Orlande de Lassus


Born in Mons, Hainaut (now in Belgium), Orlande de Lassus sang from an early age.  According to legend, he was abducted three times for his beautiful voice, but the earliest firm record we have of him is that from the age of 12 he sang for Ferrante Gonzaga, a general of Charles V.  With Gonzaga he travelled to the court of Mantua, then on to Sicily and Milan.  While in Gonzaga's service he would probably have met many prominent musicians of the time - writers of madrigals and church music from whom he might have learned his trade.

Beginning to compose while in Naples, Lassus travelled to Rome, working for the Archbishop of Florence before being appointed maestro di cappella at St John Lateran in 1553 - two years later, Giovanni Perluigi da Palestrina  was to take over the post.  Such a post would not have been attainable without a significant reputation, so by this point Lassus must have established himself as a composer.  Receiving word that his parents were gravely ill, Lassus left Rome but arrived too late and found them dead.  By 1555 he had travelled to Antwerp and met Tylman Susato, who published a collection of his motets, madrigals and other works the following year.

On the invitation of Duke Albrecht V, Lassus accepted a post at the court of Bavaria in Munich.  Although he was well paid, official documents still list him primarily as a singer even though in 1563 he was appointed head of the chapel.  For 30 years he was based in Munich, marrying and starting a family alongside supervising the musical education of the choirboys.  Possibly due to a request from the Duke, he collected and catalogued his own work, aiding its promulgation by many publishers.  Lassus' reputation grew, and he was awarded many honours not normally given to musicians, such as being made a Knight of the Golden Spur in 1574 by Pope Gregory XIII.  He travelled occasionally, and it is possible he gave tuition to Giovanni Gabrieli .

Lassus' mass settings are frequently based on motets (normally his own), chansons or madrigals; as such, they are known as 'parody' masses, a term which does not serve to detract from their status as masterpieces of Renaissance polyphony.  Even these are eclipsed by his motets, which number in the hundreds and display a huge variety of structures and textures.

- MIDI FILE - “O che il mio largo pianto” (1’25’’)

- MIDI FILE -"Salve Regina" (2'16'')

- MIDI FILE - "Tristis est anima mea" (3'00'')

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