Lasso, Orlando di

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Lasso, Orlando di

Orlando di Lasso (ōrlän´dō dē läs´sō), 1532–94, Franco-Flemish composer, b. Mons, also known as Orlandus Lassus or Roland de Lassus. Lasso represents the culmination of Renaissance musical art. At age 12, he entered the service of Ferrante Gonzaga, viceroy of Sicily. Thereafter, he worked variously in Naples (1550–53), Rome (1553–54), and Munich (1556–94). In 1570 he was raised to a hereditary rank of nobility by Emperor Maximilian II, and in 1574 he became one of the very few musicians to receive a papal knighthood. Lasso brought Flemish polyphony to its highest development in the Renaissance and distilled in his music the best elements of European music of his time. His more than 2,000 works in every form known to his day—masses, motets, French chansons, Italian madrigals, German lieder, and others—make him one of the most versatile and cosmopolitan composers in history. In contrast to the restrained mystical style of Palestrina, Lasso's music is vigorous, often passionate and earthy. Many of his love songs were set to poems by Petrarch and other poets. Undisputed master of the motet, he showed his skill at its richest in the Magnum opus musicum (pub. 1604), a selection of 516 sacred motets. His best-known works are his Penitential Psalms of David (c.1560; pub. 1584) and his last work, Lagrime di San Pietro (1594), completed three weeks before he died.

See A. Einstein, The Italian Madrigal (1949); G. Reese, Music in the Renaissance (2d ed. 1961); and studies by W. Boettiches (1958) and H. Leuchtmann (1976).

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