as in the writing of madrigals, Lassus began by assimilating the styles fashionable in Italy in his youth. Rore and the Roman school around Barrè seem the two most important of these influences, as seen in the carefully conceived declamatory rhythms in all voice parts. The bold yet tonally controlled chromaticism of motets such as Alma nemes, and the use of distinctive, finely chiselled thematic material in Audi dulcis [filia] amica mea (both printed in 1555), certainly show that Lassus knew Rore’s work. The motets of the Roman and Antwerp years, as well as those of the first decade in Munich, are dazzlingly virtuoso in invention and the handling of vocal textures. Videntes stellam, a two-section motet for five voices printed in 1562, is a good example of Lassus’s brilliant early style. The melodic material, distantly derived from a Magnificat antiphon for Epiphany week, transforms gentle hints in the chant into dramatically descriptive motifs that rocket through the texture, a texture that is constantly varied but always clear, and always well grounded harmonically. It is no wonder that the composer of pieces such as this rapidly won for himself first place at the Bavarian court and an international reputation soon to surpass that of all his contemporaries.
Imitation plays a large role in the contrapuntal technique of Lassus’s early work, as does voice pairing; he did not of course observe these techniques as strictly as did Josquin’s generation, but neither did he favour the thick texture and close-set imitation cultivated by Gombert. Everywhere there is harmonic clarity and solidity, equally apparent in pieces such as the Prophetiae Sibyllarum, which use the chromatic vocabulary fashionable in the 1550s, as in completely diatonic works.
It has been said that Lassus made little use of canon or other constructivist elements. This is true in a statistical sense, but when he chose he could show off Netherlandish skills; for example, the seven-part In omnibus requiem quaesivi (published 1565) has a three-part canon, with one of the voices in contrary motion. Cantus-firmus writing is rarer in Lassus than in Palestrina, but on occasion Lassus could revert to the kind of cantus-firmus procedure used by Josquin and Obrecht; Homo cum in honore esset (six voices; published 1566) has a soggetto cavato as cantus firmus on the text ‘Nosce te ipsum’, heard successively in breves, semibreves and minims. In this eclectic revival of earlier techniques, and in many individual passages where archaisms such as fauxbourdon or use of outmoded long notes can be seen, Lassus may have been using elements of an older Netherlandish style for expressive reasons, making a musical allusion to support the meaning of a phrase of text.
Like all Lassus’s music, the motets are immensely varied in musical invention and expressive detail. Nonetheless a recognizable stylistic ‘set’ may be observed in all the motets of the period c1555–70: thematic originality is blended with a contrapuntal fluidity that, in less distinguished pieces, approaches formula; there is plenty of chordal declamation, always marked by strength and clarity of harmony; expressive word-painting abounds but does not dominate or upset the equilibrium of a piece; and a certain succinctness – the economy of utterance that was to become increasingly evident in Lassus’s later works – is noticeable (the famous six-part Timor et tremor, published 1564, is as surprising for brevity as it is celebrated for expressive power). Lassus’s capacity for obtaining iridescent changes of colour in the plainest of diatonic palettes through skilful vocal scoring, a trait very marked in his later works, is present in his early motets; it is indeed one of the most characteristic of his stylistic traits.
In his motets of the 1570s and 1580s, as in other works of this period, Lassus made much use of chordal declamation on short note values, varied by quickly alternating points of imitation of rather neutral melodic character. This ‘villanella’ style (see Boetticher), perhaps better termed ‘canzonetta style’, may indicate a desire for a more up-to-date vocabulary on Lassus’s part. If so, that is about as far as he went; the works of the last decade are less markedly declamatory, more complex in texture and marked by a certain denseness and concentration of style that is not so much progressive as it is highly individual, a final style seen to good advantage in the six-part Musica Dei donum optimi (published 1594), a moving tribute to the composer’s art (this text was also set by other 16th-century composers).
Although they cannot be categorized in any very neat way, Lassus’s motets can be divided roughly under a few general headings.
The 24 duos of 1577 (1577d) and many of the pieces for three voices must have been intended for students. In this the duos are particularly interesting. When compared with other famous 16th-century collections of duos such as those of Gero or of Lupacchino – both of them sets that were reprinted so often as to leave no doubt about their pedagogical usefulness – Lassus’s psalm settings and textless bicinia are surprising in their individuality of style: they are not generic counterpoint but rather illustrations of his own contrapuntal practice. They were popular enough to be reprinted and even to be ‘modernized’ (in a Parisian reprint of 1601 with an added third voice), but they did not rival Gero’s in longevity of use; they have about them too much of the finished and idiosyncratic composition, too little of the contrapuntal exercise. For Lassus’s own pupils they must have been of great value since the writing of duos was probably the most important part of a 16th-century composer’s training. It may be noted that the two-part pieces illustrate the D, E, F and G modes but not those of A and C; this supports the remark of Lechner, Lassus’s pupil, that his teacher used only the traditional eight modes.
