Lasso, Orlando di

views updated May 29 2018


Distinguished Renaissance polyphonist of the Franco-Flemish tradition; b. Mons (Hainaut), Flanders, 1530 or 1532 (evidence favors 1532); d. Munich, June 14, 1594. The original name was probably Roland de Lassus, Latinized as Orlandus Lassus, but the composer himself preferred the Italian form. After being choirboy at St. Nicholas in Mons, at age 12 he was brought to the court at Palermo and later to Milan by Ferdinand Gonzaga, Viceroy of Sicily. From 18 to 21 he was in the service of the Marquis of Terza at Naples, and in 1553 was appointed choirmaster at St. John Lateran in Rome, which position he held for a little more than a year. At that time he must have become acquainted with palestrina, then choirmaster at the Julian Chapel and in 1555 Lasso's successor at the Lateran. After visits to England and France, he spent two years (155556) in Antwerp supervising the first publication of his works, a collection of madrigals, chansons, and motels that display remarkable versatility and accomplishment. Called to the Bavarian court of Albert V at Munich in 1556, he served in the ducal chapel as a tenor singer and then, after 1563, as chapelmaster. In 1558 he married Regina Wäckinger, who gave him four sons and two daughters. He was knighted in 1570 by Maximilian II, and in 1574 by Pope Gregory XIII. That same year he was offered a post at the French court by Charles IX, but the offer was quickly voided by the king's death later that year. Among Lasso's Munich pupils was Giovanni gabrieli, who served and studied under him from 1575 to 1579. Lasso's later years were darkened by ill health and melancholia.

Lasso was one of the most prolific of major composers. Of some 1,250 known works, his most important are the motets, which constitute about half the total and rank him, along with Josquin desprez and Palestrina, among the greatest Renaissance masters. He also composed over 50 Masses, more than 100 Magnificats, four Passions, and a wide variety of liturgical pieces. His hundreds of Italian, French, and German songs include many excellent examples of their kind. Lasso's style is rooted in the expressive, firmly wrought polyphony of his older countrymen, Desprez and Jacobus clemens non papa. It appears fully matured in his Primo Libro de Motetti (Antwerp 1555), wherein not only his mastery of imitative polyphony for five and six voices is displayed, but also a remarkable sensitivity to the text and ability to express it through music. Influence of the chromatic experiments of rore and vicentino is revealed in the early Prophetiae Sibyllarum. His style is identified with musica reservata (music "reserved" for the understanding of connoisseurs) by his humanist friend Samuel Quickelberg in commenting on the composer's monumental cycle of penitential psalms. On the whole, Lasso's music is more harmonically oriented than Palestrina's, and is more apt to display dramatic and extraordinary effects that anticipate the baroque idiom.

Most of Lasso's Masses are parodies based on motets, madrigals, and chansons by himself and others. His Masses, unlike his motets, cannot compare with Palestrina's for richness of invention and spiritual power. As Lasso aged, the exuberance and harmonic color of his earlier work gave way to a more austere, somber style "affording a profounder pleasure to the mind and ear," as he wrote in the preface to his last motet collection (1593). His final work, the cycle of spiritual madrigals Lagrime di S. Pietro (1595), illustrates the introspection of his late style. In 1604 Lasso's sons, Rudolph and Ferdinand, brought out virtually the entire corpus of his motets as the Magnus opus musicum. This served as the basis for the Sämtliche Werke of which 21 of a projected 60 volumes were published.

See Also: liturgical music, history of, 4

Bibliography: Sämtliche Werke, ed. f. x. haberl and a. sandberger, 21 v. (Leipzig 18941926), motets and most of the secular music; Neue Reihe (new ed. Kassel 196164), 4 v. to date, containing miscellaneous motets and secular pieces, the 4 Passions, and 17 Masses; Septem Psalmi poenitentiales, ed. h. bÄuerle (Leipzig 1906); Lagrime di S. Pietro, ed. h. j. therstappen, in Das Chorwerk, ed. f. blume, 34, 37, 41 (Wolfenbüttel 1936); Prophetiae Sibyllarum (ibid.) 48 (1937); Musica Sacra, ed. f. commer, v. 512 (Regensburg 183987), Masses and liturgical pieces. w. boetticher, Orlando di Lasso und seine Zeit, 15321594 (Kassel 1958); Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949) 8:251292. e. lowinsky, Das Antwerpener Motettenbuch Orlando di Lasso's (The Hague 1937). j. r. milne, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom, 9 v. (5th ed. London 1954) 5: 5982. g. reese, Music in the Renaissance (rev. ed. New York 1959). d. crook, Orlando di Lasso's Imitation Magnificats for Counter-Reformation Munich (Princeton, N.J. 1994). r. freedman, "The Lassus Chansons and Their Protestant Listeners of the Late Sixteenth Century," Musical Quarterly, 82 (1998) 564585. f. kÖrndle, "Lassos Musik zum Vltimum Judicium, " Die Musikforschung, 53 (2000) 6870. m. lessoildaelman, "Les jeux numériques dans les Psaumes de la Pénitence de Lassus," Revue Belge de Musicologie, 49 (1995) 4778. h. leuchtmann, "Orlando di Lassos Bußpsalmen," Musik und Kirche, 66 (1996) 273278. d. r. melamed, "Who Wrote Lassus's Most Famous Piece?," Early Music, 26 (1998) 622. j. t. winemiller, "Lasso, Albrecht V, and the Figure of Job: Speculation on the History and Function of Lasso's Sacrae lectiones ex propheta Iob and Vienna Mus. Ms. 18.744," Journal of Musicological Research, 12 (1993) 273302.

