A conductor’s guide to text painting in the Lamentations of Jeremiah for Five Voices by Orlande de Lassus
Council, Stephanie Lynn
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This paper provides conductors with information on the essential background and structure of the five-voice settings of 9 Lamentationes Hieremiae by Orlande de Lassus. A thorough exploration of the ways in which Lassus highlights the meaning of the text through various types of text painting in the verse settings is provided to facilitate analysis and engagement of the scores in preparation for performance. Because of the analytical nature of this document, it is recommended that it be read alongside an edition of the scores, references to which are provided in the body of the paper and the bibliography. The performance edition by Clive Wearing published by Mapa Mundi in the London Lassus series was the primary source consulted for analysis. Brief background information is provided on the text taken from the biblical book of Lamentations, and a discussion follows of how the structure and content of the poetic excerpts informs their use in the liturgy and in the polyphonic musical settings. Relevant biographical details about Lassus are given, connections are drawn to historically relevant details of the developments and changes within the Church resulting from reforms mandated by the Council of Trent, and an explanation of how these changes impacted the composition of the lamentation settings is offered. The various types of text painting including changes in texture, voice grouping, counterpoint, polyphony, pitch, harmony, and rhythm are analyzed and explained. The brilliance of Orlande de Lassus is evidenced in the beautifully crafted polyphony that when paired with thorough analysis and attention to all of the ways the composer has musically highlighted the meaning of the words brings the music to life for performers and audience alike.