Adrian Willaert (c.
1490 – 7 December 1562) was a Flemish composer of the
Renaissance and founder of the Venetian School. He was
one of the most representative members of the generation
of northern composers who moved to Italy and
transplanted the polyphonic Franco-Flemish style there.
Life He was born at Rumbeke near Roeselare. According
to his student, the renowned late 16th century music
theorist Gioseffo Zarlino, Willaert went to Paris
first to study law, but instead decided to study
music. In Paris he met Jean Mouton, the principal
composer of the French royal chapel and stylistic
compatriot of Josquin des Prez, and studied with
Sometime around 1515 Willaert first went to Rome. An
anecdote survives that indicates the musical ability
of the young composer: Willaert was surprised to
discover the choir of the papal chapel singing one
of his own compositions, most likely the six-part
motet Verbum bonum et suave, and even more surprised
to learn that they thought it had been written by
the much more famous composer Josquin. When he
informed the singers of their error – that he was in
fact the composer – they refused to sing it again.
Indeed Willaert's early style is very similar to
that of Josquin, with smooth polyphony, balanced
voices and frequent use of imitation.
In July 1515, Willaert entered the service of
Cardinal Ippolito I d'Este of Ferrara. Ippolito was
a traveler, and Willaert likely accompanied him to
various places, including Hungary, where he likely
resided from 1517 to 1519. When Ippolito died in
1520, Willaert entered the service of Duke Alfonso
of Ferrara. In 1522 Willaert had a post at the court
chapel of Duke Alfonso; he remained there until
1525, at which time records show he was in the
employ of Ippolito II d'Este in Milan.
Willaert's most significant
appointment, and one of the most significant in the musical
history of the Renaissance, was his selection as maestro di
cappella of St. Mark's at Venice. Music had languished there
under his predecessor, Pietro de Fossis, but that was
shortly to change. The Venetian Doge Andrea Gritti had a
rather large hand in Willaert’s appointment to the position
of maestro di cappella at St. Mark’s.
From his appointment in 1527 until his death in 1562, he
retained the post at St. Mark's. Composers came from all
over Europe to study with him, and his standards were high
both for singing and composition. During his previous
employment with the dukes of Ferrara, he had acquired
numerous contacts and influential friends elsewhere in
Europe, including the Sforza family in Milan; doubtless this
assisted in the spread of his reputation, and the consequent
importation of musicians from foreign countries into
northern Italy. In Ferrarese court documents, Willaert is
referred to as "Adriano Cantore". In addition to his output
of sacred music as the director of St. Mark's, he wrote
numerous madrigals, a secular form; he is considered a
Flemish madrigal composer of the first rank.
Musical style and
influence Willaert was one of the most versatile composers
of the Renaissance, writing music in almost every
extant style and form. In force of personality, and
with his central position as maestro di cappella at
St. Mark's, he became the most influential musician
in Europe between the death of Josquin and the time
of Palestrina. Some of Willaert’s motets and
chanzoni franciose a quarto sopra doi (double
canonic chansons) had been published as early as
1520 in Venice. Willaert owes much of his fame in
sacred music to his motets. According to Gioseffo Zarlino, writing later in
the 16th century, Willaert was the inventor of the
antiphonal style from which the polychoral style of
the Venetian school evolved. As there were two choir
lofts, one of each side of the main altar of St.
Mark's, both provided with an organ, Willaert
divided the choral body into two sections, using
them either antiphonally or simultaneously. De Rore,
Zarlino, Andrea Gabrieli, Donato, and Croce,
Willaert's successors, all cultivated this style.
The tradition of writing that Willaert established
during his time at St. Mark’s was continued by other
composers working there throughout the 17th century.
He then composed and performed psalms and other
works for two alternating choirs.
from Adrian Willaert's
"Musica Nova" (1568)
This innovation met with
instantaneous success and strongly influenced the
development of the new method. In Venice, a compositional
style, established by Willaert, for multiple choirs
dominated. In 1550 he published Salmi spezzati, antiphonal
settings of the psalms, the first polychoral work of the
Venetian school. Willaert's work in the religious genre
established Flemish techniques firmly as an important part
of the Venetian Style. While more recent research has shown
that Willaert was not the first to use this antiphonal, or
polychoral method — Dominique Phinot had employed it before
Willaert, and Johannes Martini even used it in the late 15th
century — Willaert's polychoral settings were the first to
become famous and widely imitated.
contemporaries, Willaert developed the canzone (a
form of polyphonic secular song) and ricercare,
which were forerunners of modern instrumental forms.
Willaert also arranged 22 four-part madrigals for
voice and lute written by Verdelot. Willaert was the
first to extensively use chromaticism in the
madrigal. Looking forward, we are given an image of
early word-painting in his motet Mentre che’l
cor.Willaert, who was fond of the older
compositional techniques such as the canon, often
placed the melody in the tenor of his compositions,
treating it as a cantus firmus. Willaert, with the
help of De Rore, standardized a five-voice setting
in madrigal composition. Willaert also pioneered a
style that continued until the end of the madrigal
period of reflecting the emotional qualities of the
text and the meanings of important words as sharply
and clearly as possible.
Willaert was no less
distinguished as a teacher than as a composer. Among
his disciples were Cipriano de Rore, his successor
at St. Mark's; Costanzo Porta; the Ferrarese
Francesco Viola; Gioseffo Zarlino; and Andrea
Gabrieli. Another composer stylistically descended
from Willaert was Lassus. These composers, except
for Lassus, formed the core of what came to be known
as the Venetian school, which was decisively
influential on the stylistic change that marked the
beginning of the Baroque era. Among Willaert's
pupils in Venice, one of the most prominent was his
fellow northerner Cipriano de Rore. The Venetian
School flourished for the rest of the 16th century,
and into the 17th, led by the Gabrielis and others.
Willaert also probably influenced a young
Palestrina. Willaert left a large number of
compositions — 8 masses, over 50 hymns and psalms,
over 150 motets, about 60 French chansons, over 70
Italian madrigals and several instrumental (ricercares).
Adrian Willaert - O magnum mysterium - Cappella Marciana
Adrian Willaer - O dolce vita
Adriaan Willaert - Missa Mente
Tota - Agnus Dei
Adrian Willaert - Pater Noster
Pater noster, qui es in
sanctificetur nomen tuum.
Adveniat regnum tuum.
Fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra.
Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie,
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.
Et ne nos inducas in tentationem: sed libera nos a malo.
Luke 11: 2b-4
Our Father, which art
in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from