On this date in 1594, Orlando di Lassus, the greatest composer of his age, died in Munich. Lassus is another one of those composers who has several variations and forms to his name. He is known as:
Orlande de Lassus
Roland di Lasso
In 1532, he was born in Mons, a Frankish-Flemish town in Northern Europe. The legend goes that he was such a fine singer as a boy that he was kidnapped three times for the sake of his voice. At the age of 12, in 1544, he entered the service of Ferrante Gonzaga and journeyed with him to Italy where he served in Mantua, Naples, Florence, Sicily, and Rome.
In 1553, at the age of 21, Lassus became the music director at St. John’s Lateran in Rome. A year later he returned home to Mons and began the supervision of the publication of his early madrigals and motets.
In 1558, he married Regina Wackinger. By 1563, he was named the Music Director of the Bavarian court—a position which required him to provide numerous sacred compositions. In his capacity with the court, Lassus traveled around the major European musical centers to recruit singers. As such, his own international reputation became more defined and secure.
In 1574, the Pope made him a Knight of the Golden Spur. Over the next five years, Lassus traveled to Vienna and Italy and his five volumes of sacred music were published.
Lassus died on June 14, 1594 in Munich.
In total, Lassus wrote more than 2000 works—many of which were published in his lifetime and highly regarded by his contemporaries.
Because Lassus traveled for much of his life, he was able to blend the best of several national styles in his own music—“the beauty and expressiveness of Italian melody, the charm and elegance of French text-setting, and the solidity and richness of the Flemish and German polyphony.” In addition, Lassus filled his works with his own unique ability to evoke dramatic and emotional responses through his music.
Not just a “serious” composer, Lassus was light-hearted, witty, and rambunctious as well as devotional and expressive.