IVK: Orlandus Lassus and Catholic Polyphony in late 16th Century Germany

Those sections of the German-speaking countries that retained the old faith produced few important native composers during the 16th century, and these few contributed no essentially new elements to the music of the Catholic Church, but they include the great figure of Ludwig Senfl. Senfl was born at Zürich, c. 1490, and became a pupil of Isaac. He sang in the court choir of Maximilian I and then was appointed chamber composer. In 1520 Senfl appeared in Augsburg, where he completed Isaac's Choralis Constantinus. From 1523 to some time in the 1540's he was associated with the musical establishment of the Bavarian court at Munich, but then his trail disappears, and the date of his death is unknown, though he seems to have died before or during 1556.


About the middle of the 16th century, various European rulers began to raid the Netherlands for composers and singers to enrich their musical establishments. Just as the taste of Charles V led to the activity in Madrid of the musicians of his Netherlandish chapel choir and the tastes of Margaret of Parma and Duke Hercules II caused them to enlist Franco-Flemings for their courts at Brussels and Ferrara, so the desire of the German princes to improve their musical forces resulted in the presence of Franco-Flemings in Vienna, Dresden, Prague, and other capitals. The organization of the various Kapellen included also the hiring of Italian performers, and resulted in a change in German instrumental practice from the hitherto customary preference for wind instruments and lutes to the predominance of strings characteristic of the Italian taste.

The prize Franco-Netherlander was won by Duke Albert V of Bavaria, whose emissary persuaded Lassus to go from Antwerp to Munich as a singer in 1550. A few years later Lassus became Kapellmeister, succeeding Ludwig Daser. In 1558, he married Regina Wäckinger, daughter of a maid of honor to the Duchess; and twelve years later he was knighted by Maximilian II. The miniatures in the Munich Staatsbibliotek by the court painter, Hans Mielich, which contain valuable evidence of contemporary Auffahrungspraxis, include likenesses of Lassus. Mielich executed also a portrait of Rore; the latter probably sat for this when he passed through Munich in 1558, at which time he and Lassus undoubtedly met. That Lassus' relations with Albert's son, William V, were particularly friendly is shown by his letters to William, written in a cheerful mixture of languages, e.g., Italian, Latin, French, and German mingling in a single letter. When William married Renee of Lorraine in 1568, Lassus, who had charge of the music at the festivities, composed a special motet, Quid trepidas for the occasion and, among other things, sang Azzaiolo's celebrated Chi passa to his own lute accompaniment. A description of the music-making at the event is included in the account that comes down to us by Massimo Troiano. Lassus remained at the Bavarian court, except for occasional trips abroad, until his death in 1594.

In 1604 Lassus' sons, Rudolph and Ferdinand, published at Munich, under the title Magnum opus musicum, a collection of 516 motets, in from two to twelve parts, by their father, some previously published and others newly printed from MSS.

The complete set of nine Lamentations, published in 1585, reveals Lassus in his best form. The second Lamentation for Holy Saturday is particularly fine, with its vigorous use of conflicting accents.

The Counter Reformation is responsible for the Teutsche geistliche Psalmen (1588), fifty settings à 3 (half by Lassus and half by his son Rudolph) of a German psalter published with one-line melodies by Caspar Ulenberg in 1582, a psalter written to combat the popular Lutheran psalm-lieder. On the whole, however, the musical reforms decreed by the Council of Trent were more effective in Italy than in Germany or France.

Kerle; Aichinger; Amon

Jacobus de Kerle was, from 1582 to his death in 1591, imperial court chaplain to Rudolph II at Prague. Kerle's years in Germany and Bohemia were productive, especially of motets, collections of which appeared from 1571 on, at Nuremberg, Munich, etc. His works were instrumental in spreading the influence of the Roman School in the Empire.

Notable among the native German composers influenced by the Roman School is Gregor Aichinger, a priest who served as organist for the Fuggers in Augsburg and later visited Italy. His motets show, besides evidence of a careful study of Lassus, the clarity of structure, careful voiceleading, and concern for beauty of sound that are among the traits of the Roman style.

The effect of Venetian influence on the Catholic polyphonists; of Germany is shown in the music of Blasius Amon. The first German composer to adopt the double-choir technique, he may in his youth have been a pupil of Andrea Gabrieli.

Sacred Polyphony at the Imperial Court, notably that of Monte

Kerle was one of a large number of Netherlandish and other foreign musicians to hold important posts at the Hapsburg court during the latter half of the 16th century. Among the Netherlanders, Petrus Maessens was chief Kapellmeister in Vienna from 1546 to 1560, Jacob Vaet from 1564 to 1567, and Philippe de Monte from 1568 to 1603; Jacques Buus was organist there from 1551 to 1564; Jacques Regnart held various posts at different times; Christian Hollander sang in the choir, as did Johannes de Cleve (active in Graz also and later in Augsburg),Carl Luython, a pupil of Monte's, and Franciscus Sale were both active in Vienna and Prague, the latter having become tenor in the Imperial Chapel under Monte in 1589; and Lambert de Sayve, another pupil of Monte's, succeeded his master as Imperial Kapellmeister. Mateo Flecha the younger came to Vienna in 1568 and stayed for some years before he returned to Spain. Jakob Handl (Gallus) worked in Prague, after having sung in the court choir at Vienna. Elsewhere in Austria were the Netherlander, Alexander Utendal Kapellmeisterat Innsbruck, and the Italian, Annibale Padovano, Kapellmeister at Graz. For the wedding of William V of Bavaria, Annibale wrote a Mass à 24, an eight-part Battaglia, and pieces for an ensemble of six viols, a zink, and five trombones, with organ.

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