Orlando di Lasso

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Lasso, Orlando di

Lasso, Orlando di (ōrlänˈdō dē läsˈsō), 1532–94, Franco-Flemish composer, b. Mons, also known as Orlandus Lassus or Roland de Lassus. Lasso represents the culmination of Renaissance musical art. At age 12, he entered the service of Ferrante Gonzaga, viceroy of Sicily. Thereafter, he worked variously in Naples (1550–53), Rome (1553–54), and Munich (1556–94). In 1570 he was raised to a hereditary rank of nobility by Emperor Maximilian II, and in 1574 he became one of the very few musicians to receive a papal knighthood. Lasso brought Flemish polyphony to its highest development in the Renaissance and distilled in his music the best elements of European music of his time. His more than 2,000 works in every form known to his day—masses, motets, French chansons, Italian madrigals, German lieder, and others—make him one of the most versatile and cosmopolitan composers in history. In contrast to the restrained mystical style of Palestrina, Lasso's music is vigorous, often passionate and earthy. Many of his love songs were set to poems by Petrarch and other poets. Undisputed master of the motet, he showed his skill at its richest in the Magnum opus musicum (pub. 1604), a selection of 516 sacred motets. His best-known works are his Penitential Psalms of David (c.1560; pub. 1584) and his last work, Lagrime di San Pietro (1594), completed three weeks before he died.


See A. Einstein, The Italian Madrigal (1949); G. Reese, Music in the Renaissance (2d ed. 1961); and studies by W. Boettiches (1958) and H. Leuchtmann (1976).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lasso, Orlando Di


(or Roland de Lassus). Born circa 1532 in Mons; died June 14, 1594, in Munich. Franco-Flemish composer.

Lasso was the foremost representative of the Netherlands school and one of the greatest masters of polyphony. As a child he was a choirboy in Mons. He entered the service of Duke Ferdinand of Gonzaga in 1544 and traveled with him to Sicily, Italy, France, and England. He moved to Munich in 1556; he sang in the ducal chapel, which he directed from 1563 until his death in 1594.

Lasso was famous throughout Europe. A Renaissance man, he combined various national music cultures in his music and created model works of choral polyphony in diverse genres of secular and sacred music. His music expresses a range of emotions from deep sorrow to humor, and his lyrics vary from philosophical meditations to a rather vulgar everyday-life setting; Lasso set stormy dramatic passions and subtle spiritual feelings to music. Most of the more than 2,000 songs he wrote were based on folk melodies.

Lasso’s greatest sacred works are his motets (more than 1,200; The Great Music Creation, a collection of 516 motets, was published posthumously in Monaco in 1604), Penitential Psalms (1565), and Masses (57; mostly a capella). The choral and orchestral sound of his polyphonic works is colorful and full of splendor, succulence, and dramatic force.

Lasso used verses by classical and contemporary poets as well as his own words as lyrics for his secular works—Italian madrigals, French part-songs, and German polyphonic lieder (his song “Echo” is known throughout the world and is performed by Soviet choirs). The colloquialisms, humor, and imagery of his works are characteristic of the Netherlands “genre” style. Lasso founded a school of composition; G. Gabrieli was his greatest student.


Bulychev, V. (M. V. Ivanov-Boretskii). Orlando Lasso: Biograficheskii ocherk. Moscow, 1908.
Boetticher, W. Orlando di Lasso und seine Zeit. Kassel-Basel, 1958.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.