Since Rome was the centre of the Western world he could hardly be described as provincial: but he had a Roman mind and a Roman outlook. Lassus was different. His music indexes his many interests and opportunities. He had many secular opportunities and his range is from the courtly madrigal to part-music of a more popular-owz-experimental, order.
So he composed madrigals and villanellas — his first set appeared in , the same year in which Palestrina's first set were published; chansons; Deutsche Liedlein lit. In all Lassus left more than a thousand works. Some idea of his character may be gained from the fact that his Masses, except for the 'Sanctus', 'Benedictus' and 'Agnus' sections, are not of com- pelling interest; that his motets rise to strident intensity when the texts 1 The set of Cantiones comprised twenty-four duets; twelve for voices and twelve for instruments.
The latter were subsequently described as fantasias or ricercari. The part of the Evangelist was to have been sung to the traditional plainsong. Lassus also com- posed Passion settings according to the other Evangelists. Lassus, unlike Palestrina, was a copious letter writer. His corres- pondence with Duke William of Bavaria in an assortment of French, Latin, Italian and German reinforces the conclusions that may be drawn from the music. Lassus knew despair as he knew exuberant happiness.
He was before his time in compounding his music of self-knowledge. In the end I am not sure that the sixteenth-century character is not as admirably summarized by Lassus as by any other artist of his time. The circumstances of his life help to explain in some measure the richness of the music of Lassus. He was born at Mons, in Flanders, and at an early age, on account of the beauty of his voice, was taken into the retinue of Ferdinand Gonzaga, Viceroy of Sicily. Lassus spent his impressionable years of boyhood and adolescence in Sicily, Milan and Naples.
Some part of his young manhood was spent in Rome and he was at St. John Lateran for about a year and a half until December He then entered the service of a Neapolitan nobleman who took him to England, to France and to Antwerp, where he lived for some years. His first madrigals were published in Antwerp and were remarkable for their adventures in chromatic harmony. In Lassus published his first book of motets, which was dedicated to the Bishop of Arras. Probably through the influence of the Bishop, Lassus was appointed in to the court and chapel of Albert V, Duke of Bavaria. Lassus remained at Munich, in the employment of Duke Albert and, after his death in , of his successor Duke William.
The many acts of kind- ness shown by the ducal house and the freedom of activity permitted to the composer remind us of the good fortune of Haydn in respect of his patronage by the Esterhazys. Both Albert and William took great pride in the work of Lassus and he was able to travel widely. He used to make frequent journeys to Italy to enrol new recruits for the musical establishment and kept abreast of all musical developments in that country.
The last years of Lassus' life were clouded by long periods of melancholia, and the thought of death — and of the Last Judgement — obsessed him. His influence was long felt in Germany so that we may even find a similarity of outlook, especially in moods of deep perception, between Lassus and Bach, and Lassus and Brahms.
He had the boldness and scholarship of the Flemings together with the romantic awareness of harmonic surprise exploited by Cipriano de Rore 1 and the dignity of the Italians. More than any of his contemporaries he seems to examine the significance and poetic background of every word that he sets. Thus even in a conventional four-part Magnificat — in which the odd verses are in the traditional, unison plainchant and the even verses in parts — he must picture the hungry Ex. The fine confidence of the opening, the almost Brahmsian suspension of rhythmic interest and intensification of harmonic depth in expectation of the 'novissimo die', the triumphant gesture of resur- rection are magnificently personal: but also finely disciplined.
Expecta- tion is one characteristic of the visionary and another eminently sing- able motet — Exspectans Exspectavi — from the Sacrae Cantiones of 1 De Rore was a Flemish composer who became maestro di cappella at St. Mark's, Venice, in succession to Willaert. He was a notable exponent of chromatic harmony. This fugal point epitomizes the mood of the whole Ex. This, together with Christus Resurgens of the same year, represents the maturity of Lassus and is symbolic of the greater care taken of the religious establishment at Munich when Duke William — who was under considerable pressure from the Jesuits — came into his inheritance.
In Christus Resurgens, an Easter anthem, we are aware of the court band in the background. The last Alleluias are punched out — as by brass — to repeated dominant and tonic chords; while in the motiv of the top part Ex. It should be said at once that this is both true and untrue. If a tour deforce is looked for the listener is certain to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, fitness to purpose is the intention, then it will be recognized that Lassus has here wrought finely.
We may see the limitations. The psalms which comprise this sequence are Nos. The intention of the composer is to contemplate these grave poems and to admit of no more purely musical effect than is necessary to enable them to be sung. Therefore brilliance is lacking on the one hand and dramatic statement on the other. Each verse sometimes long verses are divided or half-verse is treated separately as a musical movement: therefore no prolongation of musical phrase — one of the great sixteenth-century means of allowing musical lyricism to spin its own web — is possible.
Again consistent care for the words leads to homophony rather than polyphony. Thus interest in counterpoint is slender. The only place in which Lassus allows his musical technique free rein is in the second part of the 'Gloria' Sicut erat in principio. Each psalm maintains the same tonality throughout. This short and familiar chant acts as a cantus firmus throughout.
