Victoria: Missa Laetatus Sum for three choirs
Josquin and Gombert: Mille regretz
Lobo: Versa est in luctum
Guerrero: Ave virgo sanctissima
Heinrich Isaac, Virgo prudentissima
With I Musici Della Contessa, a six-part renaissance instrumental ensemble, comprising two cornetts, three sackbuts and curtal.
Tickets available online from the Theatre Royal Box Office in Bury St Edmunds.
Five hundred years ago, in 1517 in Vienna, the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I was in mourning at the death of the court composer, Heinrich Isaac. He had served the court of the most powerful family in Europe since 1503, after a distinguished career as singer and composer mainly in Innsbruck and Florence. Our modern day equivalent for Isaac would be a composer-laureate, commissioned to write for special occasions, and in this he excelled.
Virgo Prudentissima is an extraordinary work, which typifies Isaac’s ability to compose on demand. It was composed for the Reichstag meeting in 1507 which confirmed Maximilian’s role as Emperor. Set for six parts, it involves intricate solo passages interspersed with massive, resonant choruses.
Victoria’s Missa Laetatus Sum, which he published in 1600, is an impressive work for three choirs, inspired by the Italian style he encountered when living in Rome. It is based on his own setting of the psalm Laetatus sum, (I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord). It’s very likely that a combination of voices and instruments would have been deployed for a piece of this scale.
Also composing for the Spanish court were Alonso Lobo and Francisco Guerrero. Lobo’s motet Versa est in luctum (My harp is turned to mourning) was written for the funeral of Philip II in 1598. Guerrero worked for a time for Maximillian II, and his motet Ave virgo, in which the two soprano lines follow eachother in canon throughout, became one of the most famous works of the succeeding century.