The Flemish Phillipe de Monte (1521 – 1603) was one of the late-Renaissance period’s most prolific composers. The Renaissance Choir is set to mark the quincentenary of his birth by rehearsing three of his motets and recording at least one of them at home for public consumption.
He was a fine craftsman as well as being (by all accounts) a lovely man. Some scholars consider him to be as great a composer as Lassus and Palestrina, but he is relatively unknown, despite the fact that he wrote about 40 masses and 1,100 secular madrigals.
He grew up in Mechelen and was a member of the Franco-Flemish School. In his later life he worked in the Habsburg courts both in Vienna and Prague. Lassus says he brought the best-available musicians to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian’s court.
He visited England briefly, where he complained that Philip II’s Chapel Royal choir was filled with Spaniards. He met William Byrd and they exchanged pieces based on their shared views on the subjugation of one faith by another. Super flumina Babylonis (double SATB choir) – one of the pieces that the choir is currently learning – is a companion work to Ne Irascaris (a favourite of the choir), with its gentle impassioned crying about the subjugation of the Catholic faith.
The choir will show off De Monte’s versatility of genre in the other pieces it will sing: La Grand’ Amour, a love song, and Miserere mei Deus, a lament.
Peter Gambie, MD, says, “Our main aim is to keep Renaissance music alive for both current and future generations. The Renaissance Choir, known for its innovation and quality, is leading the way in celebrating de Monte’s 500th birthday.”