Lasso, Orlando di ca. 1530–1594 Flemish Composer

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Lasso, Orlando di
ca. 1530–1594
Flemish composer

One of the most admired composers of the Renaissance, Orlando di Lasso was the first great composer whose fame spread through printed music. A master of many musical forms, Lasso wrote more than 1,000 compositions ranging from religious Masses to secular* songs.

Lasso grew up in the Flemish* town of Mons and received his earliest musical training there. His original name was probably Roland de Lassus. As a boy he was kidnapped three times for his beautiful voice. Between 1544 and 1554 Lasso traveled through Italy, staying in Milan, Naples, and Rome, where he became choirmaster of a major church. His years in Italy played a crucial role in his musical development, so much so that he permanently changed his name to its Italian version.

Lasso returned home in 1554 to find that his parents had died. He then moved to Antwerp, where he lived until 1556. He left when the duke of Bavaria hired him to sing in the court chapel. The duke named him head of his chapel in Munich, one of Europe's leading musical establishments, in 1562. Lasso held the position for the remainder of his life, becoming the most famous and admired composer in Europe during his time. Critics hailed him as the "prince of music" and "the divine Orlando."

Lasso excelled in all types of vocal music of his day. His work included more than 500 motets (songs written for several voices), about 60 Masses, and hundreds of other musical works. While he set most of his compositions to sacred texts, some celebrated secular occasions or individuals. The most essential aspect of Lasso's music was his ability to express the meaning of the words in a song through rhythm, melody, harmony, and other musical elements.

(See alsoMusic; Music, Vocal. )

* secular

nonreligious; connected with everyday life

* Flemish

relating to Flanders, a region along the coasts of present-day Belgium, France, and the Netherlands