There are a surprising number of pieces written for special occasions or to honour rulers and dignitaries; these are mostly grouped together in the Magnum opus musicum, near the beginning or end of the divisions by number of voices. Some of them provide clues to the composer’s life; thus the five-part Te spectant Reginalde Poli (published 1556) may indicate that Lassus knew the English Cardinal Pole in Rome in the 1550s. Many occasional pieces honouring the Habsburgs and various secular and religious potentates throughout Germany were doubtless commissioned by the Bavarian court. By far the largest number of these are addressed to Albrecht V, to his eldest son and to other members of the ducal family (one of these, Unde revertimini, started its existence under a slightly different name as a work in praise of Henri d’Anjou, the future Henri III of France). They vary in length and scoring (from three to ten voices) but as a matter of course are uniformly bright and festive in nature. Some, like the nine-section Princeps Marte potens, Guilelmus, are little more than a series of acclamations (in this instance addressed to Wilhelm V, his bride, and members of the imperial and ducal families); others are in full polyphonic style. A distinguishing feature of Lassus’s ceremonial pieces honouring the Wittelsbachs is their personal tone, evident proof of the composer’s close relationship with his employers. This is seen in Multarum hic resonat, addressed to Wilhelm on his name day in 1571, and in Haec quae ter triplici, the dedicatory piece of a collection of motets for three voices (1575) honouring Albrecht’s three sons, on a text ending ‘Lassus mente animoque dicat’ (‘Lassus’ set to the composer’s musical signature of la–sol). Most appealingly personal of all is Sponsa quid agis, for five voices, thought to have been composed for Lassus’s marriage in 1558; here the colouristic harmony on the words ‘Non me lasciviae veneris’, in an otherwise diatonic framework, is a charming bit of musical allusion.
Pieces with texts ranging from playfulness to burlesque are to be found among the works with Latin texts. Their music is appropriate and often witty in itself, but almost never broadly farcical; Lassus, rather like Mozart, tended to clothe his verbal jokes in exquisite musical dress. One exception is the travesty of ‘super flumina Babylonis’, beginning ‘SU-su-PER-per’ and proceeding haltingly and confusedly through both text and music, perhaps mocking the efforts of inexpert singers. Of a similar nature is Ut queant laxis, for five voices, in which the tenor sings the isolated notes of the hexachord between snatches of four-voice polyphony. In many apparently serious motets the tone-painting of individual words is so literal that one suspects a half-humorous intent, and occasionally one is sure of it: the concertato performance of motets is parodied in Laudent Deum cythara, in which five instrumental families are named, to music characteristic for each, in the space of a dozen bars (the total length of the piece).
There are drinking-songs in Latin in his output, as there are in German and French. These may be elaborate, as in the eight-part double chorus Vinum bonum. Perhaps the most amusing is the macaronic Lucescit jam o socii, whose independently rhymed series of alternating Latin and French lines sounds so much like some of the composer’s letters to Duke Wilhelm that Lassus must surely be author of both text and music.
Classical and classicistic texts
The ceremonial motets are full of classical phrases. Other pieces setting either classical texts (Virgil, Horace) or humanistic 16th-century verse are to be found; there is a whole group of these near the end of the five-part section of the Magnum opus musicum. Lassus made his contribution to the list of Renaissance composers who set Dido’s lament Dulces exuviae; his version is in correctly quantitative declamatory chords with little ornament, a style not far from that used for classical choruses (as in Andrea Gabrieli’s music for Edippo tiranno, 1588). Most of these pieces are less academic in character, closer to the composer’s normal motet style. There are, however, examples of almost completely literal quantitative settings; the five-voice setting of Tragico tecti syrmate coelites looks very much like the settings of Horatian odes used in German schools, a genre with which Lassus was evidently familiar. Related to this genre are the Prophetiae Sibyllarum, famous for their chordal chromaticism but also showing careful declamatory exactness in setting the curious half-Christian, half-pagan humanistic verse.
There are hints of ordering within the liturgical calendar in sections of the Magnum opus musicum. The collection also has groupings by category such as hymns, Marian antiphons, Gospel or Epistle motets etc, which are convenient for study but of little help in determining liturgical usage. As Lassus’s sons included in their huge anthology a good many pieces which are motets only by virtue of being contrafacta of secular works, their methods of assemblage and editing appear too arbitrary to serve as the basis for study of the religious function of their father’s motets.
A large proportion of the motets must of course have been used in performance of the Mass and Offices in the court chapel. The number of settings of Marian antiphons, some of which are very elaborate, suggest that portions of the Office were sung with great solemnity. This is also true of settings of the Pater noster, the Ave Maria, and hymns included in the Magnum opus musicum; the six-part settings of Veni Creator Spiritus and Veni Sancte Spiritus are particularly resplendent. When one recalls that many of Lassus’s motet prints carried the rubric ‘apt for voices and instruments’ it is easy to imagine concerted performances of motets using some of the forces depicted in Hans Mielich’s miniature, which shows the court chapel as assembled for chamber performance. Among the motets appearing in tablatures, chiefly of German origin, are a group in Johannes Rühling’s keyboard book (1583) which are arranged in liturgical order for Sundays and great feast days throughout the year, and thus are clearly intended for use in the liturgy.
