Antonio Scandello was born in 1517 in Bergamo and died in 1580 in Dresden. In 1549 he found employment as an instrumentalist in the services of the elector Moritz of Saxony and became a member of the Dresden court chapel, which had been founded the previous year. From 1566 Scandello held the position of deputy kapellmeister under Matthæus Le Maistre (ca. 1505–1577), whose successor he became in 1568. After Moritz was killed in the Battle of Sievershausen in 1553, Scandello composed a parody mass in six parts on the elector’s death, for which he used a now-lost motet he had written on an epitaph by the Chemnitz scholar Georg Fabricius (1516–1571). This mass is transmitted in a manuscript copy by Moritz Bauerbach (Torgau 1562), on which this edition is based upon.
The Mauritius-Messe presented in this volume marks a turning point in the development of the composer. Before he wrote this large-scale mass setting he had composed only a few Latin motets. The work is based to a large degree on a brief motif comprising only 2 ½ bars and consisting of an upward minor third followed by a descending diatonic scale. Its appearance in nearly every movement and its imaginative treatment point to Scandello’s extraordinary contrapuntal mastery. The piece is mostly set for six parts, only a few sections, for example in the Credo, require three or four parts. The seven-part Agnus Dei II doubtlessly represents the culminating point of the work.
(Helmut Brook, translation by Stephanie Wollny)