Lamentations from England, France, Italy, and Mexico
Heth, cogitavit Dominus Antoine Brumel (ca. 1460–1512 or 1513)
Lamentations à 6 Robert White (ca. 1538–1574)
Considera Israel Pierre de la Rue (ca. 1452–1518)
Incipit Lamentatione Jeremiae Prophetæ (III) Alfonso Ferrabosco the Elder
De Lamentatione Jeremiae Prophetae Pedro Bermúdez (1558–1605)
Sassi, palae, sabbion Andrea Gabrieli (1532/1533?–1585)
Lectio III Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525/1526–1594)
Shannon Canavin & Teresa Wakim, soprano
Martin Near & Gerrod Pagenkopf, countertenor
Jason McStoots & Zachary Wilder, tenor
Bradford Gleim & Ulysses Thomas, bass
Friday, January 15, 2010 at 8pm
Union Church of Waban
Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 8pm
University Lutheran Church in Cambridge
Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 3pm
First Lutheran Church of Boston
Notes on the Program
According to Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions, the Book of Lamentations was authored by the Prophet Jeremiah, who was ministering the Word of God during the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, during which the First Temple was destroyed and King Zedekiah was taken prisoner. The book consists of five separate poems. In chapter one, the prophet dwells on the manifold miseries oppressed by which the city sits as a solitary widow weeping sorely. In chapter two these miseries are described in connection with national sins and acts of God. Chapter three speaks of hope for the people of God. The chastisement would only be for their good; a better day would dawn for them. Chapter four laments the ruin and desolation that had come upon the city and temple, but traces it only to the people’s sins. Chapter five is a prayer that Zion’s reproach may be taken away in the repentance and recovery of the people. The Lamentations are recited annually on the Tisha b’Av, the anniversary of the destruction of both the Jewish Temples.
The Old Testament Lamentations of Jeremiah are highly penitential, even hopeless in spirit, which makes them ideal material for the religious service with which they are always associated—Matins on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday (the last three days leading up to Easter); certain verses, if interpreted in a certain way, seem to foretell the Passion and eventual Crucifixion of Christ.. This service, traditionally held after dark, became known as Tenebrae. The darkness, the emotive events of Holy Week itself, the somber texts, and intense music combined to make Tenebrae one of the most powerful experiences in the Church’s year.
The history of polyphonic Lamentations can be traced to the middle of the fifteenth century. Like contemporary polyphony for the Passion, the earliest settings intended to serve liturgically as lessons for the triduum sacrum were organum-like (two or three voices usually moving in parallel motion) with strictly syllabic declamation. Such settings may be distinguished, however, from a smaller group of motet-like works based on single verses. A large, two-volume collection of polyphonic Lamentations printed by Petrucci in 1506 illustrates the extent to which composers of the Josquin generation were interested in works of this genre. A characteristic of the works of this collection, and of Lamentations generally in the first half of the sixteenth century, is that individual composers treated a varied selection of Lamentations chapters. They also differ greatly in the number of verses they set, as well as in the way they grouped them in the course of the lesson. In melodic substance the majority of the Lamentations in Petrucci’s collection bear the stamp of the Roman tonus lamentationum (reciting tone), which is clearly recognizable as a cantus firmus in places and more freely worked in others.
The flowering of polyphonic Lamentations that began with the Petrucci edition lasted for the whole of the sixteenth century; Netherlandish, French, Italian, and Spanish composers were first and foremost in this field, English and German being less in evidence. Lamentations in the first half of the sixteenth century adhered more rigidly to the Roman tonus lamentationum than did those of earlier composers, which means that most were in the same mode (F Ionian). Stylistically they are similar to the contemporary motet; four-part writing is clearly the rule and the spectrum of contrapuntal possibilities is quite varied. In the Roman Catholic liturgy, polyphonic settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah customarily open with the text “Incipit Lamentatio Ieremiae prophetae” (“Here begins the lamentation of the prophet Jeremiah”) followed by a melismatic setting of the Hebrew letter (Aleph, Beth, Teth, Ghimel, etc.) that precedes the verse, as found in the Hebrew original of the Old Testament. This practice, like numbering the verses of a chapter, allowed composers to make an expressive distinction between the letters, which they set in elaborate abstract music, and the text proper, which is more syllabic and matter-of-fact. Where the lament itself has the kind of immediacy which can sustain the use of dissonant harmony and word-painting, the letters come over by comparison like an illuminated initial in a medieval manuscript. Each setting then ends with the text “Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum” (“Jerusalem, return to the Lord thy God”).