Whether motets on religious texts were used as liturgical works, for private devotional purposes or in concert is hard to determine. Marian antiphons, for example, could certainly have been used as devotional pieces. Style may offer some clue; the Gospel motets are severely conservative and thus ‘sound’ liturgical whereas the Epistle motets adjacent to them are highly expressive and thus appear devotional in character. The many psalm settings, some of them free compilations from various psalms (the celebrated Timor et tremor is among them), are difficult to judge in this regard. A thorough study of the liturgical practices at Munich might help to place many works whose function is now not clear.
The motets of Lassus were admired in their own day not only for their beauty and technical perfection but also for their rhetorical power – their ability to move the affections through the use of rhetorical devices transferred into musical idioms. Joachim Burmeister’s celebrated rhetorical analysis of In me transierunt (published 1562) in his Musica poetica (1606; an expanded version of the Musica autoschediastike, 1601) compares the motet to a classically ordered speech. 40 years earlier Quickelberg had praised Lassus’s ability to ‘describe an object almost as if it were before one’s eyes’. One has only to think of the many striking, sharply individualized openings of motets – the exordia of classical rhetoric – in Lassus’s work to see that both expressiveness and the rhetorician’s trick of catching attention can hardly be missed in this music. Whether the composer proceeded as deliberately, even pedantically, as Burmeister would have it may be doubted. However, if one recalls Lassus’s carefully precise declamation of classical texts it becomes clear that he knew something of the German didactic tradition linking music with the study of classical metres; it is not a large step from this to assume that he also knew how classical rhetoric was studied in the schools. The ‘speaking’ quality of much of this music cannot be a fortuitous property; it is not only expressive in a general sense but affective in a precise way, clearly perceptible to the composer’s contemporaries.
In the mixed print issued in Antwerp by Susato in 1555 and often referred to as Lassus’s ‘op.1’, there are seven madrigals for four voices showing the composer’s grasp of the genre as a result of his Italian, particularly his Roman, years. His poetic tastes – a quatrain and a canzone stanza of Petrarch, an ottava by Ariosto, a Sannazaro poem and a pastoral in sestina (a form he particularly liked) – are typical of the period. Del freddo Rheno, a complete sestina rather in the style of the cyclic madrigals of Arcadelt and Berchem, opens the group on a note of simple tunefulness (this piece was popular with intabulators); in other madrigals the style varies from Willaert-like seriousness (Occhi piangete), through supple contrapuntal writing resembling Rore (Per pianto la mia carne), to the chordal declamation typical of the Roman madrigale arioso (Queste non son più lagrime). A certain clarity and succinctness of utterance are Lassus’s personal stamp; in other respects this collection is highly eclectic. These madrigals, together with a few others including the chanson-like Appariran per me le stell’in cielo, reappeared in Lassus’s first book of four-part madrigals, published by Dorico in Rome and then by Gardane in Venice, both in 1560. The strong resemblance of Lassus’s early madrigals to those of his contemporaries may be illustrated by the fact that one piece in this volume, Non vi vieto, credited to Lassus and included in Sandberger’s edition, is actually the work of Hoste da Reggio (if not a student work, written under the latter’s direction), part of a cycle in Hoste’s second book for four voices (1554). Lassus’s volume was a popular one, reprinted a dozen times over the next 30 years and supplying favourite materials for lutenists’ intabulations. Other early four-part madrigals appeared in Barrè’s Roman anthologies of madrigali ariosi.
Also highly successful, to judge by the frequency with which they were reprinted, were the first book for five voices, first issued by Gardane in Venice in 1555, and the second, printed by Barrè in Rome in 1557 after having long been held in private hands (so says the dedicatory letter of G.B. Bruno, who is known to have been in Rome in 1554). These madrigals and, in all probability, most of those in the third book for five voices (brought out by Barrè in Rome in 1563 after, says the publisher, a diligent search for works by Orlande) must have been written before Lassus’s departure from Rome in 1555. Petrarch dominates the first volume and is well represented in the others, with a six-section canzone cycle (Standomi un giorno) in a ‘narrative’, vibrantly declamatory style opening the second book.
The Petrarchan sonnets receive on the whole the most serious treatment, with sharply expressive thematic material in the tradition of Rore. Other forms such as the sestina, cyclic or in individual stanzas, are given lighter polyphonic dress; and the chordal declamation of the arioso madrigal may be seen (Bernardo Tasso’s Vostro fui vostro son). Some works, particularly a group near the end of the second book, are clearly in an easy, ‘popular’ style. Even the most ambitious Petrarchan settings, however, are marked by Lassus’s ever-present clarity of tonal palette and attractiveness of melody. These madrigals are distinguished by free use of material (there is little exact imitative writing) and by much variety of speed and character in declamation, despite the fact that the misura cromatica (?) is used in only a few pieces. They do not perhaps equal the work of Rore in intensity but they do rival the older master in variety of mood and seamless technical perfection – no mean achievement for a man in his twenties. The frequent choice of texts in which the word ‘lasso’ appears (in six pieces scattered through the three volumes), and the invariable la–sol setting it receives, suggest a youthful desire to ‘sign’ his works; Lassus as a young Roman clearly wanted the world to know who he was.
