The sacred vocal works of Hans Leo Hassler
Crosby, Carl Russell
MetadataShow full item record
Hans Leo Hassler was born in Nurnberg in 1564, the son of Isaac Hassler, an organist and teacher. He received most of his fundamental education in music from his father as did his two brothers, Jacob and Kasper. At an early age, Hans Leo became a choir boy and came in contact with the compositions of the great German and Dutch masters. This early training strengthened his ear and his taste for vocal polyphony-a factor that played a very vital part in all his sacred vocal compositions. As well as hearing and singing the music of the old masters, Hans Leo heard contemporary music from the traveling virtuosi who came to Nurnberg. One of these contemporary composers was Leonhard Lechner, composer, organist, and teacher. Hans Leo probably had no formal training from Lechner but his influence on Hassler was great. In 1584, Hassler went to Venice to study with Andrea Gabrieli, and there came in contact with the new Italian art. From his Venetian studies he gained a more graceful melodic construction and began to realize the effectiveness of antiphonal singing. After he left Venice, Hassler was employed in Augsburg by Octavian Fugger. It was here that Hassler did most of his composing. All of his sacred vocal works were composed in Augsburg or in Ulm while on leave from Augsburg. These works were Cantiones Sacrae (1591), Missae (1599), Sacri Concentus (1601), Psalmen und christliche Gesang (1607), and Psalmen und geistliche Lieder (1608). In 1605, Hassler married Cordula Clauss in Ulms and, unofficially, this was the end of his stay in Augsburg. After 1608, there were no important works composed by him for he was quite ill of consumption for the next four years. In 1612, Hassler went to Frankfurt am Main with his new patron, Johann Georg, of Saxony, for the coronation of the new emperor. In less than a month later, however, on June 8, 1612, Hassler died. Hassler's sacred vocal works show very clearly that he was in step with the trends of his time; he was neither conservative nor ultra-modern. He used both polyphony and homophony and had two definite styles, i.e., church and chamber styles, both being distinct, one from the other. Hassler used very little "affective representation" of words; he sought to represent word phrases rather than single words. Harmonically speaking, Hassler's music has a definite polarity between the outer voice parts. Modal counterpoint and nodal harmony were his harmonic tools, yet through the use of musica ficta Hassler made melodic lines and cadence points more obvious and clear with regard to the major and minor scales (Ionian and Aeolian modes). Rhythmically speaking, Hassler was governed by the even flow of rhythm of the Renaissance era but at the same time brought into play regularly recurring rhythmic accents in much of his homophonic writing and in some of his polyphonic writing. Hassler's sacred vocal works were conceived for voices and for voices only. Very few of his melodic lines are percussive in nature, none are too long for the breath, and most all of them lie within the average range of the different voice parts. The adding of instruments would only mar the beauty of such purely vocal polyphony. Hassler's first Latin motets. (1591) showed the Italian influences of form, harmony, and rhythm; yet all these influences were tampered by his inherent Germanic sturdiness in style. This collection of motets marked the beginning of Hassler's art of fusing the Italian and German elements of composition. The Masses of 1599 carried these aspects of composition still further. Harmony was the strongest factor in this collection, for in it Hassler showed progress in writing along the lines of major and minor scales through the use of the Ionian and Aeolian modes. In 1601, Hassler published his greatest choral composition, the fifty-nine motets of the Sacri Concentus. This collection was the ultimate in Hassler's art of fusing the Italian and German elements of vocal composition. In 1607 and 1608, Hassler published his only German motets. These were retrospective in style in that they were baaed on extant melodies. Harmonically and rhythmically speaking, however, they were not retrospective, for they kept alive the tonal tendencies found in his Latin motets. Despite the greatness of Hassler's German works, they lack the grace of the Italian influence Which Hassler had so masterfully fused into his Latin motets and Masses. Yet, herein lies Hassler's true genius: he composed in one style, and masterfully fused many styles. [TRUNCATED]
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University
RightsBased on investigation of the BU Libraries' staff, this work is free of known copyright restrictions.