Hans Leo Hassler
Hans Leo Hassler was born in Nuremberg, in Germany and was baptised on the 26th October 1564. He was an organist and composer in a period that crossed over the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods. His organist father was the first person to teach him music. He became the first of many composers from Germany, who journeyed to Italy in 1584, to continue his studies.
He located himself to Venice and found friendship with Italian organist and composer Giovanni Gabrieli. Together in 1600, they composed a wedding motet for a Nuremburg merchant, who was living in Venice. They also studied together with Giovanni’s uncle, Andrea, who taught him organ playing and how to compose. In 1585, Andrea died and Hassler decided to return to Germany. He lived in Augsburg and was the organist to a nobleman who lived there. While he lived in Augsburg, he was very productive as a composer and became very well known for this and being an organist. Although Hans Leo Hessler was himself a protestant, he composed many masses and also directed music for catholic services. He could skilfully amalgamate the style from both religions into his compositions.
A new organ with 59 stops arrived at the Schlosskirche, Groningen in 1596 and Hassler and 53 other organists were allowed to examine it. He was often asked to examine new organs because of his expert knowledge of organ design. He even designed a clockwork organ that he sold to Emperor Rudolf II.
1602 saw a return to Nuremberg, where he took up the post of director of music in the town. He was also appointed imperial court organist to Rudolf II. He took a break in 1604 and went to Ulm, where he married Cordula Claus. He then moved to the city of Dresden 4 years later and became the chamber organist and later the director to Elector Christian II of Saxony, to whom he dedicated his work Psalmen und Christliche Gesänge, mit vier Stimmen auf die Melodeien Fugweis Komponiert. In 1608, he composed Psalmen Simpliciter and dedicated it to Nuremberg. Unfortunately, he developed tuberculosis during this period, which sadly he succumbed to on the 8th June 1612 in Frankfurt.
Hassler leaves a legacy as one of the most important German composers ever. His combination of German and Italian techniques was deemed innovative. Notable works include Madrigali composed in 1596 and also Kyrie Eleison (from Missa Secunda) that was arranged for brass quartet in 2007 by composer Mike Lyons.