From the first decade in Munich come the contents of the fourth book for five voices, written to show, in the composer’s words, that the Muses were cherished and could flourish in ‘Germania’ as well as in Italy. Lassus visited Venice in May 1567; while there (when he was described in a letter as ‘lively and a good companion’) he saw to the printing of this fourth book, which he dedicated to Duke Alfonso II d’Este and then took to Ferrara to present to him. Lassus’s inclination towards the cyclic madrigal is again seen here; there is a complete sestina by Petrarch at the beginning, sonnets in two parts, and another sestina (Qual nemica fortuna oltra quest’ Alpe, on a text by Federico Asinari) that seems to combine local Ferrarese reference (the Po river) with a laboured geography-of-love image.
In 1585 Lassus was again in Italy; the dedication of his volume of five-part madrigals printed in Nuremberg in that year (1585c, reissued in Venice in 1587 as the Libro quinto) is to the great Veronese patron Mario Bevilacqua, whose ridotto the composer may have visited in 1582. Here serious Petrarchan texts alternate with religious sonnets by Gabriel Fiamma. In style these madrigals, separated from the fourth book by nearly 20 years, show definite awareness of the newer Italian madrigal: not that of the chromaticists but rather that of Marenzio, with brief contrast motifs, declamation on short note values and counterpoint that is chiefly figured chordal progressions (Io che l’età più verde is an example). Lassus’s older style is not completely absorbed by these novelties, and in a few pieces his earlier madrigals are recalled (the sestina Quando il giorno). How well he could write in a newer style is demonstrated by the amusing La non vol esser più mia (published 1584), a work in fully-fledged canzonetta idiom.
The madrigals for four, five and six voices dedicated to Lassus’s friend the physician Thomas Mermann (Nuremberg, 1587) show some of the traits seen in the volume of 1585 but are more varied in style, often suggesting the compression and individuality of his late motet style. In this volume a five-section religious cycle to text by Beccuti (‘il Copetta’), Signor le colpe mie, has been shown (by Boetticher) to be missing its first stanza, Di terrena armonia, a piece for some reason printed separately in Continuation du mellange issued by Le Roy & Ballard in 1584.
At the very end of his life Lassus set the 21 ottava stanzas of Tansillo’s Lagrime di S Pietro. This cycle of seven-voice spiritual madrigals is one of the most remarkable artistic testaments in the history of music. Deliberately restrained in mood and character, planned as a magnificent tonal arch covering the whole range of 16th-century sound, the work is at once musically unified and expressively varied. Lassus’s lifelong habits of concision and balance, subordinating vivid declamation and rhetorical power to inexorable musical clarity, are here given their definitive statement. The transcendentally synthetic quality of this music, blending styles as diverse as the Prophetiae Sibyllarum and the late madrigals, stands in the sharpest possible contrast to what was in other hands already becoming the drily academic stile antico.
Among Lassus’s most popular Italian-texted works are the six four-voice villanescas in the ‘op.1’ of 1555 (these pieces are often found in anthologies of lute intabulations) and the contents of the Libro de villanelle, moresche, et altre canzoni for four, five, six and eight voices (Paris, 1581), a volume said by the composer to have been written in his old age when he should have known better. The famous Matona mia cara may serve as an example of pieces to be found in this volume, although some of the other pieces are equally amusing. All are reworkings of older material, following the time-honoured principle of using pre-existing melodies in this genre; the most outrageous texts receive elegant if simple musical setting, in its own way a final statement about this sub-species of the madrigal.
Fewer in number than his madrigals, Lassus’s chansons, about 150 in all, are nonetheless considerable in bulk and, more importantly, highly characteristic of the composer, who never entirely left off being a Frenchman. He wrote a number of chansons in his youth and did not by any means stop when he moved to Munich; French was in common use at the court, and chansons of various types were evidently in demand from his patrons as well as from his publishers.
To judge by their dates of publication, Lassus wrote chansons from the 1550s into the 1580s; a greater proportion than of most other categories are early works. Just as the madrigals were brought out for the most part by Roman and Venetian printers, so the chansons were published chiefly in the Netherlands (Phalèse, Susato, Laet) and in Paris (Le Roy; Ballard, Du Chemin). Their wide popularity can be seen from the frequent reprints and from their appearance in print in Lyons, La Rochelle, Strasbourg and London (Vautrollier, 1570). Some of the later reprints bear the proud description of the composer as ‘Prince des musiciens de nostre temps’. The chansons were much in favour with keyboard, cittern and especially lute intabulators; the Theatrum musicum of Phalèse and Bellère is particularly rich in Lassus’s works. The English translation of Le Roy’s lute tutor (London, 1574) contains 11 chansons by Lassus. A very large number of chansons, including some of the bawdiest, were ‘spiritualized’ in French and German religious collections (Pasquier, 1576; Berg, 1582). The bulk of Lassus’s chanson output was collected in two volumes of ‘meslanges’ issued by Le Roy Ballard (1576b, 1584a). Of the chansons not included in these volumes or in the important Livre de chansons nouvelles issued by Le Roy; Ballard in Paris and Phalèse in Leuven in 1571 (1571g), some have not survived complete; among these are a set of religious chansons on texts by Guy du Faur de Pibrac, published in 1581. Fortunately two of these pieces, illustrating the sobriety of Lassus’s late chanson style, have been reassembled through the discovery of a set of manuscript parts in Edward Paston’s library.
