BETWEEN THE WORD AND THE MUSIC IN THE WORKS OF ORLANDO DI LASSO
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One of the distinctive features of Lasso's style of composition lies in the manner of setting the words and interpreting the text. On the one hand, he uses the contemporary repertoire of expressive possibilities: for example, if 'ascendere' appears in the text, the music rises in pitch, the word 'heaven' is expressed through high notes, and so on. But Lasso often goes far beyond this. His imagination and sometimes associative way of thinking often lead to surprising and extreme solutions, as is shown here in four examples. The passage 'Solo sed satis' from Sibylla Persica is illustrated by musical contrasts (high and low, single note and full chord, change of key). The 'vie (...) distorte' of the madrigal 'Veggio se al vero' are made audible in the twisting of a cadence; a musically 'straight' path is diverted, as it were. 'Sol, sol' from the motet 'Exultet coelum, mare, sol' shows Lasso's associative thought processes: the setting of the word 'sol' twice in the soprano as a single note isolated between rests inevitably creates the impression that the composer was aiming to set not the word 'sol' (sun) but 'sol' as a part of the word 'solus' (alone). In the motet 'Susuper per super' (Psalm 136, the Babylonian Captivity), letters are joined together into syllables, and syllables into words. This was how people learned to read in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Precisely this manner of building up the text brings to mind a further biblical narrative, that of the Jewish children who were obliged to learn Chaldaean at the court of Nebuchadnezzar (Book of Daniel).
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