“Orlandus Lassus was the most versatile and arguably the greatest composer of the 16th century. Active in all genres, he was justly famed and celebrated in his own time, and a much-treasured teacher for the generation of composers who would implement the radical paradigm shift into the Baroque period.
During the Renaissance, it was customary to insert polyphonic motets into religious services with texts that fitted the occasion. We do not know if this was also the case during Easter celebrations, but I have tried to find fitting pieces among Lassus’ rich treasure of motets (and even a spiritual madrigal!) to illuminate certain key moments in the otherwise austere Passion story.”
Orlandus Lassus was one of the greatest and most celebrated musicians of his day, and a teacher whose influence extended into the Baroque period and beyond. Although the St Matthew Passion is almost always associated with J.S. Bach’s towering masterpiece, earlier settings developed from plainchant into polyphony throughout the 16th century. Lassus composed four Passions of which this is the most elaborate. His sublimely interwoven polyphonic settings are here placed alongside a traditional Roman Catholic Passion chant through which the roles of Jesus and the Evangelist unfold in a seemingly timeless meditation. Certain key moments in the otherwise austere Passion story are further illuminated in this recording by the inclusion of motets and a spiritual madrigal.
Listen to an extract from St Matthew Passion: Expectans expectavi Dominum
About the Artists
After completing his studies in musicology at the University of Copenhagen and bassoon at the Royal Academy of Music, Bo Holten established his reputation as a leading specialist and conductor of early music vocal groups, first with Ars Nova, which he established in 1979 and later with Musica Ficta, founded in 1996. Musica Ficta, a dominant force in Danish musical life, is also recognised as one of Europe's finest vocal ensembles.
After graduating from the Royal Danish Music Conservatory, baritone Torsten Nielsen continued his studies with, among others, Anthony Rolfe Johnson. He has appeared as soloist in works such as the Requiems by Fauré and Duruflé, J. S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Handel’s Messiah and Grieg’s Four Hymns for choir and baritone. Recently he appeared in Arvo Pärt's St. John Passion with the Copenhagen Boys Choir and the Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen.
The young Danish baritone Lauritz Jakob Thomsen began his vocal studies as a member of the Copenhagen Boys Choir before proceeding to the Royal Danish Music Conservatory. In addition to his studies at the conservatory and various solo assignments, Lauritz Jakob Thomsen works as an established ensemble singer around Denmark.
Musica Ficta works exclusively on thematic projects, enhancing the musical experience by letting historical, literary and philosophical perspectives play an active role in programming, as well as in the spoken introductions during the concerts. This has resulted in a series of musical events where location, texts, illustrations and narration have combined to give the audience a deeper understanding and experience of an epoch, an artist/composer or a musical genre.