Mattheus Le Maistre or Matthaeus Le Maistre (c. 1505–1577) was a Flemish Renaissance choirmaster and composer who is best known for his time in Dresden. His music was superior but in no way progressive, influential in both Counter-Reformation and Lutheran courts.
Le Maistre is a stylistic link between Senfl and Lassus. His works are based on the Renaissance notion of music as "ars". Le Maistre believed music played an important role for the human spirit, and that as such music was created for a divine purpose. It therefore follows that his writings have been described as both humanistic and pedagogic. He was a conservative composer, and as such his works were not appreciated during the composer's life as they were considered out-of-date. Even his motets pointed to the past, musically, rather than developing new ground. His style is a synthesis of the traditional techniques of imitation, canon and cantus firmus, and thereby appear to point backwards. Nevertheless, the importance of this composer is demonstrated by the facts that he began a long tradition of foreign musicians at the Bayerischer Hofkappelle, his compositions were in service for more than 20 years after his death, and further served as role models to the development of future instrumental music.
The music held by the court in Munich is solidly Catholic in nature. Upon his conversion to Protestantism, he became highly influenced by Walter and Georg Rhau. His commitment to the new faith is particularly demonstrated by the mass setting "Ich Weiss mir ein fest gebauetz Haus" in which he defines the song "O du Lamm Gottes" as a cantus firmus based in the "Qui tollis." It was in this setting that Le Maistre made his first significant contribution to the Protestant Mass.
Le Maistre's compositions are superior musically and intellectually. They are highly influenced by music from post-1500 Netherlands, and the greater number are solidly in the cantus-firmus style. He deftly combines the styles of parody and cantus-firmus. Many of his compositions are based on the spiritual phrasing of Rhau, creating complex motets with virtuoso cantus-firmus treatment from simple strophic material. His songs are in the tradition of the German partsong, influenced by the Renaissance madrigal.
He was among the early composers to write chorales with the melody defined in the treble, writing in this manner as early as 1566.
He was considered by Hermann Finck to be one of the most outstanding musicians of his time. His compositions were in use more than 20 years after his death, and they served as role models to subsequent instrumental works. Le Maistre became significant to liturgical music in counter-reformation Bavaria in spite of his later Protestant career. Currently it is his German songs, both sacred and secular, which are considered his most significant accomplishments.
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