In 1557, the German Duke Albrecht V engaged Lassus' services as a singer at the court in Munich. Lassus' status was upgraded to Kapellmeister in 1561. His position enabled considerable travel, and Lassus made frequent trips to Venice, where he met and made friends with the Gabrielis. Judging from the range of settings, both sacred and secular, coming from Lassus in these years, it is apparent he was asked to supply music for a wide variety of events at the court of Duke Albrecht. The flood of published editions, both authorized and not, of Lassus' music during this time established him as the most popular composer in Europe, and in 1574 he was made a Knight of the Golden Spur by Pope Gregory XIII.
In 1579, Duke Albrecht V died, and the longstanding extravagance of his court left his successor, Duke Wilhelm, with little choice but to make deep cuts in the entertainment budget. This had a direct and negative effect on Lassus' fortunes, but nonetheless he declined an offer in 1580 to relocate to the Court at Dresden. By the late 1580s, the number of new pieces Lassus undertook began to slow down. In the months before his death, Lassus succeeded in bringing to life his last great masterwork, the Lagrime di San Pietro, in itself a summation of the highest forms of Renaissance musical art. He died at about the age of 62, and in 1604 his sons published an edition of his collected works entitled Magnus opus musicum. This was used as the basis for the first modern edition of Lassus' music, published in Leipzig between 1894 and 1926.
Among his key works, the Sibylline Prophecies (1553) and Penitential Psalms (1560) reflect the influence of Italian mannerism. While later music contains occasional chromatic alterations, mature Lassus works favor a unique style that combines an intensely dramatic sense of text painting, nervous and excited rhythmic figurations, and glorious, rolling counterpoint. Late works demonstrate a concern for terseness in expression, and texts are realized in a highly compressed state. No verifiable instrumental music is known from Lassus, and his masses are generally considered unfavorably in light of Palestrina's achievement in that realm. But his other works -- motets, madrigals, French chansons, and German lieder -- are considered second to none in the context of the late Renaissance, and several of his secular songs were known from king to peasant in the second half of the sixteenth century. Read less
Select a specific Work or Popular Work below