Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Orlando de Lassus: The Boy With the Beautiful Voice

Historical Period: Renaissance
Nationality: Belgium
Born: c. 1532
Died: June 14, 1594
Major Works: Resonet in Laudibus, Psalmi Davidis Poenitentiales, 530 motets, more than 60 masses

What's Happening in History?

In the 1500s England was a powerful country. Henry VIII, who was the king, has divorced his wife and taken over control of the church of England. The big change for England to not be a part of the Catholic Church any longer was a part of a big movement in Europe call "The Reformation." Reformers like John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Luther, and Menno Simons are spreading new ideas about the gospel through Europe. On the political side of things, Machiavelli is writing "The Prince", discussing the possibility of utopia, a perfect world. On the side of music there were some very creative man that composed extraordinary music for the churches and the courts. 


In every period of history there always men and women that "stand out." Orlando de Lassus (or Roland de Lassus) is one of the "big three" Renaissance composers, along with William Byrd and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.  

Orlando de Lassus, born in the Habsburg Netherlands, is one of the major composers of this time period to use the polyphonic (Latin for "many voices") style, which consists of many voices singing together in harmony. Some people consider Lassus as one of the most versatile and prolific composers of his time. He wrote many masses for the Catholic church in this style, as well as secular madrigals, French chansons, and German lieder. He was a specialist in taking popular songs or works by other composers and putting them into his own music. His masses and other music for the church are hauntingly beautiful. Keep in mind that at this time it was dangerous to be Catholic in certain parts of Europe with the Reformation taking place, but di Lasso remained Catholic through all the religious tumult.

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