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By Michael Hamad
Renaissance polyphony, readily available for decades on any number of high-quality recordings, has become a sort of go-to bliss-out music, for listeners who are drawn to gorgeous harmonies, sung a cappella and bathed in cathedrals of reverb, and who can’t quite bring themselves to purchase an Enya CD.
Those folks are on to something, and they’re amply rewarded by the music, even if few notice the rigorous counterpoint practiced by Josquin des Prez (late 1400s), Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (mid-late 1500s) or Carlo Gesualdo (late 16th century), the notorious Prince of Verona and alleged murderer with a futuristic harmonic palette.
Composer Hannah Lash thinks about counterpoint more than most; among her other classes, she teaches 16th-century counterpoint at Yale, where she’s an assistant professor, and her personal relationship to Josquin’s music goes back even further. More than a year ago, Lash was approached by Jeffrey Douma, director of the Yale Choral Artists, to compose a new piece for his ensemble. MORE