Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Orlando di Lassus’ Readings from the Prophet Job

Here is an interesting discovery via the YouTube suggestion algorithm: a polyphonic setting of the Matins lessons for the Office of the Dead, composed by Orlando di Lassus (1532-94), and published in 1565. Very little information about them is to be found on the internet, but the channel on which this video is hosted has a note that they were composed perhaps as much ten years earlier, when he was only 23. In 1556, Di Lassus began working at the court of Albrecht V, Duke of Bavaria, and would stay there for the rest of his life. A friend of mine who is very knowledgeable about the music of this period tells me that the Bavarian ducal chapel already had an anonymous complete polyphonic setting of the Matins and Lauds of the Dead from around 1550, with settings of the antiphons, faux-bourdons versions of the psalms, and responsories, but not the lessons so perhaps this work was put together in its published form to complete the Office. (In the 1580s, Di Lassus composed a second version of the same texts.) If anyone knows more about these, and specifically, about how they would have been used liturgically, perhaps you could explain more about them in the combox.  

The lessons are divided into two or three parts.

1. chapter 7, 16-21 (2 parts)
2. 10, 1-7 (3 parts)
3. 10, 8-12 (2 parts)
4. 13, 22-28 (2 parts)
5. 14, 1-6 (3 parts)
6. 14, 13-16 (2 parts)
7. 17, 1-3; 11-16 (3 parts)
8. 19, 20-27 (3 parts)
9. 10, 18-22 (2 parts)
He also did a setting of the seven Penitential Psalms, which make for especially appropriate listening in the Lenten season. Before the Tridentine reform, these were said on every ferial day of Lent in the Divine Office according to most Uses of the Roman Rite. The breviary of St Pius V reduced the obligation to all ferial Fridays, and the reform of Pope Clement VIII (1602) reduced it further to just the Fridays of Lent; the obligation was then completely cancelled by St Pius X. 

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