In the fall of 1556, when he was about 26 years old, Orlande de Lassus (also Orlando di Lasso, Roland de Lassus, Orlandus Lassus) was hired as a tenor in the court of Albrecht V, Duke of Bavaria. Lassus, originally from Mons, had already travelled in France and Italy as a member of Ferrante Gonzaga's chapel choir, and worked in Rome as maestro di cappella of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran when it was serving as the mother church of the capital of Catholicism while Saint Peter's Basilica was being rebuilt. Albrecht V wanted his musical establishment to be a prestigious one; during its good years it numbered as many as 90 singers and instrumentalists. Lassus' genius and capacity for work were soon noticed. In 1563, he succeeded Ludwig Daser as maestro di cappella and, for the rest of his life, apart from numerous trips to recruit singers and instrumentalists, remained in this post.
As maestro di cappella, Lassus' tasks included supplying music for regular ceremonies, such as masses and motets to be performed by small ensembles at morning offices, as well as for extraordinary celebrations, such as feasts, commemorations, receptions, and princely visits. He directed, trained the children of the choir and the musicians, composed, and prepared scores. Generously endowed with resources and richly rewarded, he became the absolute king of all things musical, a genius whose fame spread throughout Europe – he was known as "The Divine Orlande –, and a prolific composer. He only wrote vocal music, and did so in a large number of languages and genres, and in all the styles and forms of his day.
After Duke Albrecht died in 1579 and was succeeded by his son Wilhelm V, the court began to experience growing financial difficulties and its mood turned austere. Wilhelm became pious, and decided the chapel should follow the reforms decreed by the Council of Trent, including the constraints on musicians. Lassus gradually retired, delegating certain tasks to his son Ferdinand and to his assistant Jehan Fossa. His final years were marked by an increase in his mood swings, from euphoria to deep depression and religious melancholy. Some believe he suffered from manic depression, now known as bipolar disorder. Several years after a serious health crisis, probably a stroke, and agonizing over his salvation, he died in 1594.
In the domain of sacred music, Lassus' motets are more original than his masses. The maestro took great care in choosing texts to set, and reflected their rhetoric with perfect conviction in his music. He poured out fresh ideas, managed polyphonic procedures with unmatched ease, and showed an original and generous sense of melody. Sometimes austere, sometimes exuberant, he demonstrated great contrapuntal fluidity while leaving room for declamatory episodes; depicted the sense of words, but never to the detriment of the general idea; and sometimes used two choirs in dialogue.
Published in Paris in 1573 in the Moduli 6, 7 & 12 vocum and dedicated to Jacques Amyot, bishop of Auxerre and a great humanist, the motet Laudate Dominum omnes gentes for 12 voices combines very diverse treatments for various combinations of four to twelve voices, with only rare use of powerful tutti with all the singers. This work was included in the Magnum opus musicum, a huge collection of previously unpublished works by Lassus which the composer's son printed posthumously in Munich in 1604.
In February 1568, the marriage of Prince Willem, then 19 years old, to Renée de Lorraine was celebrated in Munich. Some of the works composed for this occasion have come down to us, for they were published in that same year in Nuremberg in Selectissimæ cantiones. The six-voice Te Deum, possibly accompanied by instruments colla parte, was surely sung during the ceremony itself. It is structured for alternatim performance; the odd-numbered verses are in plainchant – which would have been sung, at that time, by celebrants – while the even-numbered verses are set in a polyphonic version to be sung by the choir. An Italian traveler passing through Munich recorded details of Duke Willem's celebratory wedding banquet. At the moment of the entry of, among other dishes, three (false) ships full of foods symbolizing the three ages of man, an instrumental version of a six-voice motet rang out, played by a group of cornettos and sackbuts. They were probably playing the Laudate Dominum, quoniam bonus, the carefully crafted structure of which includes what Charles Van den Borren calls "effects of massed voices and lyrical accents of incomparable musical richness".
Secular genres, in which Lassus was equally skillful, sometimes influenced his motet writing. The Domine, Dominus noster for six voices, first published in Paris in the Moduli 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9 vocum, adopts the style of the villanelle with its short note values, homophonic texture, marked rhythms, and repeated notes. These features clearly helped make this vigorous, simple, and powerful song of praise one of the composer's most popular works, judging from the number of its copies and editions.
Lassus sometimes used polychorality, especially to distinguish the protagonists when the text contained some form of dialogue. The motet Dixit Martha ad Jesum for nine voices, which was also published in 1577 in the Moduli and possibly was composed for the funeral service of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II in Ratisbonne, uses a dramatic two-choir effect. Two groups, of four and five voices, alternate questions and answers until they join in the final tutti. This responsorial form is also found in the Mira loquor sed digna fide for 10 voices; it was published in the 1604 Magnum opus, but there is a manuscript of it dated 1577. Subtitled Epitaphium divi Bernardi, it sets a dialogue between a living person and Saint Bernard de Clairvaux, who is lying in his tomb while enjoying real life at the side of his Creator. As Annie Coeurdevey puts it, after a number of questions, which the saint answers in an increasingly lower register, "the last response fuses the two groups in a stunning masterpiece of counterpoint for ten real voices". In the motet Omnia tempus habent for eight voices, published in Munich in 1585 in the Cantica sacra, two four-voice groups (one for high voices, one for low voices) illustrate the text's description of binary oppositions between the different stages of life.
