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Lamentations of Jeremiah and other Renaissance songs of lament and exile.

Jewish and Roman musical traditions in Renaissance Europe.

Lamento: Songs of Exile


The 16th century was an era of political turmoil and religious conflict in Europe. In this crisis of faith, people searched for the nature of their human condition and thought to find answers in the wisdom of the past.  



In the works of Horace (65 BC-8 BC), the illustrious poet of Roman antiquity, Renaissance humanists and musicians found a source of inspiration. The depth of his writings resounded in this era of change. In 1507, some of his odes and epodes were set to music Petrus Tritonius. The refinement of their use of the Latin language and their rhythmic quality made them a valuable learning tool. Having lived during a period marked by Civil War, Horace laments in his verses passionately the destruction of the Roman Republic, and the exile of its people.


Two decades later, the German Hebraist Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522) published a groundbreaking Hebrew grammar book, De Accentibus... (1518), as an act of defense of Jewish culture. During the first half of the century, a harsh campaign of anti-Semitism took place all over Europe.  Reuchlin, also a distinguished lawyer, was able to prevent the mass-burning of Jewish books in Germany, and through the musical settings of the Ta’amim (chant formulas) in De Accentibus..., he hoped to preserve the wisdom of the ancient Jewish sources  among Christians. In this program, a reconstruction of Hebrew biblical verses of the books of Genesis and Exodus is performed.


The verses of mourning in the Book of Lamentations, commemorate the saddest day in the Jewish calendar: the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple. Early during Christianity, the reading of these Hebrew/ Latin texts became part of the liturgy of the Holy Week. During the early 16th century, the Lamentations of Jeremiah were set to polyphony, and composers used the expressivity of the poems in most diverse ways, before the Council of Trent standardized its performance. 


Catalina Vicens

Mother and Child, Genurt Marias, Salzbur

Picture: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1797-1872). Lamentations of Jeremiah 

Line-up: 5-7 Musicians

- 4-5 singers

- organ/ portative organ

- lute (optional)

- sackbut (optional)



Pierre de la Rue. Johannes Reuchlin/ Catalina Vicens, Johannes Gardano, Sebastianus Ycart, Anonymous IV MS, Ludwig Senfl, Petrus Tritonius





-Songs of Exile

-Passion music

-Latin Odes










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