Lassus turned to some of the most famous of 16th-century French poets for texts: Marot, Ronsard, Du Bellay and Baïf. The fact that he often set texts already known in musical settings is reflected in his occasional choice of Mellin de Saint-Gelais, a favourite poet among composers of the preceding generation, and also in his fondness for light verse from popular anthologies such as La fleur de poesie francoyse (1542). Occasional choice of much earlier poetry (Chartier, Villon) can also be seen. The subject matter ranges from dignified nature-poetry (Du Bellay) and Petrarchesque lyrics (Ronsard), through sententious and moralizing texts, to the familiar drinking-songs, some macaronic texts, and Rabelaisian amorous and bawdy narratives; no one wrote more amusing chansons of this last type (En un chasteau and Il esteoit une religieuse are excellent examples). There are also biblical and religious texts (the famous Susanne un jour, for example) – these apart from the contrafacta imposed by other hands on nearly all the secular chansons. There are a few real love-lyrics, some occasional pieces, and isolated soundings of familiar chanson-like themes such as ‘faulte d’argent’ (in Je suis quasi prest d’enrager).
In musical style the chansons are more varied than the usual blanket description given them – as either ‘Parisian’ patter chansons or motet-like serious pieces – would suggest. Lassus could and often did write chansons, usually light narratives or dialogues, in the classically clear and succinct style made popular in Attaingnant’s anthologies. How directly and economically he went about this can be seen in a work such as Un advocat dit à sa femme. These pieces are usually for four voices, but Lassus, who in all genres preferred five-part texture, could manage ‘Parisian’ style just as easily in five voices (La terre les eaux, for example). He could even write a piece that resembles, paradoxically, an instrumental canzona alla francese transcribed for voices (Si pour moy avez du souci). The light chansons are not always written in ‘Parisian’ fashion; the Italian patter style infecting so much of Lassus’s work in his middle years may also be seen here (there is one outright ‘villanelle’, to Baïf’s Une puce j’ay dedans l’oreill’).
Many chansons begin, as do so many of the lieder, with a contrapuntal exordium, sharply delineating the character of the piece through distinctive melodic shapes; then follow patter chords or lightweight texture in which short motifs are constantly thrown back and forth among the voices. Sometimes the music changes character with every flicker of meaning in the text, as in the setting of Marot’s Qui dort icy. The declamation in all the lively chansons is good; in some it is extraordinarily vivid – Marot’s Bon jour et puis quelles nouvelles is given a setting of such conversational immediacy that on hearing it all barriers separating us from the 16th century seem to drop away.
The more serious chansons resemble the reflective, affective madrigals of Rore and his successors more than they do motets. Chansons such as Le temps passé (with its ‘soupir’ figures), Mon coeur ravi d’amour and Comme la tourterelle (with its madrigalian chromaticism) are madrigals in all but their very Gallic declamatory diction. Use of madrigalian style is sometimes but not always influenced by the text; thus Ronsard’s J’espère et crains, with its laboured Petrarchan oxymorons, is given a quite restrained setting, while Vray dieu disoit une fillette, a very French text, is given such Italian touches as a long final pedal point. In a category by themselves are pieces such as La nuict froide et sombre (Du Bellay), set as an expansive, colouristic tone poem in style even though characteristically brief in actual duration.
German schoolmasters would not have picked chansons by Lassus as examples of rhetorical organization and affective power; the genre was not sufficiently grand. Many of the chansons would nevertheless make good examples of the musician as rhetorician; Marot’s Fleur de quinze ans, for instance, is in Lassus’s hands a seduction speech of extraordinarily tight organization and persuasive musical diction.
For Lassus, French by birth and Italian by musical training, composition in a German vein must have posed problems. He published no lieder until 1567; by that time he was surely fluent in setting German texts, enough for him to have written for private use, at the court, pieces Duke Albrecht liked too well to allow to circulate in print (preface to the 1567 collection). But the native tradition was very strong in Munich, where Senfl had worked until his death (1542–3); the song collections of Ott, Forster and others remained popular, and the need for new works was correspondingly less great during Lassus’s early years at the Bavarian court.
The lieder are few in number only by the standards of Lassus’s prolific output in other genres; if one counts the German psalms for three voices (1588) there are over 90 compositions, including several multipartite six-part sacred compositions larger in scale than most of the motets. Many of the secular pieces were famous in the composer’s time and are among his best-known works today (Audite nova, for example). The proportion of sacred pieces among the lieder is high, even without counting the volume of psalms; this suggests that the German collections were intended for a somewhat different audience from that of the madrigals and the chansons.
