Zefiro Torna (BE)
The vocal-instrumental ensemble Zefiro Torna (1996) brings to life the cultural heritage of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque in a unique way. The ensemble does not limit itself to a merely historical approach but combines it with current art expressions. Starting out from disciplines such as traditional, (non-) occidental, jazz and contemporary classical music, as well as literature, contemporary fine arts, science, philosophy and dance, they collaborate with individual scientists, artists or companies to work with a variety of symbolic or allegorical themes. This results in fascinating pieces of Gesamtkunst.
Through this approach, Zefiro Torna has gained international renown. The ensemble is a welcomed guest at prestigious concert venues and art and music festivals. Their creations are regularly awarded and several of them have been released on the labels Et Cetera, Warner Classics and Homerecords.
ZEFIRO TORNA: Annelies Van Gramberen (soprano), Dimos de Beun (recorders), Philippe Malfeyt (colascione, vihuela), Jurgen De bruyn (lute, renaissance guitar, artistic direction)
INGENIUM ENSEMBLE: Blaž Strmole (tenor), Domen Anžlovar (tenor), Matjaž Strmole (baritone), Matija Bizjan (bass)
Artist message to visitors
As a Belgian internationally acclaimed vocal-instrumental ensemble, Zefiro Torna brings to life the cultural heritage of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque in a unique way. We do not limit ourselves to a merely historical approach but combine the music with current art expressions by incorporating symbolic themes. In this collaboration with the Slovenian vocal ensemble Ingenium, we present a programme that balances spirituality, morality, melancholy, love, beauty, foolishness and parody, holding a mirror to the world. The varied music performed with soloistic and polyphonic voices accompanied by the strings of the lute, colascione, guitar and recorders, is that of the masterful Renaissance composer Orlandus Lassus and a few of his contemporaries.
About the concert programme
IL DIVINO LASSO - MIRARIS MUNDUM
The components of the programme title ‘the Divine Lassus contemplating the world’ announce the content and several aspects of the programme as an enigmatic formula. It will be performed by the Flemish vocal-instrumental ensemble Zefiro Torna and the Slovenian vocal ensemble Ingenium.
ORLANDO DI LASSO
The first part of the title refers to the masterful 16th century composer Roland de Lassus ou Lattre (French), Orlandus Lassus (Latin), or Orlando di Lasso (Italian), who lived between 1532 and 1594.
He was a true European avant la lettre. Because of his golden voice that could be heard in the St. Nicholas Church in Mons (former southern Netherlands), he was soon snatched away by patrons such as Ferdinand Gonzaga. He followed him around half of Europe and held functions in cities such as Palermo, Milan, Naples and Rome. After short-term stays in England and Antwerp, the prestigious court of the Dukes of Bavaria in Munich recruited him, first as a singer and later as superior of the music chapel. The chapel was responsible for the lustre of parades, tournaments, hunts, church services and other festivities. In this court life, Lassus felt at home. In 1558 he married Regina Wäckinger, the daughter of a maid of honour of the Duchess, and had two sons, both of whom became composers. He spent the last thirty years of his life at the Bavarian court, from which he made numerous trips to Prague, the Low Countries, Italy and Vienna (to mention only a few).
With equal ease and lucidity Lassus mastered all contemporary secular as well as religious genres. He did not only write sophisticated masses, passions, magnificats, lamentations, hymns and motets, but also applied himself to popular genres. Promoted by important editors as Susato, Phalesius, Le Roy & Ballard, his work was internationally highly praised. Lassus' body of work is considered as the culmination point of the 16th century renaissance music. It also served as inspiration to the ensuing Baroque music style.
His contemporaries praised him in many ways. Le Roy described his style as ‘pressus et limatus’ or compendious and polished. In 1572, the famous French Pléiade poet wrote in his Livre de Meslanges: ‘... The present, more than divine Orlando, who has like a honey bee plucked all the most beautiful flowers of the ancestors and above that appears to have deprived the harmony of spheres for us to rejoice on earth. He surpassed the ancestors, which makes him the only wonder of our time ...’
