Nicolas Gombert was a Renaissance composer of Flemish extraction. In his day, he was not only highly respected and admired, but also emulated. His European contemporaries even went on the record to sing, so to speak, his praises, which described him as an exceptionally fine musician. One description even proclaimed him as “divine.”
Gombert’s compositions include masses, motets, and chansons—all were in high demand throughout Europe.
Of the many kinds of works that Gombert wrote, motets are the most common, with over 160 attributed to him-some are for general use and others, for specific events. One such occasional motet is titled “Qui colis Ausoniam,” which was composed for the treaty of 1533 between the Pope, Emperor Charles V, and a number of Italian rulers.
Having skeletons in the closet is nothing new when you look at the lives of composers. Sometimes the skeletons are pretty benign and sometimes they’re serious. If you take a look at the Gombert’s life you’ll find a pretty scary one, indeed.
While in the service of the Emperor Charles V, Gombert committed an indiscretion, which aroused the Emperor’s ire and got him sentenced to the galleys. This meant that for a period of time he would be one of many oarsmen on a ship or Galley (it was a cruel and arduous punishment). Gombert was eventually pardoned and given a pension for the rest of his life, but he never returned to work at court.
It’s unclear as to when Gombert passed away (historic evidence varies), but one thing is certain, his fame was well deserved. His works lived on for many years after his death and provided fine models for succeeding generations of composers.
Our new release of the week is volume three in a series entitled “The Rise of the North Italian Violin Concerto.” The young and dynamic English baroque orchestra La Serenissima continues with a recording of works by Vivaldi, Albinoni, Tartini, and Sammartini.
Here’s a video of two vihuelists performing an arrangement by Enríquez de Valderrábano of Gombert’s motet “Assiste parata.”
The music heard on this episode was performed by La Serenissima, The Orlando Consort, Piffaro Renaissance Band, The Hilliard Ensemble, The Brabant Ensemble, The Chapelle du Roi, and The Huelgas Ensemble