In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Orlande de Lassus

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Guides to Repertory and Literature
  • Biography
  • Source Studies
  • Facsimiles
  • Editions
  • Style and Technique
  • Reception
  • Modality
  • Lassus and the Theatre
  • Performance Practice and Adaptions for Instruments

Music Orlande de Lassus
Bernhold Schmid
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0060


Orlande de Lassus (b. 1532–d. 1594) is also known in modern writing as Orlando di Lasso and Roland de Lassus. He must be counted, together with Palestrina, among the most important composers of the second half of the 16th century. No composer was more often published than Lassus (more than 475 prints containing his work exists, with some pieces being printed more than twenty times, and some of these appear with more than two or three different texts). Moreover, more than six hundred manuscripts from the 16th and 17th century are found to contain works from Lassus, most of which, however, were copied from prints. This long history of transmission and reception reveals a significant influence on the music of his own time, and on that of the early 17th century. Numerous theorists cite his works when discussing contrapuntal theory or to present theory of modes. Contemporary scholars even refer to a German Lasso-school (and thus Heinrich Schütz, who studied with Lassus’ student Giovanni Gabrieli, is considered a “grandson” of Lassus). Finally, the reception of Lassus was not confined by confessional boundaries, for his works were treasured and handed down on both sides of the confessional divide, and many of his works specifically for Catholic practice (e.g., the Salve Regina) were given other texts for Protestant usage. While Lassus cultivated all compositional genres of his day, his greatest achievement should probably be considered the sphere of the motet. Nevertheless, since he tended to ignore rigid distinctions between genres, he can be said to belong to that group of composers who were pioneers in the internationalization of musical style toward the end of the 16th century. Even among his contemporaries he was recognized for his great artistic ability in the expression of texts. For this article I have used RILM-abstracts and Erb 1990, cited under Guides to Repertory and Literature. Many thanks to Professor Calvin M. Bower for his contribution to this entry.

General Overviews

Only a few works other than encyclopedia articles (see Reference Works) attempt to treat all topics concerning Lassus’ life, his works (including style and chronology), and his sources. The best present-day overview is Coeurdevey 2003. Boetticher 1999 is an extensive monograph, but it doesn’t always give reliable information. Short and compact information is given in Bossuyt 1982. Van den Borren 1920 is still important for its musical descriptions.

  • Boetticher, Wolfgang. Orlando di Lasso und seine Zeit 1532–1594: Repertoire-Untersuchungen zur Musik der Spätrenaissance. Vol. 1, Monographie. Wilhelmshaven, Germany: Verlag der Heinrichshofen-Bücher, 1999.

    This monograph (first published in 1958) tries to give a comprehensive overview on Lassus’ life, his works, the development of his style, and the sources. This book contains many mistakes, which have been commented and corrected by Leuchtmann 1976 (cited under Biography).

  • Bossuyt, Ignace. “Orlandus Lassus (1532–1594): Leven en werk.” In Orlandus Lassus 1532–1594. Edited by Ignace Bossuyt, 29–59. Leuven, Belgium: Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte, K. U. Leuven, 1982.

    An overview organized in short paragraphs, thereby making it easy to use.

  • Coeurdevey, Annie. Roland de Lassus. Paris: Fayard, 2003.

    Smaller in size than Boetticher 1999, this book is much more reliable. It is divided in two parts (Part 1: “Biography and History of the Origin of his Works”; Part 2: “Style”). Indexes give an overview of the main printed and the manuscript sources and their contents.

  • van den Borren, Charles. Orlande de Lassus. Paris: Librairie Felix Alcan, 1920.

    Provides much less biographic information than is now available. The book is also based on a limited number of his works. Still, it remains interesting for its description of works.

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