Antoine Brumel (ca. 1460–1512 or 1513) may have been the only major Franco-Flemish polyphonist of the Josquin generation to be born within France proper, perhaps near Chartres. The earliest historical record of Brumel is from Chartres in 1483. He held a master’s position in Geneva from 1486, and left in 1492 under mysterious circumstances. He is mentioned again at Laon in 1497, and was placed in charge of the children at Notre Dame in 1498, where he soon resigned. In 1501, he was in Chambéry, and finally took the prestigious appointment at Ferrara in 1506, after a year of negotiations. The Ferrara chapel was disbanded in 1510, and nothing concrete about Brumel is known afterward.
Only two verses of Brumel’s Lamentations survive in a Florentine manuscript (verses 2:8 and 2:11, to be sung on Holy Saturday). These two alone, however, squarely place him in the tradition of the somber and powerfully evocative Lamentation series that culminates in the work of Orlando di Lasso. Brumel sets the Hebrew letters “Heth” and “Caph” elaborately, and embeds a liturgical recitation chant into the altus voice of his musical structure; both this chant and the assignment to Holy Saturday reflect a liturgy prior to the standardizations of the Council of Trent. Brumel’s choice of four low men’s voices lends an air of solemn depth to the sound of his Lamentations. Within that, however, he reaches for a subtle yet powerful level of text sensitivity. He evokes, for instance, the Lord’s “stretching out” of a measuring line against the walls of the city by a stringent harmonic clash, the prophet’s eyes “worn out with tears” by the tenor’s plodding rhythm at that moment. His verses conclude with the liturgically appropriate refrain “Jerusalem, turn to the Lord your God,” and his compositional craft comes even more alive. The cries to the city Jerusalem keep recurring with more jarring cadential dissonances, but the word “convert” shifts to a different (hemiola) rhythm. The final phrase evokes turning and aspiration to God by a repeated, upward-turning motif in every voice.
Robert White (ca. 1538–1574) was arguably the leading figure in that lost generation of English composers which came to maturity between Tallis and Byrd in the middle of the sixteenth century. Along with Robert Parsons and William Mundy, White formed a school within a school, whose musical instinct was to look back to the Catholic style of Tallis’s youth (a style they had all but missed) while putting it to the service of Elizabeth I’s Protestant Church. When White applied for the Cambridge Bachelor’s degree in 1560, he had studied music for ten years; so he may well have been born between about 1530 and 1535, by which time Tallis and Tye were in their twenties or thirties. He is known to have been a chorister and later one of the cantores at Trinity College, Cambridge (1555–1562); thereafter he succeeded his father-in-law Christopher Tye as Master of the Choristers and Organist at Ely Cathedral (1561–1566); and probably was appointed Master of the Choristers at Chester Cathedral (ca. 1566–ca. 1569) before moving to London as Master of Choristers at Westminster Abbey from 1570, where he died of the plague in the disastrous epidemic of 1574.
