Singer Pur

Roland de Lassus: Biographie musicale, Vol. 2

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The concept of this release and of the series of which it is a part is a good one: a "biographie musicale" is needed for more Renaissance composers, whose works tend from a distance of 500 years to blend into a general style. The focus here is on the early years of Roland de Lassus (aka, Orlande de Lassus, aka, Orlando di Lasso) in Munich, his "time of favor" as the rest of the title has it. During this period Lassus benefited from the patronage of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria, a big spender who was determined to earn an international musical reputation for his court. The result was an outpouring of compositions from Lassus, designed for a great variety of occasions. The selection goes beyond the usual division of sacred and secular into such curious hybrids as Ave color vini clari (Hail, color of clear wine, track 9), a secular parody of a sacred piece. Within the secular realm itself, the German group Singer Pur tries to understand how and why Lassus succeeded in bringing various national styles of song to the Bavarian court. The texts are given in five languages, and the program gives a real sense of how the Bavarian duke might have been so entertained by Lassus' music. The performances by Singer Pur are less successful. They use the same one-voice-per-part approach for everything from masses to madrigals, and their mode of expression doesn't change much from piece to piece. Nevertheless, the album is worth hearing for those seriously interested in Lassus, who remains among the least understood of major Renaissance composers, with much of his output still awaiting publication.

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