Jacobus Handl (called Gallus) (1550-1591)
A composer of Slovenian birth, Jacobus Handl, known as Gallus, spent most of his professional life in the service of the Catholic Church in Austria. The ambiguity in his name may be due to his translating the original name Petelin (meaning rooster) into the German diminutive Handl and the Latin equivalent Gallus at different times in his life. He worked as Kantor for several courts and churches in Austria an d Bohemia until his untimely death. Writing at the end of the Renaissance, he was able to avail himself of musical ideas that had matured over two centuries, crafting a sophisticated synthesis of Franco-Flemish, German, and Italian styles. Contemporaries admired his music for its beautifully woven counterpoint, sometimes calling him “The Bohemian Palestrina,” a reference to the great Roman composer Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina (15 25-1594) whose works were considered closest to the Platonic ideal of purity in musical form. However, the complexity of his music was also criticized during his lifetime by others, such that in one of his published collections he felt obliged to defend the number of voices in his polychoral works. Where Gallus actually surpassed Palestrina was in his command of rhythm. His skill in moving back and forth between double and triple meter and in using word accents to enhance rhythmic variety enabled him to create moments of excitement or serenity within the relatively static harmony and dense polyphonic texture characteristic of the style in which he wrote. Most of his output comprises settings of sacred Latin texts, and his polychoral works display the influence of Dutch composer Orlando di Lasso.
San Francisco Bach Choir performances of rare early music works require extensive research and preparation by David Babbitt and the choir. Our interview with our Artistic Director tells the amazing story of how one such concert featuring Jacob Handl's works is produced.
Vocal Works Performed by SFBC
Instrumental Works Performed by SFBC