Recorded at Chapel of Abdij Marienlof, Borgloon, Belgium, January 10-12, 1994
Huelgas Ensemble (Paul Van Nevel, director)
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Jacobus Gallus: A Slovene In Central Europe
Though born a Slovene, Jacobus Gallus centered his entire work around Vienna, Prague and the diocesan city of Olomouc (Olmutz). The surpris-ing mobility of Gallus's truly Renaissance career shows him as a model of the sixteenth-century composer. Gallus was active at both abbey and court, though at times for only a brief period before moving on: Melk, Brno (Brunn), Wroclaw (Breslau), Legnica (Lieg-nitz), Gorlitz, Zwettl, and elsewhere. Mis cosmopolitan spirit is reflected, moreover, in the numerous variations of his name: Handl, Petelin, Haehn, Handelius, Coq, Kohoutek. Jakob Handl, who sometimes used the latinized form of his name, Jacobus Gallus, in the printed editions of his works, was born in 1550 in the Slovenian town of Ribnida (Reifniz) near Ljubljana (Laibach). Little is known of his childhood. He probably received his early formal education at the Cistercian monastery at Sticna (Sittich). His compositional style, clearly influenced by the Venetian polychoral idiom, may indicate that he studied in Trieste or Fiume, but this is only speculation. It is, however, known that Gallus left his native country sometime between 1564 and 1566 - perhaps because the pressures of the Reformation, which was on the foremarch, were becoming too strong for him. In this context, it is significant that years later he condemned Protestantism in the preface to the tirst volume of his Opus musicwn (Prague 1586).
Gallus spent some time in the famous abbey at Melk, where he was presumably a choirboy. In the preface to his first printed masses (Selec-tiores quaedam missae, Prague 1580), he wrote that he had studied music even as a boy because of a deep inner need and out of admiration for the great composers. It was during this time that Gallus came into contact with the bishop Wilhelm Prusinovsky, whose residence was at Olomouc, about eighty kilometres north of Brno.
There then followed an important step in the life of Jacobus Gallus: around 1567 he went to Vienna where he became a singer in the imperial chapel of Maximilian II. Several Slovenian singers had proceeded him, such as Johannes Globokar and Michael Carbonarius. Gallus had gained entry into one of the most highly reputed and best-known choirs in Central Europe if not the entire Western world. No lesser a kapellmeister than Philippe de Monte (1521-1603) was employed there, and was to remain until his death. At the time Gallus entered the chapel of the imperial court, Jan Pluvier and Jan Lotinus were the voice instructors; singers and composers included Lambert de Sayve (c. 1549 - 1614) and Jacob Regnart (c. 1545-99). The Iralianate elements in Gallus's compositional style are in part due to them, and of course to Philippe de Monte himself Regnart had studied in Italy; de Sayve's polychoral compositions (for as many as sixteen voices) are similar to Gallus's own, and de Monte had, after all, been brought to Vienna from Rome by the Emperor Maximilian II.
The atmosphere at the imperial chapel of the Holy Roman Empire proved a blessing for Gallus. The size of the choir and its richness gave unlimited .scope for musical experimentation with different combinations of tonal color Under Philippe de Monte, the chapel grew to over one hundred musicians including an average of sixty-five singers in addition to the instrumentalists, players of various string and wind instruments as well as organists. It was here also that Gallus may have become familiar with the Flemish style of polyphony: many singers were recruited from Flanders (by de Monte personally), and it was no coincidence that the court chapel was known for its "Brabandisch discantiern" (counterpointing in the style of Brabant).
The account books of the Viennese court attest that on March 14, 1574 the sum of twenty florins was paid to the father of Jacobus Gallus because he had come from such a distance to see his son. Jacobus's brother Georgius had accompanied his father In this document, Jacobus is incidentally still referred to as "choirboy of the chapel" - at the age of twenty-four!
In 1575, Jacobus Gallus left the Vienna court chapel. From this time his trail becomes indistinct, at least as far as the chronology of his activities is concerned. It is known that he traveled through Silesia, Moravia, Bohemia and other parts of Central Europe. Gallus seems to have maintained direct or indirect contact with cities such as Wroclaw, Prague and Gorlitz over a long period. In Wroclaw, several of his compositions were copied long before they appeared in print. Martin Mylius, the rector in Gorlitz, noted in his annals upon Gallus's death in 1591 that nearly all the works of this, "the most outstanding and delightful musician of our time," had been performed by the musical society of the city, the "laudable Convivium".