In the preface to the third book of five-part lieder (1576), Lassus contrasted the Italian and German styles, emphasizing (and defending) the roughness of the latter. He evidently tried to cultivate a specifically German style. The results were good, certainly; but his position in the history of the lied has been described (by Osthoff, 1938) as that of an innovator who discarded German tradition, that of the Tenorlied, in favour of a style mixing elements of the madrigal, the villanella and the chanson. This is true primarily of the secular lieder; the sacred works use traditional melodies in, on the whole, as strict an adherence to cantus-firmus writing as Lassus showed in any genre.
In some respects Lassus was conservative as a composer of lieder. He chose texts for the most part already known in sacred and secular songbooks (one exception is the setting of Hans Sachs’s Ein Körbelmacher in ein Dorff), and inclined towards folk-like ones. His German settings are rhythmically lively and correct in declamation, but not exaggeratedly so; nor are there experiments in chromaticism in the lieder. His preference for five-part texture (which he felt he had to justify as a novelty in the preface to the 1567 collection) was merely carrying over into the lieder a general preference typical of his generation.
The sacred lieder use texts and melodies common to Lutheran and Catholic songbooks with Luther’s Vater unser im Himmelreich opening the first collection (the Ulenberg psalm translations are, however, Catholic and even anti-Protestant in intent). The psalm settings range from the rather simple tricinia of the 1588 collection (where they alternate with similar settings by his son Rudolph) to the great six-part psalm-motets such as Ich ruff zu dir, using paraphrased and cantus-firmus versions of the borrowed melodies, in the French–German volume of 1590.
Among the secular texts chosen by Lassus are drinking-songs and lieder in which the bad effects of liquor are lamented (Mein Fraw hilgert); possibly the constantly expressed preference for wine over beer was a personal one. Comic rustic narrative encounters (Baur, was tregst im Sacke?) are among the most famous of the lieder. There are also melancholy and satirical pieces (Die zeit, so jetz vorhanden ist), some love-songs of narrative character, and a few songs of nature-love. The traditional vein of elegiac introspection seen in the lied from Hofhaimer to Senfl was on the whole avoided by Lassus.
Many lieder begin with an imitative exordium followed by lively patter. Relationships to the villanella and lighter madrigal may of course be seen (Lassus knew the celebrated German villanella collections of Regnart), and the presence of chanson-like rhythms is frequent. The combination is a natural and convincing one; Lassus did not so much break with German tradition as simply set texts in his own style, a somewhat eclectic one in every genre. In any event the triumphantly German character of the best lieder is proof enough that he mastered the lied in his own way.
Dutch composer, he was born in Namur, c1540 (?) and died in Prague, 15 July 1599). In his 1589 publication he stated that he was the son of ‘Hans Saletz von Namur’, and that he left ‘Belgia nostra’ because of the religious conflicts. There is no proof supporting the suggestion that he was a pupil of Lassus. After two unsuccessful attempts in 1579 and 1580 to obtain an appointment at the court chapel in Stuttgart, he served at the courts of Hechingen and Munich in 1580. By 1 November 1580 he was already employed as a tenor at the court chapel in Innsbruck, where he remained until 1587. From 1587 to 1591 he held the post of Kapellmeister at the collegiate foundation for ladies of noble families at Hall in Tirol. Subsequently he served from 1 May 1591 until his death as a tenor in the imperial court of Rudolf II at Prague under Philippe de Monte.
His compositions, many of which were published, are mainly sacred choral works; sacred and secular songs of his also appeared in printed collections published between 1585 and 1604. His importance lies largely in his writing of Mass Propers. His cyclic treatment of the introit, alleluia and communion, based on the plainsong cantus firmi, constitute, together with works by Johannes de Cleve, Christian Erbach and Johann Knöfel, the last great Renaissance collection of Mass Propers in Germany. Like Cleve, Sales adhered to strictly conservative principles and wrote much music in an intricate and richly polyphonic style. Like Cleve also he wrote simple ‘song’ masses. The Missa ‘Exultandi tempus est’ is such a work; it is in triple time throughout, and is based on the composer’s own chanson motet of the same name, which has melodic links with the Christmas song Resonet in laudibus. Both the model and the mass contain directions setting out the ways in which the versicles are to be divided between the performers. The pastoral mass, of which this is an early example, later became very popular.
Hellmut Federhofer/Rudolf Flotzinger
Was born in Ypres, 1531 (or 1532) and died in Prague, 7 January 1591. Was a Flemish composer and organist, active in Italy, Germany and elsewhere. He was one of the last important composers of the Netherlandish school.