The only complete setting of the Lamentations is an anonymous composition from sixteenth-century England; more well-known English settings are by William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, and Robert White. Those of White (two sets, in five and six parts respectively, with almost identical texts) correspond to parts of the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday lessons. Written around 1570, White’s Lamentations does not include the customary opening statement since the orthodox Roman liturgy was not favored at this time in England. While his five-voice setting shows strong traces of continental influence (England not having its own native Lamentations tradition), while the six-voice setting is that of a large scale antiphon—two halves in which solo sections precede full ones, the first in triple and the second in duple time. What particularly distinguished Elizabethan Lamentations from their European models was what might musically be called the English manner. Just as the English later adapted and transformed the madrigal, so they brought a robustness, an expansiveness, and a greater use of counterpoint and textual repetition to the more restrained and homophonic Italian paradigm. Moreover, White’s use of the Phrygian mode (characterized by a lowered second scale degree), and his deliberate exploitation of cross relations (for example, a G natural heard in one part against a G sharp in another) and dissonance for emotive effect, emphasize rather than diminish the solemnity of the words.
Among the composers of the Josquin generation (ca. 1500), Pierre de La Rue (ca. 1452–1518) was the leading figure in composition working north of the Alps. A master of the older canon and cantus firmus techniques, he also developed the art of imitative texture, and experimented with expanded vocal ranges and five- and six-part writing; the combination of old and new is a prominent feature of his music. La Rue was born and educated in Tournai, an important cathedral town (now in Belgium, just north of the French border). His birth date is not known, and the probable date depends on whether the singer and composer Pierre de la Rue who enters the documentary record in 1492 is the same person as the singer Peter vander Straten, who enters the documentary record in Brussels in 1469. For many years scholars assumed they were the same person, with French and Flemish versions of the same name (Peter of the Street), but recently Honey Meconi has questioned the identification. If they are the same person, then the composer was born around 1452; if not, he could have been born as late as 1465. We do know for certain that in 1492 the composer Pierre de la Rue is listed as a member of the Grande Chapelle of the Habsburg-Burgundian court, where he worked for the rest of his active life. He retired to a church job in Kortrijk/Courtrai in 1516, and died there in 1518.
David and Jonathan were heroic figures of Israel, whose covenant was recorded in the Old Testament books of Samuel. Jonathan was the son of Saul, king of Israel, and David was the son of Jesse of Bethlehem and Jonathan’s presumed rival for the crown. The two met when David was brought before Saule having slain the giant Philistine warrior Goliath; Samuel records that Saul “would not let [David] return…for he saw that Jonathan had given his heart to David and had grown to love him as himself. So Jonathan and David made a solmn compact because they loved the other as dearly as himself.” Saul made several attempts on David’s life due to his objections to the close (perhaps romantic) relationship between the pair, causing David to go into hiding until Jonathan could ascertain whether it is safe for David to return. Jonathan is rebuked by his father, and visits David for a heartbreaking farewell. The two renew their covenant, but never see each other again. When Jonathan and Saul are slain on Mt. Gilboa by the Philistines, David offers a poignant lament on their deaths.
There are two significant settings of the lament of David over the deaths of Jonathan and Saul: Josquin’s Planxit autem David and Pierre de la Rue’s Considera Israel. One Florentine manuscript which preserves la Rue’s complete motet also transmits a potent visual cue to the singers: many of the initial notes are “colored” black, which although a common method of rhythmical notation at the time, also signified darkness and death. It has been suggested that la Rue’s motet was commissioned by Marguerite of Austria in response to the death of her brother Philip the Fair in 1506. If this is the case, then the semi-independent transmission of the final section—opening with “doleo super te, frater mi Jonathes” (“I grieve for you, my brother Jonathan”)—is both understandable and poignant (this section was excerpted in a chanson album compiled for Marguerite). Furthermore, the personal resonance which the text thus assumes may explain the unusual directness of la Rue’s treatment. Despite what has been said above, this is a “humanist,” wholly theoretical setting in which clear text declamation is paramount. The abrupt rise and fall of the melody on “Jonathas in excelsis tuis occisus est”(“Jonathan was slain on your mountains”) is one example amongst many in this motet of a type of word-painting which is almost unknown elsewhere in la Rue’s work, while the falling minor thirds of the Phrygian, which preface the final section, might be regarded as musical shorthand for grief.