The manner in which one psalm is treated will serve as a model for all. Psalm opens in five-part homophony, with slight alternations of rhythmic crisis in the lower voices. It will be discovered that Lassus employs subtle stresses of rhythm and melody to reinforce the associa- tions of particular words: so, 'O Lord, hear my prayer' Ex. The persecution of the enemy is depicted by the Ex. It will be noticed that the harmonies are furthest from their starting point at the word 'mortuos' — 'dead'. This is the conclusion of the first main section of the psalm.
With the remembrance of time past the music becomes plain and conventional. But immediately the genius of the composer catches at the pathetic beauty of 'I stretch forth my hands unto Thee: my soul goes forth unto Thee as a thirsty land. The four voices enter, impetuous Ex. The next two verses sound a note of hope. Then hope vanishes and there is again a plea for deliverance, in a beautiful three-part passage for the middle voices. Four voices — the soprano is omitted so that an atmosphere of tranquillity is achieved — ask that the Holy Spirit shall 'lead me forth in the ways of righteousness'.
Two short sections for all the voices bring the psalm to an end. Then, by way of coda, the 'Gloria', which opens at the 'sicut erat.. The Psalms were composed between and and were undertaken at the special request of the Duke Albert, who considered them of such importance that he had them copied on parchment, illuminated with miniatures by the court painter, and handsomely bound. After the Jesuit mission in Bavaria encouraged a less lax attitude towards religion than had previously obtained in a community which contained many of Lutheran sympathy: the 'Penitential Psalms' were Lassus' response to the Tridentinc postulates.
He may have been the greatest composer in Europe during the polyphonic period. He certainly would appear to be the most philosophic, the most single- minded and the most versatile. Consider his range: he excelled in Catholic church music; he wrote some of the finest of services and anthems for the Church of England; he was the virtual founder of the solo song with string accompaniment in England; his fantasias for viols must take a high place in the history of chamber music; he was a pioneer in keyboard music; he was important among madrigalists; he was even involved in the provision of dramatic music long before such music called for the attention of the distinguished.
In he con- tributed a wonderfully impressive song — 'Come tread the path' — to Robert Wilmot's Tancred and Gismonda and in music to Thomas Legge's Ricardus Tertius. It is not Byrd's versatility which constitutes his greatness, but rather his strenuous idealism. It will be discovered that most of his music repays many hearings. He makes no concessions. His work stands on its own plane, indifferent to time or place, so that today we may hear him and wonder not at his antiquity of style, but at his integrity of thought. One feature distinguishes him from Palestrina and Lassus.
He left, perhaps, less than half the number of works composed by either of them: further he was content to write works like Bach with no very immediate prospect of performance. Indeed it is in his Latin church music that his genius shines most brightly. It is even possible that Byrd is the greatest English composer of the twentieth century, for it is from him that strength and independence of spirit has issued to revitalize modern British musical thought.
He went to law quicker than most of us when he felt his rights as a citizen were being infringed. He remained, at some personal inconvenience, a Catholic. That he was generally unmolested while protesting this faith is a tribute to the government of the day and to Queen Elizabeth, who was, of course, no mean judge of men and musicians. Not only was he unhindered in his private beliefs: he was promoted to high official position.
He was a Lincolnshire man by birth, from which county John Taverner came. He was, probably, a chorister in the Chapel Royal under Thomas Tallis c. He became organist of Lincoln Cathedral at the age of twenty. In he succeeded to the place of Robert Parsons, also a composer of note, as a gentleman of the Chapel Royal.
Two years later he became joint organist of the Chapel Royal with Tallis. Although he worked in London Byrd anticipated later habits of life by living in the country, in Essex, as a country gentle- man. In Tallis and Byrd were granted a Licence which amounted to a monopoly for the printing and selling of music.
At the end of twenty-one years this Licence passed to Byrd's pupil Thomas Morley. Byrd's life is, thus, a brief list of facts. We know, on the whole, singularly little about him. The choral works by which we know Byrd are the motets con- tained in Cantiones Sacrae — which was the joint work of Tallis and Byrd — and in two volumes, under the same title but exclusively by Byrd, issued in and ; in the two books of Gradualia and ; and some which remained in manuscript: the English liturgical music, in which the peak was reached in the 'Great Service'; the madrigals in Psalmes, Sonets and Songs , Songs of Sundrie Natures and the Psalmes, Songs and Sonnets 1 ; and the Masses in three, four and five parts respectively.
It is not known why Byrd lavished such care over settings of the Mass which, if performed at all, could only be performed out of England. Nor is the actual date of composition known, although the text of the three-part Mass transcribed by John Baldwin is dated It would appear that Byrd had noted Italian changes consequent on the recommendations of the Council of Trent, for he set those sections which previously had not been set by English composers and he avoided the formerly conventional cantus firnms.
The Mass rises to ecstasy, but a restrained ecstasy, in the 'Sanctus' where long lines of melody inter- twine in a radiant setting. The four-part Mass is a grave work, possessing a Romanesque severity. Yet its gravity engenders its own beauty. Here are the fully developed contrapuntal style: a poetic use Ex. Besides the more general unifying features in this Mass Byrd tentatively places certain melodic formulae in significant situations.
