The Expressive Beauty of Di Lasso’s Psalms

The Seven Penitential Psalms are among the most emotionally expressive poetry in the Bible. So it’s not surprising that Orlando di Lasso, master of expressive counterpoint, created works of extreme beauty in his settings of these texts.

These works would have originally been performed during Lent, a time of introspection. Di Lasso breaks each psalm down into sections, with each section getting a different treatment. This creates variety of both character and texture, allowing di Lasso work with the inherent musical implications for each section.

Taken as a group, the psalms invite self-reflection and examination. It’s only on repeated listening does di Lasso’s contrapuntal artistry become clear.

The Dufay Ensemble performs up to their usual high standards. The blend is seamless, and yet each individual line is easy to pick out. My only complaint is that the recording itself is a little dry. Although recorded in a church, the group is so close-miked that there’s little ambiance at all. Di Lasso composed this music for the chapel of his employer Duke Albrecht V. To hear these works without some type of decay seems odd somehow.

Orlando di Lasso: Setem Psalmi Poenitentiales
Dufay Ensemble

Ars Musici

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