A composer of the late Renaissance period, Orlandus Lassus was born in 1532. Franco-Flemish in background, there is a legend that he was kidnapped three different times during his boyhood for his exquisite choir voice. Lassus produced over 2,000 works in Latin, Italian, French, and German vocal genres, practically every one known in his time. His versatility is virtually unmatched. Among the 2000 pieces were 530 motets (on religious and secular themes) and over 60 masses. His career was spent in the Low Countries, in Italy, and in Germany, and he traveled extensively throughout other European countries. He died in 1594 one of the most celebrated composers of the age.
The mass here consists of the classic parts - Responsorium: 'Memento mei Deus', Introitus, Kyrie, Gradulae, Offertorium, Sanctus and Benedictus, Agnus Dei, Communio and an antiphon closing, 'In paradisum'. There are definite pieces here that introduced new standards to the way the requiem is structures in the Renaissance, leading to Baroque times. This is a very good example of a Requiem, with power and strong tones of spirit and joy.
The piece begins with the item entitled 'Carmina Cromatico', which no doubt refers to the kind of dissonant song that follows throughout this working of the Sibylline prophecies into music. Lassus wrote this piece in his early days as a gift to his patron, and it was not published during his lifetime. It incorporates a kind of compositional technique that Lassus in general did not employ in most of is work. There are twelve motets done in this style, and perhaps Lassus had in mind the dissonance of the pagan prophet in the age of Christendom when composing this piece. In any event, it is unlike most of Lassus' other work, and is a nearly unique offering in this time period, as the inspiration to write in chromatic style faded rather quickly.
The Hilliard Ensemble was formed in 1974, and have been performing worldwide as well as recording extensively ever since. They have been described as 'the Rolls-Royce of vocal ensembles'; being a consort of only four men, the sound is remarkable. The singers are David James (countertenor), Rogers Covey-Crump, tenor, John Potter, tenor, and Gordon Jones, baritone. Their voices are remarkably well attuned to each other, and there is a solid but not overpowering intensity in their performances.
This is superb work, and a real treat for the listener.