The 30 compositions in the last book of motets planned by Lassus, the Cantiones sacræ 6 vocum, published in Graz in 1594 and dedicated to the Archbishop of Augsbourg, are, as Lassus explained in his preface, linked by a common theme: death. The six-voice motet Ad Dominum cum tribularer is notable for its musical imagery, such as the octave jumps on "clamavi". According to Van den Borren, the work appears as "a mosaic of short motifs picturesquely evoking the images suggested by the text; thus, at ‘sagittae potentis’, a tangle of crossing and recrossing musical lines depicts a lacerating flight of arrows".
The last piece of this same collection and a kind of testament by the master, the secular six-voice motet Musica, Dei donum optimi is, according to Coeurdevey, "an admirable love song to music, an expression of the connection forged between sacred and secular art, and between Christian and pagan". Using a text that other Flemish masters had already set, Lassus revisits the myth of Orpheus and sings the praises of music, which can move the very trees and beasts. Despite its brevity, the motet is elaborate in structure, with careful balances struck between note values, the number of syllables in each section, and the returns of the beautiful theme which opens the work on the word "Musica".
The following four works were all published in the Magnum opus of 1604.The motet Aurora lucis rutilat for 10 voices was written for Easter Sunday. Van den Borren deems it "a piece of the first order, in which the lyricism of the text is rendered with splendor, luminous colors, intense movement, and an exceptional sense of variety". In the Beatus Nicolaus for eight voices, written between 1570 and 1580, bold and complex counterpoint contrasts with rich tutti. Finally, two pieces for eight voices in two choirs, Venetian style: Bone Jesu, and a serene hymn to the Virgin, Alma Redemptoris Mater.
Source: François Filiatrault, 2016 (CD Booklet)
Orlando di Lasso (1532-1594)
♪ Laudate Dominum
1. Laudate Dominum omnes (for 12 voices)
2. Bone Jesu, verbum Patris (for 8 voices in 2 choirs)
3. Ad Dominum cum tribularer (for 6 voices)
4. Te Deum laudamus (for 6 voices)
5. Dixit Martha ad Jesum (for 9 voices in 2 choirs)
6. Mira loquor sed digna fide (for 10 voices in 2 choirs)
7. Domine, Dominus noster (for 6 voices)
8. Alma Redemptoris Mater (for 8 voices in 2 choirs)
9. Beatus Nicolaus (for 8 voices)
10. Omnia tempus habent (for 8 voices in 2 choirs)
11. Laudate Dominum, quoniam (for 7 voices)
12. Musica, Dei donum optimi (for 6 voices)
13. Aurora lucis rutilat (for 10 voices)
Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal
Chapelle du Grand Séminaire, Montréal, Québec, Canada, June 2016
ATMA Classique 2017
Cover photo: istockimages (Faithful in the waters of the Ganges)
(HD 1080p – Audio video)
Praised for its "rich-textured, vibrant sound" and "hypnotic beauty", the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal has established a reputation as Montréal's finest early music vocal ensemble. Composed of 12 to 18 singers chosen for the remarkable clarity and purity of their voices, the choir is often accompanied with period instrument to perform Renaissance and Baroque choral masterpieces.
Founded in 1974 by the organist and harpsichordist Christopher Jackson, and today conducted by the Artistic Director Andrew McAnerney, the Studio has brought more than 800 Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces before the public, and continues to reveal and share the vitality, sensuality, and emotional depth of early music. The ensemble's concert series is a highlight of Montréal's cultural and ranks as an integral part of the city's lively baroque scene. Flowering from Montreal's fertile early music scene in the early 1970s, the Studio was a pioneer ensemble in the North American period music movement.
Andrew McAnerney was appointed artistic director of the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal in 2015. Laudate dominum is his début CD with the ensemble.
Andrew McAnerney was raised in the British choral tradition and studied music at the University of Oxford (Magdalen College). He has enjoyed a varied career as a conductor, consort singer, soloist and arranger. Since moving to Canada in 2013, Andrew has worked with a range of professional choirs and orchestras including Ensemble Caprice, Chamber Players of Canada, Elora Festival Singers, Choeur Louisbourg, and La Rose des Vents.
A former Tallis Scholar, Andrew McAnerney has performed with many of Europe's finest early music ensembles and is credited on over 50 recordings including the music of Bach, Brumel, Clemens non Papa, Crequillon, Gombert, Handel, Lassus, Lotti, Morales, Moulu, Mozart, Palestrina, Phinot, Purcell and Rore.
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