Kerle probably received his early education at the monastery of St Martin at Ypres, where he may well have been introduced to music by Gilles Bracquet. He was a singer at Cambrai Cathedral from September 1548 until c1550 and afterwards in Orvieto, where he was employed as magister capellae in charge of the boys' choir; soon after, he became cathedral organist and the town carillonnew. He later took holy orders, probably in Italy. In summer 1561 he stayed for two or three months in Venice while his psalms and Magnificat settings were being printed. After his return to Orvieto in September or October he met Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, Bishop of Augsburg, who had been staying in Rome since 1559 and who was later to play an important part in the reform of church music. He commissioned Kerle to write the Preces speciales for the Council of Trent, and Kerle composed this work between autumn 1561 and the beginning of February 1562. At the end of February he left for Rome, where he became director of the cardinal’s private chapel, although he had not yet visited Augsburg. Between August 1563 and May 1564 he travelled through northern Italy to Barcelona in the retinue of Cardinal Otto, who was taking the imperial princes Rudolf and Ernst to the Spanish court. Though he twice visited Trent on the journey, he took no part in the Council’s deliberations. In mid-May the ten singers of the cardinal’s chapel arrived at Dillingen. They performed on various festive occasions until the cardinal had to disband them ‘because of debts’ at the end of May 1565. Kerle then seems to have made for his homeland and on 22 December he was appointed director of music at Ypres Cathedral. He may not have stayed long here, since on 13 August 1566 a ‘Jacobus Kerle’ matriculated at the University of Dillingen, which had been founded by Cardinal Otto. Early in 1567, however, Kerle was certainly back at Ypres (if indeed he had left at all). At the beginning of April he was excommunicated and dismissed from his post there after an affray with another priest and a dispute with the chapter. He then moved to Rome with the idea of having the sentence of excommunication repealed, possibly after first going to Germany, where he may have stayed briefly at Munich.
In Rome in summer 1568 Kerle again met Cardinal Otto, who appointed him a member of the chapter of Augsburg Cathedral. It was probably on Otto’s recommendation that he had composed a motet for the wedding celebrations of Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria and Renée of Lorraine, which had taken place in late February and early March. On 18 August 1568 he was appointed vicar-choral at Augsburg and shortly afterwards organist of the cathedral. His six years or so at Augsburg were the most settled and productive of his life. In summer 1571 he was given one of the cathedral’s highest salaries, but when the aged Kapellmeister, Anton Span, retired in 1574 his position went not to Kerle but to his colleague Bernhard Klingenstein, and Kerle exchanged his Augsburg prebend for one at Cambrai, which he held from 1575 to 1587. At the same time he applied to Prince Eberhard von Stain, the abbot of Kempten (Bavaria), for a new post and in doing so was supported by the abbot of Weingarten, with whom he had spent some weeks in 1572. At the beginning of June 1575 he left Augsburg, but it is not known if he in fact spent the ensuing years at Kempten or whether he went elsewhere. In March 1579 he became a member of the chapter of Cambrai Cathedral. After a short time an outbreak of war forced him to leave, and after staying for a time at Mons he became Kapellmeister to Gebhard Truchsess von Waldburg, the Archbishop and Elector of Cologne, early in 1582. Within a few months, however, in September, he moved yet again and entered the emperor’s service at Augsburg. In October he joined the court chapel in Vienna, and in the spring of 1583 he settled in Prague, where he remained until his death. After losing his canonry at Cambrai he was made an honorary ‘chantre’ in the Mons choir in July 1587, and from the autumn of that year until spring 1588 he was also a canon of the collegiate foundation of the Heilige Kreuz at Breslau. As chaplain of the emperor’s court chapel he now had little to do with the choir or with church music, and almost none of his music dates from his last years.
Kerle’s music combines Flemish polyphony of the post-Josquin generation with an Italian clarity deriving from the Roman school. It is basically polyphonic, and he made only sparing, though effective, use of homophony and chromaticism. His works are characterized by formal symmetry, smooth melodic lines and an avoidance of emotionalism, dramatic gesture or experimentation. In character they lie somewhere between those of Palestrina and Lassus, and a few of them are worthy to stand beside the works of these two composers.
As early as his first three publications Kerle seems to have anticipated the Roman polyphonic style. They contain liturgical compositions, in which the personal element is subservient to the demands of the liturgy. The basically polyphonic textures are relieved here and there by short sections of homophony, and the tightly knit contrapuntal structures are very much in the Flemish tradition. Roman influences are nonetheless evident from time to time, in more freely developed points of imitation and in a more subjective approach to the text. The Magnificat settings, which are similar in style to the hymns and psalms, though longer and more solemn, show specially well how far Kerle had assimilated the Roman style and how skilfully he was able to combine it with the Flemish style. The Preces speciales comprises settings of prayers arranged in the form of responsories and ends with a doxology and a Kyrie. As stated above, Kerle wrote this collection for the Council of Trent, and the prayers ask for blessing, for the successful continuation and outcome of the Council and for the reconciliation of the Christian Church and an end to religious wars. They are remarkable for the careful treatment of the texts and the economy of musical means, Kerle’s aim being to secure maximum audibility of the words. The prayers were often performed at Trent and were spoken of as ‘edifying and suitable for the time’. They were widely approved and did much to influence the future course of polyphonic church music: according to Ursprung, it is more appropriate to call Kerle, rather than Palestrina, the ‘saviour of church music’.
Kerle’s other sacred works include the early, old-fashioned masses and the very different Missa Regina, which is similar in style to the Preces and is seen by Ursprung as the very first ‘post-Tridentine’ mass; responsories and hymns, in which he incorporated homophony and chromaticism and in which short note values show madrigalian influence; and motets, which display great variety of form and a wide range of sonorities. His few extant secular works are of little importance.