The descending group of notes for 'miserere', for instance, catches the supplicating phrase given to the 'Christe eleison' and anticipates the more extended treatment of the same idea in the 'Agnus Dei'; while the genuflecting fall of the fourth at 'Domine Deus' recalls, by its pattern, that which opens the 'Kyrie' and the 'Agnus Dei'.
This last movement begins exactly as the 'Gloria'. The soprano and alto every movement but the 'Sanctus' begins with these two voices 'meditate upon the sacred words'. Comparing the opening of 'Gloria' and 'Agnus' it is instructive to see what different directions the same fundamental idea may suggest.
It is also salutary to notice what depth of feeling may be touched by such simple means Ex. It is doubtful whether Ex. The five-part Mass also has great gravity, but a greater intellectual power than its predecessor that is if, as Dr. Edmund H. Fellowes suggests, it is later in date. It is, on the whole, more modal in flavour, each movement but the 'Sanctus' commencing Ex. The second of these units is the classical motto that Mozart Ex. It has certain rhythmic traits which seem to belong to a more sophisticated age Ex.
Although there are many sections treated in emphatic homophony there are few finalizing cadences; thus the work proceeds with greater musical resolution. Yet, should it be felt that this intellectual concentration should bear too much in one direc- tion Byrd humanizes his score with numerous touches of definitive realism. The words 'coelis', 'resurrexit', 'ascendit', 'venit' and so on, call forth fragments of picturesque melodic shape; while the rhythm changes, with subtlety, from mood to mood.
He reserves his greater daring and his more ready emotional reactions for his motets. Consider the opening of the 'Ave Verum' from the second book of Gradualia Ex. Next consider the lovely delineation in 'Senex puerum portabat' Ex.
This is the sort of passage which, no doubt, carried him away. We may note, in passing, that all Byrd's cadences are full of expression and original beauty. Compare this cadence with that which terminates 'Ci vitas sancti tui' Cantiones Sacrae, Ex. Here Byrd exploits his love of the de -so -la unexpected discord and turns a conventional figure — the so-called nota camhiata — into a feature of the emotional quality of the work. This motet is throughout a masterpiece of tonal contrast. If you would see Byrd vying with de Rore and Lassus look at the chromatic opening of O quam suavis Ex.
He thus gives massive dignity to the final phrase 'Tempus in omne Deo'. In his English settings Byrd had rivals. Indeed his anthems and his madrigals are sometimes more worthy of respect than affection. But one work of rare beauty must be quoted. The 'Lullaby, my sweet little baby' Psalmes, Sonets and Songs , is a wonderfully evocative cradle-song even though it is, on account of its wide spacing of voices and high soprano line, very difficult. The cadence shows a favourite Byrd device. But it is a measure of Byrd's Ex. In his Epistle to the Reader Byrd makes himself plain: 'In the expressing of these songs, either by voices or instruments, if there happens to be any jarre or disonance, blame not the Printer, who I doe assure thee through his great paines and diligence doth heer deliver to thee a perfect and true Coppie.
But there is a great number of other composers who wrote music which is rich and full of character. There remains a still greater number whose competence was high but stopped short of distinction. These latter must be taken on trust.
Here we must remain content with brief excursions to parts of Europe which we have hitherto not visited. Philip II symbolizes exclusive devotion to the faith. It is fitting, then, that the chief Spanish composer of his reign — Victoria — should also display singleness of purpose. Victoria was a native of Avila, birthplace of St. Teresa; he was an ordained priest; he wrote no other music than for the Church. He studied in Rome. He was on the staff of the Collegium Germanicum, which had been founded by St. Ignatius Loyola and enjoyed powerful Spanish influence, for some years.
Victoria composed no more than works; but all are distinguished by suavity in craftsmanship, born of much study of Palestrina, and an exquisite ardour. The peculiar temperament of Victoria's music is defined by the great German editor Karl Proske 1 in respect of the 'Quarti toni' Mass. Work and prayer, genius and humility are here blended in perfect harmony.
He depends to a con- siderable extent on harmonic injections into the system. When qualities such as Proske defines are combined with a style which favours mellifluous chromaticism the result may often be termed sentimental. I should say that, judged by the highest standards of his age, Victoria is sentimental.
This may be a recommendation to those singers who may feel that the music of long-ago is deficient in the quality which ranks first with them. Compare the languorous charm of grief en- compassed in the final section of the motet O vos omnes qui transitis per viam Ex. At Ex. This motet gives great pleasure in performance and we may note how, occasionally, Victoria goes out of his way to imbue his music with the naive adora- tion of the untutored, but passionate worshipper. Thus in an extremely beautiful Ave Maria Ex.
A work to be sung with relative ease and Ex. A great variety of the masterpieces of the polyphonic period were published by him in his Musica Diuinct Ratisbon I have no doubt that angels, if at all human, enjoy rehearsing Ex. He was an Austrian and became Kapellmeister c. John in Prague. His style is warm and he, no doubt, had as much pleasure in composing his music as we should in singing it. He possesses simplicity but is not deficient in grandeur, for he took much pleasure in composing for large forces indeed, in the late eighteenth century his fame was kept alive by the fact that he had written a motet in twenty-four parts : he is neither precocious nor precious.
