rlando di Lasso (also known as Roland de Lassus and Roland Delattre, b. Mons 1532 - d Munich 1594) is considered one of the greatest polyphonists of the late Renaissance and the essence of the Flemish tradition. A widely travelled individual, his places of residence include Rome (as chorus master at St John Lateran), Antwerp, Munich (in the employ of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria) where he settled, Flanders, Frankfurt, Northern Italy, the French Court, etc. There was a suggestion that he may even have visited England which has not been substantiated. He was awarded a hereditary nobility by Emperor Maximillian II in 1570. In 1575 he employed Giovanni Gabrieli which shows his desire for innovation as much as tradition.
Lassus' versatility can be seen in an enormous output which encompasses every style of the period in over 2000 compositions: Italian madrigals, German lieder, French chansons, Latin motets, two passions, offices, masses and magnificats. In 1604, his sons published 516 of his motets. His skill earned the title of "Orpheus de Belgique" and "Principe della Musica".
Of the two settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah to be sung as part of the Catholic liturgy for Matins on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday, the setting in five parts is a work of great mastery. In some ways this represents the development of structural devices which would later be used in opera and instrumental music.
The work can be thought of in terms of three two movement symphonies for voices. Each Lamentation is proceeded by a musical announcement and the substantial text is offset by the use of the Hebrew choirmaster alphabetical indicators (Aleph, Beta, Gimmel, etc) which operate like a word painting chorus from an ancient Greek drama.