It is not certain where Johannes de Cleve (1528/9–1582) was born (Cleves?) or trained (Low Countries?), but his first published compositions were printed in Antwerp in 1553. The same year, he was appointed as a tenor in the chapel of Ferdinand I in Vienna. In 1559/60 he undertook a journey to the Low Countries to recruit further singers for the imperial chapel. He sought to strengthen his profile at court by dedicating two collections of motets to Ferdinand in 1559. After the emperor’s death in 1564, Cleve found a position in the chapel of Ferdinand’s youngest son, Archduke Karl (Charles), whose court was at Graz. In 1570 he petitioned leave from his duties because of physical incapacity; Karl granted him an annual pension of 200 florins on the condition that he continue to supply the chapel with new compositions. Cleve moved first to Vienna, and then settled in Augsburg, where his collection Cantiones seu harmoniae sacrae
was printed in 1579. In the dedication of this publication to Archduke Karl, Cleve recalled his long service to the Habsburgs, who had always been great patrons of music. The collection contains several ‘state motets’, such as epitaphs on the deaths of Ferdinand I, Maximilian II and Karl Friedrich of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, and pieces dedicated to Rudolf II and Archduke Karl. In total, Cleve’s published collections contain no fewer than thirteen pieces in honour of the Habsburg dynasty.
from notes by Grantley McDonald © 2020