Motet: Tristis est anima mea
Orlando di Lasso (1532-1594)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 3 Tracks 43-46
Orlando knew how to pick text. The biblical excerpt used here had a musical sound before it was set to music. For instance, the way the opening few words move from a frequent use of the st
consonance to the rounded vowels of anima mea
is very appealing. In addition to the richness of sound, the statement is profound. To me, this part of the story of Christ is difficult to understand. I am not sure how Christ came to accept this fate or why Christ would express it in this way. Reading these words I am left to wonder what they imply. And, perhaps because of this difficulty, I find the words ascribed to Christ at this moment mysterious and powerful.
Lasso, like any good madrigalist, is able to musically paint the meaning of each word. As we have heard, madrigals can have wide shifts of mood because of this attention. However, unlike the madrigal composers (good and bad) Lasso's final product has a consistent mood. The serenity of the opening is maintained throughout. Presenting a glow or aura around the many voices. A sound, perhaps, descriptive of a multifoliate rose.
What I like about this motet is the way he has set the words vos fugam capietis
. Not to break the mood, the music takes flight in a somber, downward motion. The ensemble momentarily and gracefully falls apart as it moves toward its final, inevitable cadence.