Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/109

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LASSUS.
97
 

of which are scored by Commer), and the first set of 'Sacræ lectiones, 9 ex prophetâ Job.' The first editions of these all hail from Venice, perhaps because Jean de Berg of Nuremberg, who had published the 1st volume, had died in the meanwhile. His successor Gerlach, however, publishes an edition of them in 1567, as well as a collection of 24 Magnificats. In the latter the alternate verses only are composed—a contrapuntal treatment of the appointed church melodies—the other verses being probably sung or intoned to the same melodies in their simple form.

The year 1568 is full of interest. In February the Duke William marries the Princess Renata of Lorraine; there is a large gathering of distinguished guests at Munich, and music has a prominent place in the fortnight's festivities. Among the works composed specially for the occasion was a 'Te Deum' (à 6), and three masses (à 6, 7, and 8 respectively), also two motets 'Gratia sola Dei' and 'Quid trepidas, quid musa times?' But here we must stop, for though it has a real interest to read how 'their Highnesses and Excellencies and the Duchess Anna attended by Madame Dorothea returned home greatly pleased with the sweet and delightful mass they had heard,' and to follow all the occurrences of 14 consecutive days of Orlando's life, still we must refer the curious reader to the pages of Massimo Trojano, and can only stop to mention that, towards the end of the time, he was the life and soul of an impromptu play suggested by the Duke, in which he not only acted one of the principal parts, but introduced various pieces of music on the stage with the aid of a band of picked singers.

In the same year we have two most important publications: (1) 'Selectissimæ Cantiones à 6 et pluribus' and (2) the same à 5 et 4. The first book opens with a massive work in 4 movements, 'Jesu nostra redemptio,' in the grand gloomy style of the old masters, followed by shorter and simpler pieces, such as the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, with a melodious prelude on the words 'In monte Oliveti oravit ad patrem,' followed by a simple strain of devotional music carrying the hearer quietly and expressively, but not dramatically, through the Saviour's agony and resignation. The volume is not confined to religious music. There are some pieces with secular words, such as an ode to Albert 'Quo properas facunde nepos Atlantis,' but there are also some capital drinking songs, and the 'Jam lucis orto sidere,' with its 2nd part 'Qui ponit aquam in Falerno,' is a fine specimen of a part-song for two choirs singing alternately, a kind of music much in vogue at the time, the introduction of which is said to be due to Adrian Willaert.

The other volume is confined to music à 5 and à 4, and is proportionately simple. Commer has printed 8 or 9 of the sacred numbers in score, and they are not difficult either to understand or to appreciate. Among the secular pieces there is a comic setting of the psalm 'Super fluinina Babylonis,' each letter and syllable being aung separately as in a spelling lesson:—

{ \clef tenor \key f \major \time 2/2 \cadenzaOn \relative f { f1 g f r g a g a bes a a c c c bes a s } \addlyrics { S U Su P E R per su -- per F L U Su per flu etc. } }

at which rate it takes two long movements to get through the first verse. This might well be a parody on the absurd way in which the older masters mutilated their words. But there are beautiful as well as curious numbers among the secular part-songs in this book, and the 'Forte soporifera ad Baias dormivit in umbra, blandua Amor etc.' is one of the quaintest and prettiest songs that we have come across in the old music world. In this book is also a very characteristic, though rather complicated and vocally difficult setting of the well-known song of Walter Mapes—if [1]Walter Mapes' it be—'Si bene perpendi, causæ sunt quinque bibendi.' Dean Aldrich may have taken the words from this very book (for he had a library of Lassus' works) when he made his well-known translation:

'If all be true that I do think,
There are five reasons we should drink:
Good wine, a friend, or being dry,
Or lest you should be by and by,
Or any other reason why.'

In a subsequent edition of the same 'Cantiones' appears another portion of the same work, 'Fertur in conviviis,' à 4, in five movements set to music full of character and effective contrasts.[2] The music was so much liked that other words were twice set to it, once in a French edition which aimed at rendering the chansons 'honnestes et chrestiennes' to the words 'Tristis ut Euridicen Orpheus ab orco'—though how the adapter succeeded in his object by the change is not very apparent; and again a second time after his death in the edition of his works by his son, to the stupid words 'Volo nunquam,' which aimed at turning it into a temperance song by the insertion of a negative in each sentiment of the original. The old edition has fortunately survived, and the words of the last two verses, beginning 'Mihi est propositum,' are still used for their original purpose. These spirited words, of which Orlando was evidently so fond, and to the quantities of which he paid such careful regard, seem to have inspired him with a marked rhythm and sense of accent, which is very exceptional in works of the time.

In the year 1569, Adam Berg, the court publisher at Munich, brings out 'Cantiones aliquot à 5,' containing 14 numbers, and 2 books of 'Sacræ Cantiones,' partly new, are issued at Louvain. The year 1570 is more productive, 23 new Cantiones à 6; a books of chansons containing 18 new ones; and a book of 29 madrigals, published in Munich, Louvain and Venice respectively; while France is represented by an important edition of chansons—'Mellange

  1. Some doubt has lately been thrown on the authorship of these words.
  2. In what collection this song made its first appearance is not known.