The Hilliard Ensemble

CD18,90 out of print

Europe’s foremost exponents of early music perform two of the most important works of the central figure of 16th century Flemish polyphony, Orlando di Lasso. Inspired musicianship, interpretive imagination and ECM’s fabled sound quality combine to make this the essential Lassus reference disc for now and for years to come.

Featured Artists Recorded

November 1993, Boxgrove Priory, Boxgrove

Original Release Date


  • Missa pro defunctis
  • 1Responsorium: Memento mei Deus
    (Traditional, Anonymous)
  • 2Introit
    (Traditional, Orlando di Lasso)
  • 3Kyrie
    (Traditional, Orlando di Lasso)
  • 4Graduale
    (Traditional, Orlando di Lasso)
  • 5Offertorium
    (Traditional, Orlando di Lasso)
  • 6Sanctus - Benedictus
    (Traditional, Orlando di Lasso)
  • 7Agnus Dei
    (Traditional, Orlando di Lasso)
  • 8Communio
    (Traditional, Orlando di Lasso)
  • 9Antiphona: In paradisum
    (Traditional, Anonymous)
  • Prophetiae Sibyllarum
    (Traditional, Orlando di Lasso)
  • 10Carmina Chromatico01:35
  • 11Sibylla Persica02:32
  • 12Sibylla Libyca02:41
  • 13Sibylla Delphica02:15
  • 14Sibylla Cimmeria02:16
  • 15Sibylla Samia01:54
  • 16Sibylla Cumana02:15
  • 17Sibylla Hellespontiaca02:07
  • 18Sibylla Phrygia01:54
  • 19Sibylla Europaea02:14
  • 20Sibylla Tiburtina02:11
  • 21Sibylla Erythraea02:25
  • 22Sibylla Agrippa02:24
Europe's foremost vocal ensemble performs two of the most important works by that enormously prolific master of 16th century polyphony, Orlande [Roland] de Lassus, otherwise known as Orlando di Lasso (born in Mons, Hainaut in 1532, died in Munich in 1594). The Hilliard Ensemble has sung Lassus's compositions since the group's inception. As John Potter says of the Prophetiae Sibyllarum : "They are among the finest expressions of a renaissance musical ideal: an attempt to recover from an imagined past a fusion of rhetoric and chromaticism, in which Lassus stretched the compositional boundaries of his own time and laid down a challenge to performers of ours."

Lassus wrote more than 2,000 works in diverse genres, including masses, motets, psalms, hymns, responsorial Passions and secular pieces in Italian, French and German. His motets include didactic pieces, ceremonial works for special occasions, settings of classical texts (some secular, the Prophetiae Sibyllarum among them), liturgical works and private devotional pieces. Lassus issued five volumes of sacred music as Patrocinium musices (1573-6). After his death, his sons assembled another, the Magnum opus musicum of 1604.

Little is known of Lassus's early life. The stories of the choirboy with the golden voice, kidnapped three times before the age of 12, are most likely apocryphal. It is thought that he began to compose while in Naples working for Constantino Castrioto circa 1550, after which he moved to Rome, becoming maestro di cappella of St John Lateran in 1553. John Potter: "It is possible he was in Rome at the time of the great debate on chromaticism between Lusitano and Vicentino in 1551. Both these theorists were trying to establish the nature of the ancient Greek music, the former (who was judged the winner) using the evidence to support a diatonic (and conservative) compositional method, and the latter proposing a more radical chromaticism. The young Lassus was on the side of the radicals..." In 1556 he joined the court chapel of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria as a singer, becoming Kapellmeister of the Bavarian court in 1563. In this capacity he served the Duke and his successor, Wilhelm V, for 30 years. Many of his works were published while he held this position and he also travelled widely, consolidating his international reputation as composer and singer.

John Potter on the Prophetiae Sibyllarum: "The words for the introductory Carmina Cromatico are probably by Lassus himself, the title referring to the complex dissonances and tuning of this extraordinary work. It is the shortest of the collection, and tonal disorientation begins almost immediately...In the first eight bars there are chords on all but one of the twelve chromatic semitones. This is word-painting in excelsis. The homophonic texture enables Lassus to express the text with the immediacy of renaissance rhetoric, while the continually shifting pitch-centres prepare the listener for the bizarre mixture of pagan hysteria and Christian epigram which are to come... The Sibylline Prophesies were a gift from the young Lassus to his patron, and were not published until after the composer's death. Lassus, who was fluent in all the compositional techniques of his day, put aside extreme chromaticism and did not return to it. Such music, known as musica reservata, was unique and performances were reserved for cognoscenti..."