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Friday Night Organ Doing some Clean up
Last week I left out Orlande de Lassus (1530-1594). He was yet another member of the Franco-Flemish school of the late Renaissance. He was born in what is today Belgium---in his day the Hapsburg Netherlands. (The hundred years war fixed that). Information about his early years is scanty, although some stories have survived, the most famous of which is that he was kidnapped three times because of the singular beauty of his singing voice. At the age of twelve, he went to Sicily and later Milan (from 1547 to 1549). He was employed as a singer and a composer for Costantino Castrioto in Naples in the early 1550s, and his first works are presumed to date from this time. Next he moved to Rome, where he worked for the de' Medici family and in 1553, he became maestro di cappella of the Basilica of St. John Lateran; a very prestigious post for a man only twenty-one years old. However, he stayed there for only a year. (Palestrina would assume this post a year later, in 1555.) In 1555 he returned to the Low Counties and had his early works published. In 1556 he joined the court of Albrecht V Duke of Bavaria who was consciously attempting to create a musical establishment on a par with the major courts in Italy. Lassus was one of several Netherlanders to work there, and by far the most famous. He evidently was happy in Munich and decided to settle there. In 1558 he married Regina Wäckinger, the daughter of a maid of honor of the Duchess. They had two sons, both of whom became composers. By 1563 Lassus had been appointed maestro di cappella, and remained in the service of Albrecht V and his heir, William for the rest of his life.
By the 1560s Lassus had become quite famous, and composers began to go to Munich to study with him. The two Gabrieli's, Andrea and Giovanni studied with him in the 1570s. His renown had spread outside of strictly musical circles, for in 1570 Emperor Maximillan II conferred nobility upon him, a rare circumstance for a composer. Pope Gregory XIII knighted him and in 1571, the king of France, Charles IX invited him to visit. Some of these kings and aristocrats attempted to woo him away from Munich with more attractive offers, but Lassus was evidently more interested in the stability of his position, and the splendid performance opportunities of Albrecht's court, than in financial gain. "I do not want to leave my house, my garden, and the other good things in Munich", he wrote to the Electorate of Saxony in 1580 upon receiving an offer for a position in Dresden. HOW is that for 16th century MGTOW? In the 1590s his health began to decline, and he was treated for what was called "melancholia hypocondriaca", also known as "Melancholic Humour" or the belief one will turn into a werewolf. Nobodies perfect. He was still able to compose. His final work was often considered one of his best pieces: an exquisite set of twenty-one madrigali spirituali known as the Lagrime di San Pietro ("Tears of St. Peter"), which was published posthumously in 1595. Lassus died in Munich on 14 June 1594, the same day that his employer decided to dismiss him for economic reasons. He never saw the letter. He was buried in Munich in the Alter Franziskaner Friedhof, a cemetery that was cleared of gravestones in 1789 and is now the site of Max Joseph Platz. Pretty convenient if one is still wondering around as a Lycanthrope.
Here is his Da Pacem Domine (in an Organ setting played on an Italian instrument) You may note that it is a good deal more rhythmically complicated than stuff we have had so far:
Next we have a Ricercar by Lassus played upon a Viola Organista. A Ricercar is an elaborate instrumental composition in fugal or canonic style, typically of the 16th to 18th centuries. The Viola Organista is a musical curiosity that you guys have probably never heard of and certainly never heard played. Designed by Leonardo da Vinci it uses a friction belt to vibrate individual strings (similar to how a violin produces sounds), with the strings selected by pressing keys on a keyboard (similar to an organ). Leonardo's design has intrigued instrument makers for more than 400 years. But though similar instruments have been built, no extant instrument constructed directly from Leonardo's incomplete designs is known. Well here is a guy playing one.
Next week we are going to wave goodbye to Italy and the Franco-Flemish school and we are headed to Anglo-Saxon England for a awhile and a review of the English Madrigal School. This is due to the responses I got for the Purcell work a couple of weeks back---Well there are some guys who come before Purcell and we owe them a debt so lets start paying now.
Thomas Morley 1557-1602 was born in Norwich where as a boy he joined the cathedral choir. In 1583 he became choir master. In 1574. Morley moved from Norwich sometime before 1574 to be a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral. In 1588 he received his bachelor's degree from the Oxford and thereafter was employed as organist at St Paul's London. His young son died the following year in 1589. He was Roman Catholic, but he was able to avoid prosecution as a recusant due to repenting.
In 1588 Nicholas Yonge published a collection of Italian madrigals with English texts, which touched off the vogue for madrigal composition in England. Morley obviously found his compositional direction at this time, and shortly afterwards began publishing his own collections of madrigals (11 in all). Morley lived for a time in the same parish as William Shakespeare, and a connection between the two has been long speculated, but never proven. His famous setting of "It was a lover and his lass" from As You Like It has never been established as having been used in a performance of Shakespeare's play, though there is the possibility that it was. Thomas Morley died young a man in 1602 (45 years old) and was buried in the graveyard of the church of St. Botoph Billinggate which was destroyed in the Great London Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt. Thus his grave is lost.
Curious isn't it? Palestrina's grave in the Vatican is unknown, Lassus's final resting place is unmarked under a large square in Munich and Morley's grave is lost as well. MMmmmmm
Anyway Unlike the "organist" Palestrina who left us no such works; St. Paul's organist Morley DID: Here is his "Alman" played on the historical Bremser organ (1675) restored by Dominique Thomas (2008) at Antwerp.
And rather than go into a long-winded tedious explanation of what exactly an English madrigal is; here is an example. Morley's "Pavane".
This one is an example of a Fantasia which was a relatively new style out of Italy at the time:
I swear next week Tallis and Byrd; so you English guys keep your shirt on we're getting there.
Absolutely fantastic! This is just the de-stressing that I need after fiddling with the layout all night, having trouble with some coding compatibility. I have everything finally working on the sight that I wanted, of the projects that I started, and have some other things to do later, but had to take a break and take advantage of our resident music professor's lessons before I was too far behind.
The Leonardo instrument is one that I heard of in music appreciation many years ago, but never heard it played before. I am becoming more and more interested in learning piano, and getting one for my home. Maybe that will be something that I save for to buy next year.
"Remember, you're fighting for this woman's honor, which is probably more than she ever did."
Groucho Marx: Duck Soup (1933)