There is a fine Adoramus Te, Jesu Christe, for double choir, which represents him with great dignity. This motet is a perfect example of ternary form. One other work to perform is his Ecce, quomodo moritur Justus. No passage in music is more compelling than Ex. This motet was approved by a higher authority on these Ex. He had found it among the traditional part of the Passion music of the Lutheran church see pp. His reputation as organist was very great and since practically all German organists of the next generation were indebted to him for tuition there is a direct link between him and Bach.
But he was also a student of the Venetian school and translated the Instutioni harmoniche of Zarlino. His choral works — Cantiones Sacrae, , four books of Psalms and Rimes frangaises et italiennes — are within the general style of the sixteenth century and show some- thing of the colour and vivaciousness of the forward-looking school of Gabrieli.
He was one of the not inconsiderable company of English Catholics who found sanctuary in the Netherlands towards the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Philips and also his compatriot Richard Dering shows a good deal of the spiritual intensity of such Catholic poets as Francis Quarles and Thomas Traherne and, like them, is — if music allows such classification — a metaphysical.
Among his motets O virum mirabilem may be isolated for its charm, a quality not frequently to be encountered in the period. Francis of Assisi Ex. There are nearly a hundred years between Taverner and Philips. To turn from the one to the other is to see the extreme limits of sixteenth-century polyphony. But nowhere did the idea take more entertaining shape than in England, when growing prosperity and the promise of peace at last, and enthusiasm for Italianate novelties crossed with delight in lyrical verse inspired the middle-class and upper-class gentry who were the solid core of Elizabethan society to take their recreation in the cultivation of domestic harmony in more ways than one.
The English madrigal is music for the home. Thus the contemporary listener must train himself to listen, as it were, from the inside, otherwise the effluent wit and rapid transitions of mood will pass him by. To be truthful you are not really meant to: they are there for singing. In Nicolas Yonge, who was probably a chorister at St.
Paul's Cathedral, published Musica Transalpine! This book — and the reports of travellers — stimulated great activity in England. Yonge indicates the strength of the fashion: 'Since I first began to keep house in this City a great number of gentlemen and merchants of good account as well of this realm as of foreign nations have taken in good part such entertainment of pleasure, as my poor ability was able to afford them, both by the exercise of music daily used in my house, and by furnishing them with books of that kind yearly sent to me out of Italy and other places.
Music — apt for voices 52 THE CHORAL TRADITION or viols and sometimes for both at the same time — poured out of organ lofts, schools, country houses, parsonages, in all parts of the land; and many gentlemen who had a little honour in their own day are remem- bered by posterity simply because they were the dedicatees of a set of madrigals. The English madrigal touched life at many points: sometimes, like John Ward's elegy for Prince Henry — 'Weep forth your tears', it was commemorative; sometimes, as in Michael East's 'Quick, quick away, despatch', it was an epithalamium; sometimes it was proper to a country pageant as in Weelkes's frivolous 'Tan ta ra cries Mars'; some- times it expressed contemplation as in Orlando Gibbons's setting of Sir Walter Raleigh's 'What is our life?
The division of voices was often caused by the nature of a family ensemble. Wit abounded, and pretty conceits in word play were matched with equal dexterity in melody, harmony and counterpoint. During those years English music was touched by a fairy's wand. Handel, as a naturalized Englishman, was proud enough of the English past to acknowledge it both by quotation — compare Ex. The Triumphs of Oriana, designed honorifically after the Italian pattern of II Trionfo di Dori, serve to set a sort of official seal on the whole school of madrigal composition.
Queen Elizabeth deserved the intended gesture of respect implied in the gratulatory nature of the verses and the — sometimes self-conscious — brilliant dignity of the anthem-like finales. And the composers represented deserved their place in the nearest approach to a national Pantheon that English music ever produced. Many of them had enriched English music im- measurably in all branches.
The editor was Thomas Morley, organist of St. Paul's Cathedral and a pupil of Byrd who is, curiously, not in the anthology. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin; John Wilbye, a musician in private employment in Suffolk and one of the greatest of madrigalists; Thomas Hunt, organist of Wells Cathedral; Thomas Weelkes, of Winchester College and Chichester Cathedral, who shared the pinnacle of madrigalian fame with Wilbye; John Milton, father of the poet; George Kirbye, another musician in private service; Robert Jones, a witty Welsh lutenist; John Lisley; and Edward Johnson, who had written a work for the visit of Queen Elizabeth to the Earl of Hertford in One madrigal — of great and deserved fame — shall summarize the Oriana set and the brilliance of the period — Weelkes's 'As Vesta was from Latmos hill descending', in six parts.
The four highest voices see Vesta in C major. Her descent is depicted in a faithful downward-tripping scale. She, in turn, sees 'a maiden Queen' going up the hill — in G major. A homophonic episode shows attendant shepherds 'to whom Diana's darlings' Ex. They weave brilliant counterpoint out of Ex. In one way or another, of course, all ages are revolutionary; but the seven- teenth century with its spate of philosophers, with all its religious and political disturbance — absolutism in monarchic government here, republicanism there and regicides elsewhere — was exceptional. One characteristic of the seventeenth century which goes some way to explain the great social upheavals was a zest for experiment.