[m. picker]

Lasso, Orlando di (1532–1595)

views updated May 21 2018

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

Lasso, Orlando di

views updated Jun 11 2018

Lasso, Orlando di

Lasso, Orlando di, great Franco-Flemish composer, also known in Latin as Orlandus Lassus , and in French as Roland de Lassus , father of Ferdinand de Lassus and Rudolph de Lassus; b. Mons, 1532; d. Munich, June 14, 1594. He entered the service of Ferrante Gonzaga when he was about 12 years old, and subsequently traveled with him. He then was placed in the service of Constantino Castrioto of Naples at the age of 18. He later proceeded to Rome and entered the service of Antonio Altoviti, the Archbishop of Florence. Lasso then was maestro di cappella at St. John Lateran (1553–54). He went to Antwerp (1555), where he enjoyed a fine reputation both socially and artistically; his first works were publ. that year in Venice, containing 22 madrigals set to poems of Petrarch; also that year he brought out a collection of madrigals and motets set to texts in Italian, French, and Latin in Antwerp. In 1556 he became a singer at the Munich court chapel of Duke Albrecht of Bavaria. He took Regina Wechinger (Wäck-inger), an aristocratic woman, in marriage in 1558. In 1563 he was made maestro di cappella of the Munich court chapel, a position he held with great eminence until his death. He made occasional trips, including to Flanders to recruit singers (1560), to Frankfurt am Main for the coronation of Emperor Maximilian II (1562), to Italy (1567), to the French court (1571; 1573-74), again to Italy (1574–79), and to Regensburg (1593). On Dec. 7, 1570, he received from the Emperor Maximilian a hereditary rank of nobility. Lasso represents the culmination of the great era of Franco-Flemish polyphony; his superlative mastery in sacred as well as secular music renders him one of the most versatile composers of his time; he was equally capable of writing in the most elevated style and in the popular idiom; his art was supranational; he wrote Italian madrigals, German lieder, French chansons, and Latin motets. Musicians of his time described him variously as the “Belgian Orpheus” and the “Prince of Music.” The sheer scope of his production is amazing: He left more than 2, 000 works in various genres. The Patrocinium Musices (1573–98), a 12-vol. series publ. in Munich by Adam Berg, under ducal patronage, contains 7 vols, of Lasso’s works: Vol. I, 21 motets; vol. II, 5 masses; vol. III, Offices; vol. IV, a Passion, vigils, etc.; vol. V, 10 Magnificats; vol. VI, 13 Magnificats; vol. VII, 6 masses. Lasso’s sons publ. 516 of his motets under the title Magnum opus musicum (1604). Eitner publ. Chronologisches Verzeichnis der Druckwerke des Orlando di Lassus (Berlin, 1874). His collected works (21 vols., 1894-1926) were issued by Breitkopf & Härtel of Leipzig under the editorship of F. Haberl and A. Sandberger. The Sämtlicher Werke, neue Reihe began publication in Kassel in 1956. W. Boetticher publ. a complete catalogue of his works (Berlin, 1956).


