Advent Calendar Day 3: Rorate Caeli – Handl

Another Renaissance Rorate Caeli, but the Renaissance in Eastern Europe was clearly a different beast to the Renaissance in Spain!  Jacob Handl (also known as Jacobus Gallus and Jacobus Handelius) was born in Montenegro in 1550, making him about 20 years younger than Guerrero, but definitely a contemporary, and he lived and worked in Germany and Austria, and eventually died in Prague, at the early age of 41.

Depending on which bits of the internet you believe, Handl may or may not have been a Cistercian monk, which is not an order known for its joyous nature (I’ll admit, I still bear a grudge against Bernard of Clairvaux for crimes committed in my undergraduate history studies… and perhaps the order changed after his death, though Handl’s early death suggests that it), but this Rorate is actually quite lively and pretty delightful. I especially like the rippling line that runs through all the parts – if Guerrero’s Rorate is a gentle rain, Handl’s feels like a rapidly running stream, or maybe a river…

Tomorrow, we will leave polyphony behind and move to more romantic heights, but I feel like it would be neglectful not to at least acknowledge what the Renaissance composers were getting up to in other parts of Europe.  So here, if you wish it, is Byrd’s lively English version of the Rorate, and Palestrina’s sweet and reflective Italian version.

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