And this in turn led to the dominant mode of seventeenth-century expression — precision. Galileo whose father was a not unimportant Florentine composer , Bacon, Newton, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz who knew Handel at Hanover signify this quality within science and philosophy. Literature was the dominant art — especially in France — and the other arts became, for a time, subordinate. The artist fights for survival.
Therefore it is exhilarating to watch the process of musical acclimatiza- tion to the new tendencies of general thought. Choral music is especially interesting; first, because of its natural contiguity to words, and second, because of its natural function as some sort of communal symbol. About the year the world was plagued by young men with progressive ideas. As is often the case some of these young men were young only in spirit: otherwise somewhat past middle age. Musically the most notable were the Florentine group headed by Count Giovanni Bardi, the principal pioneer of the 'new music' — nuove musiche.
Bardi indicates the advanced opinions of Florentine criticism in one essay addressed to Giulio Caccini. It will be noticed that the style of choral writing that was formerly general there comes in for as much adverse criticism as any of our own day, which may be thought to resemble, say, Brahms. The other should be called arte di ben cantare. The more they bring the parts into motion the more gifted they consider themselves.
There are always anti-contrapuntal tractarians whose justification is often that they are not very good at it. But there was the zeal of Reformers on one hand who were all for psalms and simplicity , the equal zeal of Counter-Reformers on the other see under Council of Trent supra ; and a large number of 'expressionists' who began to place instrumental colour before vocal texture. The outcome was, of course, that counterpoint survived to enjoy in the music of Bach and Handel the fruits of experiment in every conceivable direction. And after that the trouble started all over again!
We must except those who like Prince Carlo Gesualdo, Girolamo Frescobaldi and Orazio Vecchi belonged to the polyphonic period, although to some extent impatient of the limitations of its technique. Likewise there are none who were not fully conversant with the demands of the 'new music'.
Indeed, in one way or another, they tumbled over themselves to assimilate novelty in the vocabulary and the design of music. Choral technique, then, branched out and we find a growing delight in virtuosity. Realism inspired Purcell, Cavalli and Schiitz. The lightness of the dance urged the French school to delicious choral interpolations of characteristic charm within operas and ballets. The severity and ethical function of chorale restrained the Germans to a gravity of purpose which often anticipates Brahms.
During the seventeenth century motets and anthems, services and Masses continued to engage the attention of composers. But wider opportunities in choral music were displayed as oratorio and cantata and, to a certain extent, opera grew into adolescence, and as great secular occasions demanded ample commemoration. Oratorio emerged on the Catholic side while the church cantata — of the sort that reached its climax in Bach — came through Lutheranism and the chorale. The Oratory of St. Philip Neri flourished in the middle of the sixteenth century.
The fraternity was founded to combat growing secularism and with special emphasis on prayer, hence 'Ora-tory'. Philip was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, saint of his age. He had a great concern for teaching and was willing to use all available means to make religious history and doctrine vivid and memorable. He had, equally, an affection for musicians, which brought many, including Palestrina, to him as father confessor. Thus it was that freer, more dramatic and more lyrical music Laudi was composed for the special use of the Oratory.
Philip was transferred to the great church of S. Maria at Valicella. The tradition of music which was established by the saint was continued so that in Emilio del Cavalieri's La rappresentazione di anima e di corpo was performed in S. This work carried into sacred music the main principles of contemporary Florentine opera.
If anything Cavalieri's work was rather more lively than what survives of Peri or Caccini and was diversified with an enchanting orchestra — or consort — and dances.
The choral remains show a marked rhythmic character and the impact of secularity. Oratorio spread all over Italy and churchmen developed an interest in a form of music in which they could either piously indulge their liking for a concert or by which they could instruct the faithful — or both. Subjects for oratorio sometimes flavoured of the medieval Morality or they challenged the fables turned into opera for dramatic intent: Samson, Deborah, Susanna and Jephtha foreshadowed Handel 1 The Oratorios of Handel, Percy M. Young, p.
Thomas of Canterbury and Mary, Queen of Scots explored more recent hagiology. Until we reach Carissimi, however, choral interest in oratorio, as in opera, was slight. With Carissimi we reach a point at which the oratorio form is sufficiently mature to bear occasional performance today. Many com- posers had previously indicated realism in a cappella writing; but Carissimi began to show how large backcloths could be designed to influence the whole atmosphere of a scene or a work. Thus the double choirs of Jonah indicate vastness and upheaval: as sea music the choruses are even now convincing.
In Jephtha the skirmishing voices can give a battlefield effect which, within its context, is sufficiently memorable. Or Carissimi can give great utterances to his chorus in a sort of intensi- fied recitative. It is small wonder that Handel was a student of this style of composition. A testimony to the influence of Carissimi lies in the fact that Handel transferred the chorus 'Plorate, filiae Israel' to Samson, where it became 'Hear, Jacob's God. He was exclusively a church composer. After a brief period at Assisi he became, in , maestro di cappella at the church of St.
Apollinare, which was attached to the German College. His reputation in the city was very great and Pietro della Valle, a Roman writer, describes a Christmas Eve service which he attended and for which he had to stand as the result of arriving late. One of the factors which leads to the exquisite is simplicity and Carissimi had the rare ability to express new ideas without recourse to the recondite.
