Laudent Deum: Sacred music by Orlande de Lassus

Laudent Deum: Sacred music by Orlande de Lassus
Director of Music: 
Andrew Nethsingha
Organ Scholar: 
Timothy Ravalde
Release date: 
March 2011
Featuring: 
  • His Majesty's Sagbutts & Cornetts
Record label: 
Chandos
Catalogue number: 
CHAN0778

The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, an exclusive Chandos artist, here presents its third release on the label. Established in the 1670s, the choir has a long and distinguished tradition of performing religious music and here offers distinguished interpretations of sacred works by Orlande de Lassus.

Lassus was a prolific and versatile composer and the most famous musician of his day. By the age of twenty-one, he had been appointed Director of Music at the church of St John Lateran in Rome, an impressive appointment for one so young. More than 2000 works by Lassus survive: Latin settings of masses, canticles, motets, passions, litanies, and hymns, as well as secular pieces in Italian, French, and German.

Lassus was charismatic and gregarious. He was also bipolar, however, a condition that caused him personal unhappiness, but which also accounted for some of the more original and startling passages in his music. The pieces on this recording represent only a small part of his enormous output: nineteen of the 750-odd surviving motets; two of the one hundred Magnificat settings; and three of his dozen purely instrumental works. It is a small sample, but it shows a composer whose formidable technique, kaleidoscopic ear for texture, and matchless word settings made him the darling of the musical High Renaissance in Western Europe.

The majority of Lassus’s motets were settings of religious texts. Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum is one of two seven-voice pieces chosen for this recording, and its rich texture allows Lassus to explore appealing vocal combinations without breaking into double-choir cliché. Veni in hortum meum places the listener in the gently seductive world of the Songs of Songs – that ‘sensuously exciting and baffling’ book of the Bible, to quote the English novelist and poet A.S. Byatt.

The two Magnificat settings on this recording were composed at least twenty years apart. The Magnificat ‘O che vezzosa aurora’ dates from the mid-1580s. A significant proportion of this work is based directly on a six-voice madrigal by the Modenese composer Orazio Vecchi (1550 – 1605), which was published around the same time. Lassus’s own setting, however, is sunny and optimistic in six-voice sections, and respectively robust and reflective in the three- and four-voice sections.

Track list
  1. Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum (premiere), Lassus
  2. Veni in hortum meum (premiere), Lassus
  3. Qui sequitur me (premiere), Lassus
  4. Resonet in laudibus, Lassus
  5. Sine textu 15 (premiere), Lassus
  6. Omnes de Saba venient, Lassus
  7. Qui moderatur sermones suos (premiere), Lassus
  8. Exaudi, Deus, orationem meam (premiere), Lassus
  9. Jubilate Deo, omnis terra, Lassus
  10. Sine textu 19 (premiere), Lassus
  11. Timor et tremor, Lassus
  12. Omnia tempus habent, Lassus
  13. Alleluia, laus et gloria, Lassus
  14. Magnificat tertii toni (premiere), Lassus
  15. Quid gloriaris in malitia, Lassus
  16. Laudate pueri Dominum, Lassus
  17. O Maria, clausus hortus (premiere), Lassus
  18. Laetentur caeli, Lassus
  19. Laudent Deum cithara, Lassus
  20. Sine textu 13 (premiere), Lassus
  21. O peccator, si filium Dei (premiere), Lassus
  22. Fratres, qui gloriatur (premiere), Lassus
  23. Agimus tibi gratias (premiere), Lassus
  24. Magnificat 'O che vezzosa aurora' (premiere), Lassus
With lively support from His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts, the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge takes full advantage of this treasury of vocal colour with exuberant, full-toned precision and impressive musicality.

Fiona Maddocks at The Observer

This disc’s programme, featuring largely premiere recordings, brilliantly captures the complexity of Lassus’s musical mind …this disc gives us a provocative glimpse into Lassus’s imagination.

BBC Music Magazine

... Andrew Nethsingha has produced a recording that reflects both the depth of this choir and the many facets of Lassus’s style, from the almost athletic exuberance of his setting of the Christmas song ‘Resonet in laudibus’ to the introspective reflection of ‘Timor et tremor’… Another factor that makes this a good recording is the variety created between motets with and without instruments … allows Lassus’s own creativity to be clearly heard and appreciated in all its sonic splendour.

American Record Guide

These performances of the motets and Magnificats are suffused with lovely energy and warmth.

The Independent

A real treat for fans of Renaissance polyphony. The Choir perform this music with analytical precision, yet without ever weighing down its soaring lines. An excellent selection, presented with real musical imagination.

MusicWeb International

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