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De la Hèle’s parody-mass on Josquin Desprez’ Motet (and hence titled) “Benedicta es” as a whole is in 7 parts, one voice more then in Josquin’s Motet (for Our Lady), a symbolical reference to the Mother of the Seven Sorrows; its Agnus Dei is in 3 parts, with the explicit indication “Trinitas in unitate”, which explicitly links a 3 to the Divine Trinity another case of numerical symbolism. In 1578 (two years before Georges’ royal appointment in Spain) the leading Antwerp printer Christopher Plantyn published it in “Octo missae” (8 masses; all parodies on Motets by Flemish polyphonists, including Créquillon, De Rore and Lassus) by him most lavishly, even using wood carvings originally ordered for an Antiphonary for king Philip II. His other, probably numerous works were lost, with two exceptions, probably not by coincidence those which won him third and second prize in the 1576 edition of the “puy”, a composition contest for Motets and Chansons in five parts, held in november by the local fraternity of St. Caecilia (patron saint of music) in the Norman (western French) city of Evreux. One chanson in French, “Mais voyez mon cher esmoys”, also ideally suited for an instrumental execution, was printed in “Le rossignol musical” (“the musical nightingale”) published by Pierre Phalèse in Antwerp in 1597. His motet “Nonne Deo suiecta erit”, in Gombert’s tradition in fluently trough-imitating counterpoint, was preserved in a 1593 collection of Motets by another “Flemish” polyphonist, Franciscus Sales from Namur.
He was born in Antwerp, the rising port in the now Flemish (northern Belgian) part of the Habsburg dynasty’s duchy of Brabant. He trained as chorister at Antwerp cathedral and possibly at the collegial church in Zinnik (Soignies, in southernmore Hainaut) before 1560, in which year he joined Philip II’s royal chapel in Madrid; he later studied at the universities of Alcala and from 1570 Leuven (Louvain, back in Brabant). in 1572 he got his first appointment as head of chapel: in Mechelen at St. Rombouts (now Belgium’s primatial cathedral), in 1572 his second at Tournai cathedral, in 1580 the job of his life: at the Capilla flamenca (“Flemish chapel”), the royal chapel in the Castilian capital Madrid, a successor to Gerard van Turnhout), which he held till his death in 1586, when he was succeeded by no lesser composer then Philippe Rogier, in an unbroken series of 7 Flemish masters in 77 years under six Spanish kings.
Contribution endebted to KULeuven’s musicology professor I. Bossuyt’s book “De Vlaamse Polyfonie”.