His harmony — although in his cantatas he explored more expressive possibilities — was invariably simple, but it made its points by skilful rhythmic management. He gave momentum to melody by setting it over a moving bass 1 his predecessors in the nuove musiche had been often oblivious of the fact that a stagnant bass part is worse than no bass part. Likewise he gave musical purposefulness to melody by making it self-sufficient yet flexible to verbal intention, and made of recitative a vehicle of emotion as well as an instrument of narration.
He was virtually the creator of the church cantata, as developed by Alessandro Scarlatti. Carissimi was sufficiently widely known, although he never appears to have left Rome, to be respected by Charles II of England. The greatest collection of Carissimi manuscripts was acquired by Dr. Aldrich, architect, scholar, musician and sometime Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. Carissimi's oratorios were to Latin texts. Latin, the official language of the Church, distinguished the oratorios which won the particular approval of the dignitaries of the Church.
He composed, in all, sixteen and all from the Old Testament. The two which have survived in performance are Jonah and Jephtha. The weakest part of Carissimi's scores is the instrumental music, which, perfunctory and colourless, is restricted to two violins, 'cello and organ. It may be suspected that, even in the middle of the seven- teenth century, conservative instincts were still strong among con- scientious church musicians.
However, he is by no means the only master of choral effect deficient in instrumental feeling. Jonah has its magnificent sea music to commend it and the great tempest chorus surely inspired by way of Alessandro Stradella, for Handel was indebted also to him for ideas the climactic 'Sing ye to the Lord' in Israel in Egypt. Apart from the manner in which the two composers throw ideas from chorus to chorus, with colossal abandon, there is the same percussive intensity of rhythm. Hawkins recorded it 'for sweetness of melody, artful modula- tion, and original harmony.
Carissimi, indeed was in high favour with eighteenth-century writers in general, for he did chart the course for many writers of that age. Jephtha is introduced by a narrator historicus , who explains that Jephtha is fighting against the Ammonites. Jephtha tenor makes his vow — to sacrifice the first living creature to meet him on return from a victory — in plain recitative. Then the chorus in six parts take Jephtha to battle in a broad homophonic prelude of four bars.
The battle begins to rage, and the pace quickens while the alleged confusion of counter- point comes in aptly and pictorially: two sopranos illustrate the sound- ing trumpets: a bass puts the fear of God into the Ammonites by judicious 'divisions' e. The historicus tersely details the extent of the victory. The children of Amnion bewail their tragedy in a poignant chordal sequence Ex. Then a passage of recitative takes Jephtha home, touching the singing and dancing of his daughter with more figuration.
She next sings an air, which is interrupted by a duet for soprano voices. This affects too many consec- utive thirds the mannerism of expressing jollity in eighth notes and in thirds flourished for a long time , but the easy brilliance of the device attracted general consideration during the growing pains of the 'new music'. The full chorus sings a hymn of praise. Then Jephtha recalls his vow and explains it to his daughter. The recitative which describes this scene is imaginatively conceived and shows its improvement at the hands of Carissimi, for by tonal contrasts and by climactic accent the two characters assume musical personality.
Jephtha's daughter how sensible Handel was to have her christened Iphis! The chorus solemnly describe her passage. She sings her lament and her cadences are echoed by the high voices. Finally there is the chorus which took its place later in Samson. This chorus was printed in Athanasius Kircher's Musnrgia Universalis , a work which, in translation, circulated widely in Germany. He is of particular significance at the present day when the art of composition, again standing at a point of crisis, awaits a similar genius in synthesis who may combine a feeling for the 'spirit of the age' with awareness of the hidden possibilities within the rival theories of style, a commanding technique and a supreme concern for the aural effect of music.
Carissimi influenced music most considerably through his teaching. His own works have great dignity and sincerity. They are, nevertheless, characteristic of a gifted maestro di cappella. In the case of Monteverdi the music challenges attention, apart from any his- torical significance it may possess, by its originality. Although in point of time Monteverdi was an earlier composer than Carissimi his outlook is more conspicuously modern and his imagination more resourceful. In studying Monterverdi one is aware of a definition of religion by the late Archbishop Temple: '.
Substitute music for religion; but recollect that Monteverdi was deeply moved by religious values. Thus his church music, his madrigals and his operas are equally concerned with the exploration of human thought. The early operas Orfeo, ; Arianna, stirred Monteverdi to recognize what the early Florentines tended to overlook in their feverish justification of theory; that expression is invalid unless there is an idea to express and unless the manner of the expression can impose sympathy on the listener. Redlich summarizes 1 the unique value of Monte- verdi's first operas: ' his inspiration to the composition of these and similar texts lay in the inherent possibilities they offered of moulding the original expression of the human passions in dramatic fashion by means of symbolical musical sounds'.
