Adriaan Willaert, the most influential of the fourth generation of Flemish polyphonists, is considered a master at blending technique and expression, tradition and innovation. He has variously been called the “founder of the Venetian school”, “the pride of Venice”, and “the prince of music”. His virtuosity and versatility are reflected ...
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Biography Adriaan Willaert
Adriaan Willaert, the most influential of the fourth generation of Flemish polyphonists, is considered a master at blending technique and expression, tradition and innovation. He has variously been called the “founder of the Venetian school”, “the pride of Venice”, and “the prince of music”. His virtuosity and versatility are reflected in his compositions, of which the works for cori spezzati (divided choirs) are the best known. Willaert may not have invented polychoral effects, but he certainly breathed life into the practice. Early in his career, “Messer Adriano” showed himself a follower of Josquin Desprez and Jean Mouton, but he later developed a style of his own, characterized by its noteworthy respect for the text. In his motets – a form he particularly appreciated – he incorporated a variety of complicated techniques. Willaert is an important representative of the early Venetian madrigal, a form he raised to the level of the motet and gave emotional intensity through tone painting and chromaticism. Interestingly, Willaert was one of the first in Italy to compose instrumental music. Claudio Monteverdi called him the leading representative of the prima prattica (comparatively stricter) polyphonic vocal style. Willaert composed 8 masses (7 parody masses and 1 cantus firmus mass); ca. 175 secular and religious motets; 34 hymns; 15 psalms, including 8 vespers psalms (salmi spezzati); a St John Passion; a Magnificat (which has been lost); ca. 70 madrigals; 60-65 chansons; canzone villanesche and greghesce; madrigal arrangements for lute and voice; and instrumental music, including ricercares and fantasias.
1488 - 1510
Adriaan Willaert is born between 1488 and 1490, it is thought in Rumbeke, near Roeselare (near Bruges) in the southern Low Countries. He goes to Paris at an early age to study law at the Sorbonne – we learn from Dimostrationi harmoniche (1571), written by his student, the music theorist Gioseffo Zarlino. However Willaert is so enthralled with music that he abandons his legal studies and takes lessons with the composer Jean Mouton, a member of the royal chapel.
Willaert studies artes (the arts) at the University of Leuven and is awarded the title of Magister.
1514 - 1515
He is a singer in the court chapel of the d'Este family in Ferrara, from where he journeys to Rome, Hungary, and presumably Cracow.
On December 12, 1527, he is named maestro di cappella at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, where he teaches counterpoint to the singers and is responsible for all musical performances. He is also connected to various advanced schools (Scuole Grandi). Many copies and print editions of his music are made and circulate in Italy and elsewhere. Because of his contrapuntal mastery, he is a highly respected and honoured teacher. Several of his students – including Cypriano de Rore, Gioseffo Zarlino, and Nicola Vicentino – later become famous in their own right.
Willaert travels to Flanders.
His Salmi Spezzati are published by Antonio Gardano. Notably, he is one of the first composers to have publications dedicated solely to his music.
1556 - 1557
He journeys again to Flanders.
Gardano publishes Musica Nova, with 27 motets and 25 madrigals, nearly all on texts by Petrarch. A portrait of Willaert is printed in this prestigious edition, an indication of the respect he commands.
Adriaan Willaert dies on December 7 in Venice. Five composers write works mourning him. The piece by Cypriano de Rore ends with the words: “Fortunate is that Flemish land, that gave life to such a man”.
Discography Adriaan Willaert
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