Orlandus Lassus



Orlandus Lassus (Mons, 1532  - München, 1594) was an excellent and productive composer. He is also known as: Orlando di Lasso, Roland de Lassus or Roland de Lâtre and is considered the dominant figure of late renaissance music. His music was very popular: 60% of printed music from 1555 to 1600 is by his hand.


At a young age Lassus became a choirboy in the Saint-Nicolas church in Mons. The Viceroy of Sicily took the boy with him to Italy in 1544, after gaining consent from his parents, he would remain here for 10 years. He stayed in Milan and Naples under the name Orlando di Lasso and in 1551 he became kapellmeister of the archbasilica of St John Lateran in Rome. He traveled through France and England, and in 1555 stayed in Antwerp. He published his first four-parted madrigals here, while simultaneously his first five-parted madrigals were published in Venice. .

In 1556 the Duke of Bavaria appointed him member of the court chapel of Munich where he would serve as kapellmeister in 1561 and remain there until his death. In the months before his passing, Lassus wrote his final great masterpiece: the Lagrime di San Pietro. 

Belgian Orpheus

Orlandus Lassus was the most famous composer of his time. Fellow composers acknowledged his talent. Throughout the centuries this gave rise to nicknames such as the “sovereign of music” and Belgian Orpheus. 

Priceless treasure

The music Lassus left behind is a priceless treasure. In his motets he attained an unsurpassed level of synthesis, e.g. in the Psalmi Davide poenitentiales (1559) intense textual expression is combined with rhythm and contrapoint. He wrote, inter alia, 53 four-parted masses and about 100 Magnificats. He also excelled in profane compositions: his Madrigals are characterised by controlled expression and Lassus is irrefutably grand master of the French chanson. His writing style is mostly syllabic with an emphasis on rhythmic declamation. In his youth works we find tasteful villanels - a lighter form of madrigal with more homophonic passages composed during his stay in Rome in Naples. This includes the well known Matona mia cara

Vocal works (selection)

  • Matona mia cara (ca. 1544-1551), four-parted, published in 1581, you can find the score here. 
  • Psalmi Davide poenitentialis (1559), five-parted, published in 1584
  • Bonjour mon coeur, four-parted, published in 1564
  • Missa Suzanne un jour, five-parted, published in 1577
  • Lagrime di san pietro (1594), seven-parted, published in 1595 (München)
Psalmi Davidis Poenitentialis by Collegium Vocale Gent conducted by Philippe Herreweghe
Share this page