In his search for 'symbolical musical sounds' Monteverdi was influenced on the one hand by the most affective of the Renaissance poets, Tasso, and by the progressive approximation of musical to verbal symbol shown in the madrigals of Luca Marenzio, Orazio Vecchi 2 and Carlo Gesualdo. Through the madrigal Monteverdi reached the high intensity note that the com- poser himself regards the 'Lamento' of Arianna and 'Preghiera' of Orfeo as the 'psychological axes' of their respective dramas of the great Laments. That from Arianna — 'Lasciate mi morire' — was reset in five parts for the Sixth Book of Madrigals This excerpt displays consideration for the word, the new tendency to think harmonically, the power of chromatic and discordant departure from the norm Ex.
In all, Monteverdi composed eight books of Madrigals the last in The last four books carry the pattern of the madrigal so far forward that eventually we no longer recognize the prototype. Redlich London , p. The attention of the reader is called to Ohime, se tanto amate from the Fourth Book in which the ultimate of expressiveness within the old style is displayed, and to Non schivar, non parar from the setting of Tasso's II combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda from the eighth book, where are all the features of the stile concitato — the style first used by Monteverdi for the expression of agitated feelings.
The madrigal is the focal point of Monteverdi's music in two ways. On the one hand it was the form which he was most conspicuously expected to practise as a court musician: on the other it was that as was true of Weelkes and Wilbye which afforded the greatest oppor- tunity for personal expression. Monteverdi's life divides thus: from to he was employed at the court of the Gonzagas at Mantua as violist and later, as maestro di cappella: in he became maestro di cappella at St.
Mark's, Venice: after , when public opera was instituted in Venice, he composed his last great operas, although still a church musician and, since , in holy orders. Mark's he was enjoined to restore the former glories of the church in respect of the Palestrina style, which was to be the approved style for a considerable time to come. After Zarlino's death a series of lesser composers allowed the standard to deteriorate. Monteverdi had both the skill and the determination to arrest this tendency: moreover he had such single-mindedness that he could turn his back on the new style of musical composition the seconda prattica and show mastery in the older polyphonic manner the prima prattkd.
But we may look back at works composed when he was fifteen which show the thoroughness of his training in the classical, prima prattica, manner — see the Sacrae Cantiunculae of The first Mass was composed in , was dedicated to the Pope in the hope of gaining the Pope's assistance and was based on themes from a motet — In illo tempore — by Nicholas Gombert.
This work is in six parts and has a figured bass accompaniment for organ. Accompaniments for keyboard instruments in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were not written out in full. The bass was given and with it a set of figures which epitomized the essential harmonies: hence 'figured bass'. The Masses of and 1 are direct and impressive settings of the text with few concessions to the age in general, except when these were to the advantage of simplicity.
The words are set syllabically, harmonic innovations are excluded and the counterpoint retains all the lucidity of the sixteenth century. Yet one recognizes a difference of atmosphere. The general rejection of melisma except on such words as 'eleison', 'amen', 'sanctus' makes for terseness; but something is lost on the side of mysticism. The functional character of the figured bass looks to the conventions of the eighteenth century and proposes a certain earthiness. Nevertheless there are moments of great beauty.
We may refer to the Mass of 1 64 1. The 'Gloria' has two moments in which wreaths of sound enshrine the text: at 'propter magnam gloriam' Ex. At the crisis of the 'Credo' the 1 Sec Dr. Rcdlich's Preface to his edition of the Messa a 4 voc'x pub. Some of the lost Masses were evidently in the seconda prattica style. The Mass is organized about this descending figure Ex. Of all the Monteverdi works which are available this is perhaps the most commendable to choralists. It is difficult vocally, but not unfamiliar in feeling.
And in recognizing this sense of familiarity the choral singer will begin to appreciate why Monteverdi is sometimes described as the 'first modern composer'. A somewhat arbitrary definition from which, in general, we should dissent. In considering Ex. It is instructive to compare a twentieth-century Italian work, based on the ancient style — the Requiem of Ildebrando Pizzetti — with Monteverdi's evocation of the same period. Do we not see Monteverdi too close to Palestrina to recognize the essential ethos of Palestrina's art?
To appreciate the romantic ardour which is in the seconda prattica church music of Monteverdi one should read the life of St. One should recognize an intention to renew the faith through moving the heart of the sceptic or the merely conventional. But the Counter-Reformation was a movement in which discipline was all-important. Monteverdi was a rigorous disciplinarian: episodes in his life reveal one aspect of this; the formal conditioning of his music another. We may take as an example the Psalm Laetatus sum, published posthumously in in the Messa a quattro voci e salmi a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 e 8 voci, concertati, a parte da cappella.
In this magnificent and excit- ing work for seven voices, strings, bassoon which has attractive solo passages , two trombones and organ there is a splendid torrent of sound which spreads from the titular phrase. Every device of figuration — and the coloratura moves with an almost Handelian assurance of contrast of timbres and rhythms, of variation in texture is employed to ensure a wealth of colour and a continual vivacity.
But the whole is unified by a basso ostinato Ex. VESPERS Somewhere between the austerity of the Masses and the finely polished romanticism of this Psalm is the work — or, rather, sequence of related works — which many now claim as Monteverdi's greatest: the so-called Vespers of the Virgin Mary. In Monteverdi put into one volume a number of miscel- laneous works — the Mass In illo tempore, a number of motet-style movements and two Magnificats — with which he wished to obtain papal patronage.
