Lassus Tenebrae Lessons for Wednesday (SF Bay Area)
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,685
    My Dufay study group has expanded to a quartet and will sing Lassus' first 3 4vv Lessons with Responsories attr. Palestrina next Wednesday April 5 at 7:30 at St David of Wales Church, 5641 Esmond Avenue, Richmond Calif. Here is my first stab at program notes, as well as a flyer:

    The Tenebrae or ‘shadow’ services of Holy week, so named from the custom of extinguishing a candle after each Lesson, are from the nighttime Office of Matins (despite the name, poor Frère Jacques was actually roused in the dark of night, rather than by the matitudinal “morning bells” of Lauds or Morning Prayer). The services of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are each divided into three Nocturns of three Psalms and three Lessons each, the Nocturn featuring Lessons from the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Each Lesson is followed by a Responsory.

    The composer Roland de Lassus (c. 1532-1594) was born at Mons, then part of the Holy Roman Empire, and adopted the name Orlando di Lasso in Italy, where in 1553 he became Maestro di cappella at Rome’s Cathedral St. John Lateran (a post in which he was succeded by Palestrina in 1555). The bulk of Lasso’s career was spent at the court in Munich, where he wrote some 100 Magnificats and 60 masses in addition to a prodigious quantity of secular music, all marked by a daring sense of harmony that sets him apart from his contemporary Palestrina. This boldness may be the reason Arthur Conan Doyle named him as Sherlock Holmes’ favorite composer.

    Lasso turned to the texts from Jeremiah in his late years, publishing another set of Lamentations for five voices in 1585. The Lamentations for Four Voices, which remained in manuscript until 1990, can be approximately dated thanks to the recently emerged biographies of other musicians at Munich: it is in the hand of Valentin Neuhauser who died in 1591, replacing Lassus’ favorite copyist Franz Flori, who died in 1588. The tridentine revision of the Breviary was published in 1588, and Lasso’s four-voice Lessons are remarkable in that they set more verses than are required, in contrast to the much abbreviated Lessons of Palestrina and other composers.

    The Responsories heard tonight are from a manuscript dated 1764 and titled Responsoria anno 1555 composita a famosissimo Dom. Aloysio Prestino. Some of the pieces however use versions of texts from Urban XIII’s 1632 revision of the Breviary, which suggests ‘admirer of Palestrina’ as a more plausible attribution.