LASSO (LASSUS), ORLANDO (c. Belgian musical composer, whose real name was probably Roland Delattre, was born at Mons in Hainault, not much earlier than 1532. He seems to have visited England in 1554 and to have been intro duced to Cardinal Pole, to whom an adulatory motet appears in 1556.
His first book of motets appeared at Antwerp in 1556, contain ing the motet in honour of Cardinal Pole. The style of Orlando had already begun to purify itself from the experimental incon gruities that led Burney, who seems to have known only his earlier works, to call him "a dwarf on stilts" as compared with Palestrina. But where he is orthodox he is as yet stiff, and his secular composi tions are, so far, better than his more serious efforts. In 1557, if not before, he was invited by Albrecht IV., duke of Bavaria, to go to Munich. The duke was an intelligent patron of the fine arts, a notable athlete, and a man of strict principles. Munich now be came Orlando's permanent home; though he sometimes paid long visits to Italy and France, whether in response to royal invitations or with projects of his own. In 1558 he made a happy marriage by which he had four sons and two daughters. The four sons all became good musicians; and the two eldest (under the patronage of Duke Maximilian I., the second successor of Orlando's master) published the enormous collection of Orlando's Latin motets known as the Magnum opus musicum.
Like Haydn at Esterhaz, but in no provincial isolation, Orlando at Munich worked out his art under ideal circumstances. His duty was to make music all day and every day, and to make it accord ing to his own taste. Nothing was too good, too severe or too new for the duke. Church music was not more in demand than secular.
Instrumental music, which in the i6th century had hardly any independent existence, accompanied the meals of the court ; and Orlando would rise from dessert to sing trios and quartets with picked voices. The daily prayers included a full mass with poly phonic music. Such things were possible in those days, for i6th century music was no sooner written than it could be performed, entailing as little expense and preparation as a game of billiards in a good billiard room. From Munich Orlando's fame radiated throughout Europe, and every contemporary authority attests that he was received with acclamation wherever his travels took him. Experience rapidly taught him a style as pure as Palestrina's, without narrowing his range or curbing his originality. He was
omnivorous of the literary culture of the time ; and during his stay at the court of France in 1571 he became a friend of the poet Ronsard.
In 1579 Duke Albrecht died. Orlando's salary had already been guaranteed to him for life, and the new duke was very kind to him. But the loss of his master was a great grief and seems to have checked his activity for some time. In 1589, after the pub lication of six Masses, ending with a beautiful Missa pro defunctis. his strength began to fail ; and a sudden serious illness left him alarmingly depressed and inactive until his death on June If Palestrina represents the supreme height attained by i6th century music, Orlando represents the whole century. The swif t ness of his intellectual and artistic development is astonishing. His first four volumes of madrigals show but an intermittent sense of beauty. Many a number in them is a solid mass of "false relations" between twin major and minor chords, such as make an unenviable mark of distinction between English styles and the purity of the Italians. In the Italian madrigal (as distinguished from the villanella and other light forms), Orlando seldom attained or attempted a pure style, though some of his later madrigals are indeed glorious. But in his French chansons, many of which are settings of the poems of his friend Ronsard, his wit and deftness are unfailing, and it would be worth while to find appropriate but decent texts for those compositions, German, French and Italian, which modern singers cannot sing to the gross original words. In 1562 when the Council of Trent was censuring the abuses of Flemish church music, Orlando had already purified his ecclesiastical style; though he saw no reason why it should cease to be Flemish. At the same time Orlando's Masses are not among his greatest works. Perhaps the uses of Duke Albrecht's private chapel were less favourable to finely proportioned litur gical music than the uses of metropolitan Rome. But, in any case, the music of a i6th century Mass demands, before all other tech nical qualities, the power of composition. No power of illustration can replace power of composition where the composer has to deal with a text of universal import. And Orlando is primarily not a composer, but an illustrator.