Alfonso Ferrabosco (1543–1588) was the eldest son of Domenico Ferrabosco, and a member of an aristocratic Bolognese family which had many musicians among its members. Born in Bologna, little is known about his early life, but he is known to have spent part of it in Rome and part in Lorraine in the service of Charles of Guise. In 1562, probably with his uncle, he came to England for the first time, where he found employment with Elizabeth I. Throughout his life he made periodic trips to Italy, not without controversy, for evidently neither the Pope nor the Inquisition fully approved of his spending time in England, which in the late sixteenth century was actively at war with Roman Catholic countries. While in England, he lost his Italian inheritance, and while away in Italy he was charged with certain crimes in England (including robbing and killing another foreigner). While he was successful in clearing his name, he left England in 1578 and never returned; he died in Bologna.
Ferrabosco composed four Lamentations settings; as with his other sacred music, it seems likely that they were not intended for ritual use; rather, they would have been an emotive reminder of the Tenebrae service for Catholic sympathizers in Elizabeth’s Protestant court. This is indicated by the texts: three out of the four sequences use verses freely selected from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, presented in the traditional manner; no use appears to be made of the tonus lamentationum. In two sequences (c65, c66) Ferrabosco employed low voice ranges that exactly match those of Tallis’s first set of Lamentations. Ferrabosco’s Lamentations cover the key emotional moments across the first Vigil, and his use of chromaticism and change of tonal center aptly reflect the sometimes desperate and harsh tone of the texts. In this movement he was evidently working with the text from memory, for he misattributes the numbers of the verses and omits a line of text.
Born in Granada, the Spanish composer Pedro Bermúdez (ca. 1558–1605?) was probably educated at Granada Cathedral under Santos de Aliseda, maestro de capilla there from 1557 to 1580, and perhaps also studied composition with Rodrigo de Ceballos, maestro de capilla at the adjacent Capilla Real from 1561 to 1581. On 8 July 1584, while holding a benefice at Santa Fe, he was elected maestro de capilla of the collegiate church at Antequera. Unhappy there, he unsuccessfully competed for the post of maestro de capilla at Málaga in February 1586. Dismissed from his Antequera appointment on 31 January 1587 for gross negligence and a fight with one of his tenors that had led to a brief imprisonment, he returned to Granada, where he secured a half chaplaincy at the Capilla Real. He unsuccessfully competed for the post of maestro de capilla at Granada Cathedral in April 1592 and remained at the Capilla Real until he left for the New World, probably in the spring of 1595. On 9 October 1597 he succeeded Gutierre Fernández Hidalgo as maestro de capilla at Cuzco, mountain capital of the Incas. He seems to have left Cuzco during 1598, probably because of dissatisfaction with his salary and the enmity of his singers, since in that year he became maestro de capilla at Guatemala City Cathedral; he remained in this post until his departure for Puebla in 1603. He probably died at Puebla late in 1605 since the sochantre Luis Mendes was placed in charge of the choir there on 1 January 1606.
Bermúdez’s Lamentations may have been composed during the two and a half years—August 1584 to January 1587—that he served as a choirmaster at the collegiate church of Antequera, a provincial town of some importance in the diocese of Málaga. Composed upon the texts for use in the Good Friday service, this setting by Bermúdez is found in manuscript form in Guatemala and Puebla, copied by the composer Gaspar Fernandes. This setting likely used all of the first three of the four verses assigned to lesson VI-1 by the 1576 Passionarium, chapter 2:8–11, but somewhere in the course of its transmission the final phrase of chapter 2:10 was lost. Its loss could have happened easily enough: when setting the three phrases constituting each of the verses in chapters 1 and 2, Castilian and Andalusian composers almost always joined the first two together in a large section and presented the third in a separate, shorter section. This short final section could well have been overlooked when a copy of the work was made from the composer’s work sheets, or the last of the folios on which the work had been copied could have been lost.