H. Delmotte, Notice biographique sur Roland Delattre connu sous le nom d’Orland de Lassus (Valenciennes, 1836); A. Mathieu, Biographie de Roland de Lattre (Mons, 1851); W. Bäumker, Orlandus de Lassus, der letzte grosse Meister der niederländischen Tonschule (Freiburg, 1878); E. Destouches, O. d.L.: Ein Lebensbild (Munich, 1894); J. Declève, Roland de Lassus: Sa vie et ses oeuvres (Mons, 1894); E. Schmitz, O. d.L. (Leipzig, 1915); E. Closson, Roland de Lassus (Turnhout, 1919); R. Casimiri, O. d.L., maestro di cappella al Laterano nel 1553 (Rome, 1920); C. Van den Borren, Orlande de Lassus (Paris, 1920); A. Sandberger, O. d.L. und die geistigen Strömungen seiner Zeit (Munich, 1926); C. Van den Borren, En quelle année Roland de Lassus est-il né? (The Hague, 1926); E. Lowinsky, Der Motettenstil O. d.L.s (Heidelberg, 1933); L. Behr, Die deutschen Gesänge O. d.L.s (Erlangen, 1935); E. Lowinsky, Das Antwerpener Motettenbuch O. d.L.s und seine Beziehungen zum Motettenschaffen der niederländischen Zeitgenossen (The Hague, 1937); L. Balmer, O. d.L.s Motetten (Berne, 1938); J. Huschke, O. d.L.s Messen (Leipzig, 1941); C. Van den Borren, Roland de Lassus (1944); W. Boetticher, O. d.L. und seine Zeit, 1532-1594 (2 vols., Kassel and Basel, 1958; new ed. with suppl., 1998; Vol. Ill, index of works, 1999); H. Leuchtmann, Die musikalischen Wortausdeutungen in den Motetten des Magnum opus musicum von O. d.L. (Strasbourg, 1959); W. Boetticher, Aus O. d.L.s Wirkungskreis, Neue archivalische Studien zur Münchener Musikgeschichte (Kassel and Basel, 1963); H. Leuchtmann, O. d.L•: Sein Leben; Briefe (2 vois., Wiesbaden, 1976-77); F. Messmer, O. d.L.: Ein Leben in der Renaissance (Munich, 1982); J. Roche, Lassus (London, 1982); R. Orlich, Die Parodiemessen von O. d.L. (Munich, 1985); D. Zager, The Polyphonie Latin Hymns of O. d.L.: A Liturgical and Répertoriai Study (diss., Univ. of Minn., 1985); R. Luoma, Music, Mode, and Words in O. d.L.’s Last Works (Lewiston, N.Y, 1989); J. Erb, O. d.L.: A Guide to Research (N.Y., 1990); D. Crook, O. d.L.’s Imitation Magnificats for Counter-Reformation Munich (Princeton, 1994); B. Schmid, ed., O. d.L. in der Musikgeschichten: Bericht über das Symposium der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, München, 4.-6. Juli 1994 (Munich, 1996).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Lasso, Orlando di

views updated May 14 2018

Orlando di Lasso

c. 1530–1594


Early Life.

The Flemish composer Orlando di Lasso was born in Mons in what is today modern Belgium, where he received his early musical training and served as a choirboy. Lasso's beautiful voice resulted in him being kidnapped on three occasions by wealthy families desiring his services; after the third incident, his parents finally relented and allowed him to stay in the household of the viceroy of Sicily. As part of the viceroy's household he traveled to Palermo, and over the next ten years, he also spent time in Milan, Rome, and Naples. His years in Italy were critical for his later development as a composer, and while there, he adopted the Italian name that he continued to use for the rest of his life. Following the death of his parents in 1554, he took a position in Antwerp, but several years later became a chorister in the chapel of Albert V, duke of Bavaria. He remained in the duke's household at Munich for the rest of his life. Although Munich was a small and rather provincial capital at the time, Bavaria was a large and important state, a center of the Counter-Reformation in Northern Europe. In his Munich years, Lasso published a number of his compositions, and he became, in fact, the first composer in European history to establish his reputation primarily on the basis of his printed work. In the last forty years of his life Lasso printed more than 600 works, and usually a new composition appeared in the press about once each month. He favored musical printing houses in France, Italy, and the Netherlands, as well as those in Germany.


Lasso wrote more than 1,000 works and he was a master of most of the musical forms of the period. He produced a number of excellent compositions in all genres except instrumental music. His Latin motets form his largest group of compositions, totaling more than 500. He also composed almost sixty masses and about 100 magnificats. Most of the motets have sacred themes, and were likely performed within church rituals, at public ceremonies, or for the private devotions of the duke of Bavaria and his family. A few celebrate secular events, while an even smaller number are humorous. Lasso was also a writer of madrigals based on Italian texts and chansons that set some of the finest sixteenth-century French poetry to music. Finally, he wrote German lieder as well.


Lasso was widely admired in his own day. Referred to as the "prince of music" or "the divine Orlando," he earned praise for his ability to bring the subject of his chosen texts to life through his music. Like other sixteenth-century composers, he relied on changes in melody, harmony, and rhythm to suggest essential elements of the text, and sometime subtle musical innuendos lie hidden in his works. A consummate technician, Lasso did not care for many of the musical innovations of his own period. The chromatic style so popular among writers of Italian madrigals as a bow to the music of Antiquity only rarely is employed in his works. By the time of his death, his musical language had been superseded by other developments, but Lasso's works continued to be prized in Germany well into the seventeenth century.


Peter Bergquist, "Lasso, Orlando di," in Encyclopedia of the Renaissance (New York: Scribner, 1999).

J. Roche, Lasso (London, England: Oxford University Press, 1982).

Lassus, Orlande (Roland) de

views updated May 29 2018

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).

Lasso, Orlando di

views updated May 11 2018

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.

Lasso, Orlando di

views updated Jun 08 2018

Lasso, Orlando di. See Lassus, Orlande de.

About this article

Orlando di Lasso

All Sources -
Updated Aug 13 2018 About content Print Topic