In the course of his numerous journeys about this time, Gallus paused at the Premon-stratensian monastery at Zabrdovice near Brno, where he appears as teacher and choir-master Meantime, the first of Gallus's compositions were being copied in Legnica and elsewhere: in Legnica, Gallus's motets were collected along with works by Orlando di Lasso, It was not until 1586, however, that Gal-lus's first volume of motets (Opus musicum toinus primus) appeared in print, A basically convivial man, the composer was at first not interested in having his work become widely known. He was not concerned with tame, and was sometimes guilty of exaggerated modesty. In his second book of masses (Selectiores quaedam missae, Prague 1580), he mentioned his own work in a belittling way ("...quod nul-him est.."). However, the criticism of his op-ponents, aimed principally at his occasionally progressive and eccentric compositional style and his impractical vocal settings, must have affected him deeply at rimes, for he neglected no occasion in the prefaces of his works to answer his critics.
Gallus was of course aware of the relatively long period between the composition and the appearance of his works. In the introduction to the first volume of his monumental motet collection Opus musicum (Prague 1586), the composer remarked that the edition contained a good vintage that had aged for over nine years. Was Gallus the humanist referring to Horace, who in his Ars Poetica (line 388) counsels the poet to let his work ripen for nine years ("nonumque prematur in annum'')? In any event, Gallus here provides indication that his first great productive period must indeed be dated around 1575.
After 1575, we find Gallus back in Zabrdovice, where he developed a friendship with the abbot Caspar Schonauer - a friendship that was to last the rest of his life- Schonauer was to become Gallus's mentor, and encouraged him to publish his compositions; he also provided his friend with financial as well as moral support; and fortunately, he was far from alone in this, for Gallus's work was reaching mammoth proportions. In the preface to the second volume of the Opus musicum, Gallus complained openly that a chronic lack of funds was restraining his publishing zeal; and that, after the works had all been written! Ultimately, though, few composers have been able to count on assistance from so many patrons, benevolent contributors and official sources in realizing their life's work: archbishops, bishops, abbots, monasteries, imperial offices, imperial treasuries, befriended humanists, magistrates, and - truly a case of the "widow's mite" - even rectors, all contributed to the printing of Gallus's gigantic work, which included compositions for as many as twenty-four voices. , After 1575, Gallus must also have had con*i tacts with Prague. This presumably came about as a result of Emperor Rudolf II transferring his residence and court chapel there from Vienna (1579/80). It was in this period as well that Gallus became acquainted with Stanislaus Pavlovsky. When Pavlovsky was consecrated Bishop of Olomouc in late 1579, he immediately appointed Gallus as kapellmeister, and from 1580 to 1585 Gallus seems to have enjoyed the benefits of a secure position.
For five years, Jacobus Gallus thus led the episcopal chapel of Bishop Pavlovsky in Olomouc and in Kromeriz (Kremsier), the secondary residence. In addition to his regular duties as composer and choirmaster, Gallus busied himself - particularly in the first years of his stay -with the publication of his first monumental collection of sixteen masses. This was followed by the appearance, in 1580 and within the period of a few months, of his Selectiores quaedam missae on texts by Jiri Cerny (Georg Nigrin). The work, published in Prague, is divided into four pans. The first volume includes three masses with eight voices and one with seven. The second volume container (bur six-voice masses including the Missa super "Sancta Maria". Four five-voice masses make up the third volume, while the fourth consists of four masses of four voices. The works are in the style of parody masses: that is, they are based on musical material from other, earlier compositions. Gallus's choice of models is interesting, for it gives an idea of the areas of music that he knew and was interested in. The Missa super "Sancta Maria" is based on a motet by Philippe Verdelot; other models are to be found in Orlado di Lasso, Thomas Crecquil-lon, Giaches De Wert, Clemens non Papa and Christian Hollander. Gallus also used motets of his own as models, the eight-voice Pater noster being one example.
In this connection, it is curious to note that the motets from his own pen selected tor parodying were printed only later, after 1586, In the introduction to his first edition of masses, Gallus spreads a veil of mystery over the question of how it had been possible for a choirmaster as peripatetic as himself to compose, within the short period of fifteen years, such an immense work comprising 20 masses, 374 motets (many in several parts), more than 100 Moralia and a number of occasional works. Gallus himself wrote that many of these compositions had been written at night. Could it be that this feverish activity was one reason for his early and unexpected death at the age of forty-one? The masses demonstrate the rich and occasionally unconventional stylistic devices used by the composer, who, throughout long passages, managed to combine the Venetian style - polychoral and rather homophonic - with the flowing, polyphonic Flemish idiom. The knowledge of singing that he must have gained under Philippe de Monte accords with this impression.
The publication of the twenty masses turned the itinerant composer of merely local significance into a figure that would soon range among the greats. Soon Gallus's works were being copied into the choirbooks of Germany, Austria, Silesia, Bohemia and Moravia. Christoph Leibfried, an organist friend of Orlando di Lasso's, arranged some of his pieces for organ; and important commissions arrived from music centers of distinction. This arguably provides the background for Gallus's 1585 decision to turn his back on Olomouc, which had probably become too small for him. ...