Was born Antwerp, 1547 and died in Madrid, 27 August 1586. Flemish composer, active in Spain. He received his early musical training under Antoine Barbé at the church of Our Lady in Antwerp. It is also possible that he spent some time as a choirboy at the collegiate church at Soignies. In 1560 he was among a group of choirboys who went from the Low Countries to Madrid to serve in the chapel of Philip II, then under the direction of Pierre de Manchicourt. From the preface to his Octo missae, we know that La Hèle remained in the service of the king for ten years at this time. Towards the end of this period, possibly for three or four years, he was enrolled in the University of Alcalá, while continuing to have his name inscribed in the roster of the choir in order to receive its benefits. In 1570 La Hèle returned to the Low Countries to study at the University of Leuven, probably reading theology. While never fully ordained a priest, there is evidence that he received minor orders before discontinuing his theological studies.
La Hèle became choirmaster at St Rombouts in Mechelen in 1572, and about 1574 went to the cathedral at Tournai in a similar capacity. In 1576 he won two prizes for his compositions at a contest in honour of St Cecilia at Évreux. He was awarded second prize, a golden ring adorned with a silver harp, for the motet Nonne Deo subiecta erit anima mea; and also gained third prize, a golden ring ornamented with a silver lute, for his chanson Mais voyez mon cher esmoy. In 1578 Christopher Plantin of Antwerp printed the composer's most important work, his Octo missae.
Philip II designated La Hèle master of the royal chapel on 15 September 1580. However, despite numerous efforts by the king to hasten his journey to Madrid, La Hèle does not seem to have arrived there until over a year and a half after this appointment. He was much concerned with the condition of the musical repertory he found at the chapel, and greatly enlarged it with music by Clemens non Papa, Palestrina, Guerrero, Morales and Manchicourt, as well as with some of his own works. In 1585 Philip II travelled to Zaragoza for the marriage of his daughter Catherine with Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy. La Hèle wrote a highly successful motet for this occasion. On this same journey, while at Monzón, he conducted a festival performance in which the choir of his own chapel and those from Castile, Aragon and Portugal sang.
Because he had received minor orders, La Hèle was eligible to hold ecclesiastical benefices. Philip II liberally provided him with several throughout his life. However, La Hèle lost all of these through his marriage, which seems to have taken place shortly before he died, probably during his final illness. On 16 June 1586 he made a will which contains the only mention of his wife, formerly Madelena Guabaelaraoen, who was appointed an executor. He died on 27 August 1586 in the parish of St Nicholas in Madrid.
George de La Hèle's Octo missae was the first of Christopher Plantin's few music printings. For its publication Plantin had an elaborate frontispiece specially engraved, which later served for his other music publications. The music fount used was also specially prepared. For the first letter of the text at the beginning of each part of each mass, majuscules were employed which had originally been intended for an antiphoner, commissioned by Philip II but never printed. The high-quality paper on which these eight masses were printed had also been purchased for this antiphoner. The beautiful workmanship of the Plantin press on the Octo missae makes it a model of printing artistry for the period. The work was published in choirbook format, its actual size being 54 cm by 38 cm. The retail selling price of the volume was an expensive 18 florins, and by the terms of the printing contract La Hèle was required to purchase 40 copies at a reduced price. The account books of Plantin show that the publication sold well, and many copies survive today. La Hèle's Octo missae comprises the masses on Benedicta es coelorum regina (7vv), Fremuit spiritus Jesu (6vv), Gustate et videte (5vv), In convertendo Dominus (5vv), Nigra sum sed formosa (5vv), Oculi omnium in te sperant Domine (5vv), Praeter rerum seriem (7vv) and Quare tristis es (6vv). The first and seventh are based on motets by Josquin; the second, third, sixth and eighth on motets by Lassus; the fourth on the motet by Rore and the fifth on the motet by Crecquillon. La Hèle's motet Asperges me precedes the masses in this collection.
La Hèle's skill as a composer is best demonstrated through the parody technique of his masses. Melodic, harmonic and rhythmic elements from the polyphonic model are ingeniously reworked, in both easily recognizable and cleverly disguised variations, in such a way as to elevate the contrapuntal level of the original. La Hèle drew only on motets, avoiding secular models as inappropriate to the divine service. All his models were composed by established composers.
The Octo missae and the one motet and one chanson previously mentioned are the only extant works of George de La Hèle. That he did write others is verified by the lists of music copied into the repertory of the royal chapel of Philip II. The lists for 1585 contain a Credo (8vv); a motet In illo tempore (8vv); a Kyrie for Paschal time (5vv); a Kyrie for Paschal time (6vv); two Passion settings (both 4vv); a Lamentatio Jeremie (5vv); another for eight voices; the motet Domine tu mihi lavas pedes (8vv); and Egredientum (4vv); all by La Hèle. Presumably these, and probably more of his works, were lost when the library of the royal chapel was burnt in 1734.
Lavern J. Wagner