Philippus De Monte
Philippus de Monte (1521-1603), also known as Filip (or Philippe) Van den Berg was born in Malines and passed away in Prague. De Monte belongs to the fifth generation of Flemish Polyphonists.
Philippus de Monte was a choir boy in the St-Rombouts cathedral of Malines. Following his musical training he traveled Naples where he resided with the Pinelli family and made a name for himself as a composer, singer and fervent teacher from 1542 to 1551. Around this time he stayed in Rome for a year (1554) where he worked for cardinal Pietro Francesco Orsini. In the 1550’s he also became connected to the chapel of Filips II of Spain, in this capacity he visited England in 1558 for the wedding of Filips II and Mary Tudor. Here he came into contact with William Byrd (1543? - 1623).
Philippus de Monte returned to Italy in 1558 and in 1567 became kapellmeister to Emperor Maximilian II at the Habsburg court in Vienna. He remained here for 35 years, including under Maximilian’s son and successor Rudolf II, a great lover of art, music and science. Rudolf moved the court to Prague in 1583. De Monte accompanied him. As leader of the court chapel de Monte composed 38 masses and about 250 motets. After a trip to the Netherlands in search of singers, Philippus de Monte was appointed treasurer and canon for the cathedral of Cambrai in 1572, although he was not in residence here.
Composer and educator
De Monte was a very productive composer. He wrote 38 masses and 260 other spiritual pieces, including motets and madrigali spirituali. His motet Super flumina Babylonis was sent to William Byrd, who replied with his Quomodo cantabimus from 1584.
He wrote a grand total of 1100 profane madrigales spread over 34 books! His madrigals were said to be among the first and most mature five-part pieces. They evolve from an experimental style with a lot of chromatics and text expression, to a later style that was simpler and made use of short motifs and homophonic textures.
De Monte used texts by, inter alia, Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374), Pietro Bembo (1470-1547) and Jacopo Sannazaro (1458-1530). His compositions were printed and distributed across Europe. He had many students. Through this avenue of teaching he was able to pass his knowledge on to the next generation, who would go on to develop the early baroque style of music. Philippus de Monte’s madrigals are still frequently performed to this day.
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