1556, the twenty-three year old Orlando di Lasso came to the
court of the Wittelsbach dukes in Munich.
Although for the first several years of his tenure, he served
in a secondary capacity to Ludwig Daser, he would later take
over the reins of musical power and retain them for the rest
of his life. Such was his relationship with Duke Albrecht V
and later with his son Wilhelm that after his death, his sons
and even his grandsons would continue to play a significant
role in the musical life of Munich. While there, he traveled to many
of the other musical centers of Europe. By his maturity he was the most respected and famous musician on
the continent. Although a number of his works were published
in his lifetime, it is thanks to the respect in which he was
held by his employers that they encouraged him to collect his
works and catalog them, thus leaving to prosperity one of the
largest collections of music by a single composer from the renaissance.
Munich court had a long and proud reputation
for fine music and the ducal chapel had a vast library of works
dating back to Ludwig Senfl, who entered the court’s employ
in 1523. Senfl and his immediate successors amassed a fine library
and by the time Lasso took over the musical establishment, he
had hundreds of scores at his disposal for use in the chapel.
And yet, he himself composed over sixty masses, hundreds of
motets and psalm settings in addition to his extensive body
of secular works.
large number of Magnificat settings that he composed gives evidence
to the frequent observance of Vespers in the ducal chapel. This
is understandable given the high regard for the Blessed Virgin
during the counter-reformation and the Duke’s return to Catholicism
fairly early in his reign. It was commonplace for Daser and
later Lasso to compile Vespers services from a number of musical
sources, both old and new.
the present recording, Manfred Cordes has assembled a service
from some of di Lasso’s finest examples of the Psalms, recreating
an event that may well have taken place on a particularly solemn
or important feast day. Drawing on what is known of performance
practices of the day, Cordes uses an instrumental ensemble of
predominantly brass instruments to accompany the singing, and
has selected appropriate motets and plainchant antiphons to
be inserted at the appropriate places between the five psalms
is a performance of the very highest quality and of uncompromising
artistic standards. It is so often very easy to let the serene
beauty of renaissance vocal lines spin endlessly with no attention
paid to the drama and nuance of the texts. This bad practice
is nowhere in evidence in these finely crafted and meticulously
articulated readings. Maestro Cordes leads a vocal ensemble
of fine light lyric voices, perfectly balanced and flawlessly
in tune. His instrumentalists play with a crisp and clear articulation
adding a warm underpinning to the sparkling vocal sounds and
with an invigorating level of rhythmic panache. The lustrous
acoustic of the Stiftskirche is used to glorious effect, and
Cordes always finds the right tempo to keep the musical lines
clear. He is also quite attentive to elegant phrasing, giving
the music just enough time to breathe and allowing cadences
to resolve and relax before he moves on.
have given us another beautiful production with clear transparent
sound and their customarily high production values. Franz Körndle’s
concise and informative note is an improvement over CPO’s annoying
tendency to allow their annotators to ramble on in sentences
of Dickensian complication.
is gorgeous music superbly performed. No listener of any stripe
could possibly find it to be anything less than thrilling.