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Lasso, Orlando di (1532–1595)

Lasso, Orlando di (15321595)

Composer born in Mons, in the county of Hainaut, a city of the Low Countries then under the rule of Spain. A tradition says that Lasso was kidnapped several times as a boy for his beautiful singing voice. At the age of twelve, he traveled to Italy, where he worked at the Gonzaga court in Mantua and also studied composition in Milan and Naples. In the 1550s he worked in Rome, first in the service of Cosimo de' Medici and then as choirmaster of the Basilica of San Giovanni di Laterano. He returned to the Low Countries after this engagement and was hired by Albrecht V, the duke of Bavaria. By this time his compositions were known throughout Europe, and he was considered the finest musician and composer to come from the Low Countries. Lasso was appointed kapellmeister by Albrecht V, and he would serve in this post at the ducal court in Munich, Bavaria, for the rest of his life. His fame attracted many young musicians to Bavaria to study with him; Pope Gregory XIII knighted him and Emperor Maximilian II rewarded him with a title of nobility. Although many kings invited him to their courts, he preferred the Bavarian court, where he remained the unquestioned master of a dedicated group of singers and instrumentalists. He was expected to write music for special occasions and ceremonies, train young singers for performance in the choir, and compose settings of the Mass. The duke granted Lasso a lifetime appointment, as well as a generous budget for performances, instruments, and musicians, and the Bavarian court became a bustling center of music during the late Renaissance.

Lasso was a master of many different musical forms, including sacred masses, hymns, and motets, as well as secular madrigals and chansons (songs) written in Latin, Italian, French, and German. He set the poetry of the Italian writers Petrarch and Ludovico Ariosto to music, as well as a verse from the ancient Roman author Virgil. One of his songs was included by William Shakespeare in the play Henry IV, Part II. Lasso wrote four passionsa capella (voice only) settings of the four evangelical books of the New Testamentthat combine plainsong chant (single-line melodies) with passages of multivoiced polyphony, of which Lasso is still considered the absolute master of all Renaissance composers. He wrote in the many different musical styles and forms that he encountered on his extensive travels. Some of his music includes daring harmonies and strange chromatic melodies that were unknown among other Renaissance composers (with the exception of Carlo Gesualdo). All of his music was written for voice and, as far as music historians know, he wrote no purely instrumental music at all. He published hundreds of his own compositions during his lifetime, a rare achievement for any Renaissance composer. Many of his sixty masses were based on secular compositions, including bawdy popular songs, that he adapted for the traditional Latin text of the Catholic Mass. His last work, the Tears of St. Peter, was a group of twenty-one madrigals, and remains his most famous work.

See Also: Gesualdo, Carlo; music; Palestrina, Giovanni

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Lasso, Orlando di

Orlando di Lasso (ōrlän´dō dē läs´sō), 1532–94, Franco-Flemish composer, b. Mons, also known as Orlandus Lassus or Roland de Lassus. Lasso represents the culmination of Renaissance musical art. At age 12, he entered the service of Ferrante Gonzaga, viceroy of Sicily. Thereafter, he worked variously in Naples (1550–53), Rome (1553–54), and Munich (1556–94). In 1570 he was raised to a hereditary rank of nobility by Emperor Maximilian II, and in 1574 he became one of the very few musicians to receive a papal knighthood. Lasso brought Flemish polyphony to its highest development in the Renaissance and distilled in his music the best elements of European music of his time. His more than 2,000 works in every form known to his day—masses, motets, French chansons, Italian madrigals, German lieder, and others—make him one of the most versatile and cosmopolitan composers in history. In contrast to the restrained mystical style of Palestrina, Lasso's music is vigorous, often passionate and earthy. Many of his love songs were set to poems by Petrarch and other poets. Undisputed master of the motet, he showed his skill at its richest in the Magnum opus musicum (pub. 1604), a selection of 516 sacred motets. His best-known works are his Penitential Psalms of David (c.1560; pub. 1584) and his last work, Lagrime di San Pietro (1594), completed three weeks before he died.

See A. Einstein, The Italian Madrigal (1949); G. Reese, Music in the Renaissance (2d ed. 1961); and studies by W. Boettiches (1958) and H. Leuchtmann (1976).

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Lassus, Orlande (Roland) de

Lassus, Orlande (Roland) de [It. Orlando di Lasso] (b Mons, 1532; d Munich, 1594). Flemish composer. In boyhood and youth travelled in Sicily and Italy in service of various aristocrats. Choirmaster, St John Lateran, Rome, 1553–4. Returned to Flanders, settling in Antwerp. Pubd. first vol. of madrigals, motets, and chansons, 1556. Entered service of Duke of Bavaria at court in Munich, 1556, becoming Kapellmeister 1563, the year he began his 7 Penitential Psalms (1563–70). Wrote nearly 2,000 works, mainly motets, madrigals, masses, canzonas, chansons, and psalms. Ranked with Palestrina and Victoria as among supreme masters of 16th-cent. polyphonic art. Complete catalogue of works pubd. Berlin 1956 (ed. W. Boettcher).

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Lasso, Orlando di

Lasso, Orlando di (1532–94) Flemish composer of madrigals, masses, and motets. He was famous throughout Europe, and is ranked with Palestrina as one of the greatest composers of the late 16th century. He was a prolific composer and wrote more than 2000 pieces in all genres.

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Lasso, Orlando di

Lasso, Orlando di. See Lassus, Orlande de.

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