Voices Across The Mountains

Jacob Handl’s inspirations

Saturday 17 November 7.30pm
All Saints′ Church, Weston Green, Esher, Surrey KT10 8JL (view map)
With Jonathan Holmes (continuo)

Jacob Handl (also known as Gallus) remains to this day one of the undiscovered treasures of the Renaissance, a prolific composer of such skill and quality that he was able to compose masterpiece after masterpiece in a dazzling array of styles. Born in 1550 in what is now southern Slovenia, he spent much of his short life traveling throughout central Europe, absorbing musical influences from many countries, before serving in posts in Vienna and Prague, where he died in 1591. His immense collection Opus Musicum, published in Prague in 1587 and from whence all his works on this programme come, contains 374 motets for the liturgical year: despite this huge contribution, and at least twenty Mass settings, only a handful of his works are in the regular repertoire today.

The two pillars of inspiration for Handl were the intense works of the Franco-Flemish school of polyphony and the open, spacious and generous music of the Venetian composers. Of the former, his settings of both Jesu Dulcis Memoria and Vidi Speciosam are particularly sensuous and expressive, echoing the textures and mood of the famous Ave Verum Corpus setting of Lassus. It is possible that Handl would have known of Lassus’s extraordinary Prophetiae Sibyllarum, a collection of motets of florid chromaticism matched only by Gesualdo’s more crazed passages: certainly some passages in his Mirabile Mysterium seem to allude to Lassus’s work, the prologue of which, Carmina Chromatico, is included in this programme. The motet pair of Egredietur Virga and Radix Jesse are lithe and sinuous, capturing the anticipatory excitement of the season of Advent and are stylistically close to the older generations of the school, such as Willaert and Brumel.

Handl was equally well at home in the spacious, generous Venetian style: that he might have known the music of Guami or Croce (both employed at St Mark’s Basilica) is unknown, though he would definitely have been aware of Andrea Gabrieli, who, having been taught by Willaert and through his friendship with Lassus, did much to promote the Venetian style in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. By turns thrilling (Cantate Domino, Sapientiam Omnium) and calmly affecting (Adoramus Te, Christe, Ecce Quomodo), these Venetian inspired works are amongst Handl’s finest.

£16 in advance, £18 on the door.
£5 for under 18s
Group discounts are available – please contact box office for more information.

Purchase tickets via the box office on:

✆ 020 8399 2714, or

Or online from our