The second part of the programme title ‘Miraris Mundum’ or ‘the contemplation of the world in his variety’ is borrowed from an anonymous 16th century motet, where retrograde techniques are a symbol of equally moving forward as well as regression, a cyclic principle where the past and the future interact.
The program starts with a formula of blessing, in the form of Gregorian chant and an intabulation of the Lassus motet Scapulis Suis by the Flemish lutenist and composer Joachim van den Hove. The words ‘He shall cover you with his wings…’ are extracted from Psalm 90:4-5. The Bavarian court, where Lassus spent most of his life, had an empirical mindset and had installed one of the most intriguing Wunderkammer of Europe in the castle of Landshut, inviting the most important artists, philosophers and scientists. The astronomer Johannes Kepler connected contemporary polyphony with his attempt to notate the songs of the planets according to heliocentric astronomy. He referred to the Lassus motet In me transierunt repeatedly as a model for his self-created Song of the Earth, where the incipit shares the same solmization (mi fa mi), and whose plangent evocation of ‘MIsery and FA-MIne’ accords with the motet’s ‘wailing’ Phrygian modality. As a classical educated homo universalis, Lassus is well acquainted with historical sources. The ‘chanson spirituelle’ Suzanne un jour found its origin in a biblical story from the time of the exiled Jewish people in Babylon. The poem, where the virtuous beauty Susanna speaks that she would rather die than offend the Lord by committing adultery, inspired many composers. It appeared in print in 1548 as the text of a chanson in the collection Premier Livre de Chansons spirituelles par Guillaume Gueroult, mises en musique à 4 parties par Didier Lupi second. The programme features this Lupi version as well as an instrumental interpretation by Giovanni Bassano. In his early twenties, Lassus got inspired by the enigmatic ancient Greek oracles. As a prologue of the cycle Prophetiae Sibyllarum, the self-referential piece Carmina chromatico reveals his experiment on harmony. In Dulcis exuviae, an excerpt from the Aeneid, the epic poem by Virgil, queen Dido, founder of the city of Carthage, expresses her last words before she kills herself after she is abandoned by her beloved Aeneas. These dramatic verses are put into music by many polyphonists as Josquin des Prez, Adriaen Willaert and Cipriano de Rore. With a predilection for poems by the early Renaissance poet and humanist Petrarch, Lassus also brilliantly practiced the genre of the Italian madrigal. In Canzon, se l’esser meco, Petrarch praises his travelling companion, the poetry itself.
Refined French chansons as Avec le jour, Je l’aime bien and Il estoit une religieuse in music and words describe the praise of nature, beauty and love. Some of them derive from great Pléiade poets such as Pierre de Ronsard (Bonjour mon Coeur) or Joachim du Bellay (La nuict froide et sombre). While others play masterfully all the snares of the human disposition. In a humoristic parodying way the song Quand mon mary vient de dehors as well as the Napolitan canzone O Dio si vede chiaro cha per te moro describe the malpractices in marriage. Lassus vividly switches between French, Italian (dialect), German and Latin, all with a great sense of humour. In the letters addressed to his favourite Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V, he writes sentences as: “Ego certissime plus scriberem, sed pour autant qui lest quasi temps de aller ad versperas, et non possum intromittere de faire une petite visitation, au pays bas de ma femme … A de patro” (“I would certainly be writing more, but it’s just about time to frequent the Vespers, and I must not forget to visit the Netherlands of my wife …Farewell, master).
There is no doubt that Lassus was a bon vivant. He was a real food (A ce matin) and wine lover and praised the fertility of nature in bucolic pieces. He played with language and words in songs as O vin en vigne as well as in the student cantus Lucescit iam o socii. During his stays in Naples and Palermo he came in contact with the lighter dancing Italian works, the Neapolitan villanelles and moresche and got inspired by composers such as Da Nola and Fontana. Their three-voice songs such as Sacio ‘na cosa, O Dio se vede chiaro and Chi la gagliarda became a model for the most famous songs, such as Matonna, mia cara which appears in Lassus’ popular collection of Villanelle, Moresche, et altre Canzoni, published in Paris and Antwerp.
Text by Jurgen De bruyn.