The uncle of the somewhat more famous Giovanni Gabrieli, Andrea Gabrieli (1532/1533?–1585) was the first internationally renowned member of the Venetian School of composers, and was extremely influential in spreading the Venetian style in Italy as well as in Germany. Details on Gabrieli's early life are sketchy; he was probably a native of Venice, most likely the parish of S. Geremia and may have been a pupil of Adrian Willaert at St. Mark's in Venice at an early age. There is some evidence that he may have spent some time in Verona in the early 1550s, and he is known to have been organist in Cannaregio between 1555 and 1557, at which time he competed unsuccessfully for the post of organist at St. Mark's. In 1562 he went to Germany, where he visited Frankfurt am Main and Munich; while there he met and became friends with Orlande de Lassus, one of the most wide-ranging composers of the entire Renaissance. In 1566 Gabrieli was chosen for the post of organist at St. Mark's, one of the most prestigious musical posts in northern Italy; he retained this position for the rest of his life. The date and circumstances of his death were not known until the 1980s, when the register containing his death date was found. Dated August 30, 1585, it includes the notation that he was "about 52 years old;" his approximate birth date has been inferred from this. His position at St. Mark's was not filled until the end of 1586, and a large amount of his music was published posthumously in 1587.
Sassi, palae, sabbion – E vu, fiumi (“on the death of Adrian”), a tribute to Adrian Willaert, belongs to a specifically Venetian type of vocal music called grechesca, based on an artificial dialect invented by the poet Antonio Molino, alias Manoli Blessi, (ca. 1495–1571), amalgamating Venetian popular dialect with words drawn from the language of Greek mercenaries. Its musical style shows his indebtedness to Willaert’s music and also resembles the works of another of Andrea’s mentors, Orlando di Lasso.
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525/1526–1594) is first known to have been in Rome in 1537, when he is listed as a choirboy there; he studied with Robin Mallapert and Firmin Lebel. From 1544 to 1551 Palestrina was organist of the principal church of his native city (St. Agapito, Palestrina), and in the latter year became maestro di cappella at the Julian Chapel (Cappella Giulia) in Rome. With his first published compositions, a book of masses which he presented to Pope Julius III (previously the Bishop of Palestrina), he made so favorable an impression that he was appointed musical director of the Julian Chapel. In addition, this was the first book of masses by a native Italian composer: most composers of sacred music in Italy at that time were from the Netherlands, France or Spain. In fact his book of masses was actually modeled on one by Morales, and the woodcut in the front is an almost exact copy of the one from the book by the Spaniard.
Palestrina held positions similar to his Julian Chapel appointment at other chapels and churches in Rome during the next decade (notably St. John Lateran, from 1555 to 1560, and St. Maria Maggiore, from 1561 to 1566). In 1571 he returned to the Julian Chapel, and remained at St. Peter’s for the rest of his life. The decade of the 1570s was difficult for him personally; he lost his brother, both his sons, and his wife in three separate outbreaks of the plague (1572, 1575, and 1580 respectively). He seems to have considered becoming a priest at this time, but instead he married again, this time to a wealthy widow; this finally gave him financial independence (he was not well paid as choirmaster) and he was able to compose prolifically until his death.
Palestrina’s Lamentations, along with works of other composers, replaced those of Carpentras in the papal chapel from 1587. Stylistically they are close to his Improperia and Stabat mater and belong among his most mature works. In contrast to settings from the first half of the century, they reveal a stronger tendency to homorhythmic texture in order to obtain a clear declamation of the text (this is also true of the Lamentations of Lassus and Handl, but not of Morales and Victoria). Adherence to the Roman tonus lamentationum was no longer as prevalent nor as strict; this is generally true of other settings of his time. This setting of the third lesson for Holy Saturday depart from tradition and leave out the Hebrew letters, instead presenting the lesson in short, but highly expressive sections.