In fact the mission to Rome was unsatisfactory, perhaps because the works designated Sanctissimi Virginis Missa senis vocibus ad Ecclesiarum choros ac Vesperae pluribus decantandae cum nonnullis concentibus had been published in Venice. These larger movements are interspersed with others in some editions which were printed in the original part-books. It is suggested by Monteverdi's Dedication that the whole sequence was hardly possible for liturgical performance but rather for private and princely chapel, or palace.
The deviations from ecclesiastical propriety put us in mind of Bach's Mass in B minor. As a whole the movements of the Vespers represent the seconda prattka — another term to define the 'new music' — but there are many links with the past. The movements are built on traditional plain-chant themes.
Polyphony opulently enfolds the spacious 'Ave Maria Stella' for double choir. The orchestration the actual disposition of the instruments was determined at the time of performance and any modern score, so far as the scoring is concerned, is editorial recon- struction 1 carries forward the practice of Giovanni Gabrieli at St. Mark's, Venice, and stands at the end of the free and easy Renaissance tendency to recruit all available varieties of tone colour.
On the other hand the orchestra asserts its independent function: thus against a full and hammered chord of D major with which the chorus begins 'Domine ad adiuvandum' the strings and brass play the toccata from the composer's Orfeo. Herein is the process, to culminate in Handel and for that matter Bach, which transmuted festive music fit for an earthly prince into that meet for a heavenly.
In the 'Sonata sopra Sancta Maria' a purely instrumental movement is related to the liturgy solely by the solo soprano voice which announces the plainsong to 'Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis'. The Vespers vary from the great movements which employ all the resources — the greatest being the vast 'Magnificat' 2 — to the chamber music of 'Nigra sum' — 'Duo Seraphim' and 'Pulchra es'. Therefore the entire work is an index to almost every advanced practice of the early seventeenth century.
There are devices and strokes of the imagination which, since the period and the style come fresh to contemporary 1 The problems besetting a modern editor are clearly set out by Denis Stevens in his Preface to the Vespers Novello. In this edition only those movements with liturgical warrant are given. For the purpose of this survey the extraneous sections often given in modern performances are included. At the end of 'Domine ad adiuvandum' the harmony opens out from the long D major and the rhythm flings festively into triple time.
In the 'Dixit Dominus' great use is made of characteristically concitato iteration of a single chord the opening of Walton's Belshazzar's Feast is an extension of the system, as is the third part of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms. This practice is in contrast to the flowing tunes of more or less conventional counterpoint: note how the verbal rhythm and the solid mass of chordal tone throws the words right into the forefront. Monteverdi's interest in words often becomes an obsession: such is the case in 'Nigra sum', and in 'Pulchra es', where also may be seen Monteverdi's most emotional harmonic technique Ex.
The choral writing, leaving behind conservative method, often becomes highly poetic — as in the whimsical coloratura of 'Laetatus sum', where the musical feeling transcends any sense of mere service to the words — or the vigorous finality of instrumental gaiety, as in 'Lauda Jerusalem'. One quality, however, is lacking in this work, and this may be attributed to the general restlessness of the age — tranquillity. Hassler's setting, albeit simpler in general, has quietude of spirit: Monteverdi's must for ever be attentive to detail.
In a sense one may regard the Vespers as the Symphony of Psalms of the seventeenth century. Certain works and the same tendency is apparent among minor masters of the eighteenth century , indeed, surrender somewhat abjectly to the extravagance of Venetian seconda prattica. Thus Christoph Straus in his Missa pro defunctis introduces his work with a symphonia ad imita- tionem campanae — a 'symphony' in imitation of bells — and suggests trepidation in the 'Dies Irae' with effective tremolo.
In other Masses his orchestration demands sometimes as many as seven trombones and a set of 'feldtrompeten'. There was, however, one great composer who could admire the achievement of the Italians and, at the same time, make technique subordinate to integrity of self-expression. This was Schiitz. Like many German composers Schiitz was a Saxon he was broadly educated.
He was a law student at the University of Marburg and did not finally decide to follow the vocation of music until , in which year he became Kapellmeister — or chief musician, with authority over both secular and sacred music — at the Electoral Court of Dresden. He had been a pupil of Giovanni Gabrieli between and 2 and returned to Venice, much respecting the works of Monteverdi, in He was connected with Dresden for the whole of his professional life, but, after the dislocation of court life by the Thirty Years' War, he obtained leave to visit Copenhagen, where he lived between and Schiitz composed madrigals and although the scores have been lost operas 1 but his posthumous fame depended on his great corpus of church music.
In a period of experiment there are always composers who deserve attention by reason of originality of expression; those whose character- istic is depth of thought are less numerous. Schiitz is often placed by the side of Bach principally because both wrote Passion music. Insofar as both gave voice to the profound reflectiveness of German religion, to the overpowering sense of sympathy in the real meaning of 'suffer- ing with' which distinguishes the great tradition of German music, and to independence and tenacity in judgement this is just. But to regard Schiitz merely as a forerunner of Bach is unjust.
Thus, despite his boldness in colouring and his affection for orchestral variety, he is a great polyphonist. At the end of his long life he went backwards rather than forwards and produced the great Passion music from which instruments were excluded.
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