Des Prez, Josquin

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Des Prez, Josquin

Des Prez, Josquin, great Franco-Flemish composer; b. probably in Hainaut, c. 1440; d. Conde-sur-Escaut, near Valenciennes, Aug. 27, 1521. His surname was variously spelled: Despres, Desprez, Depres, Depret, Deprez, Desprets, Dupre, and by the Italians Del Prato (Latinized as a Prato, a Pratis, Pratensis), etc.; while Josquin (contracted from the Flemish Jossekin, “little Joseph”) appears as Josse, Jossien, Jusquin, Giosquin, Josquinus, Jacobo, Jodocus, Jodoculus, etc. His epitaph reads Josse de Pres. However, in the motet lllibata Dei Virgo Nutrix (contained in Vol. 9 of the Josquin ed.), of which the text is quite likely of Josquin’s authorship, his name appears as an acrostic, thus: I, O, S, Q, V, I, N, D[es], P, R, E, Z; this seems to leave little doubt as to its correct spelling. Few details of Josquin’s early life are known. He may have been a boy chorister of the Collegiate Church at St.-Quentin, later becoming canon and choirmaster there. He possibly was a pupil of Ockeghem, whom he greatly admired (after Ockeghem’s death, in 1497, he wrote La Deploration de Johan Okeghem). From 1459 to 1472 he sang at the Milan Cathedral, and by July 1474 he was at the Court of Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Milan, as a chorister. After the Duke’s assassination he entered the service of the Duke’s brother, Cardinal Ascanio Sforza. From 1486 to 1494 he was a singer in the papal choir under the Popes Innocent VIII and Alexander VI. He was also active, for various periods, in Florence, where he met the famous theorist Pietro Aron, Modena, and in Ferrara (where Isaac was also) as maestro di cappella in 1503–04. Later Josquin returned to Burgundy, settling in Conde-sur-Escaut (1504), where he became provost of Notre Dame. As a composer, he was considered by contemporary musicians and theorists to be the greatest of his period, and he had a strong influence on all those who came into contact with his music or with him personally, as a teacher; Adriaan Petit Coclicus, who may have been one of Josquin’s pupils, publ. a method in 1552 entitled Compendium musices, based on Josquin’s teaching. He described Josquin as “princeps musicorum.” His works were sung everywhere, and universally admired. In them he achieves a complete union between word and tone, thereby fusing the intricate Netherlandish contrapuntal devices into expressive and beautiful art forms. Two contrasting styles are present in his compositions: some are intricately contrapuntal, displaying the technical ingenuity characteristic of the Netherlands style; others, probably as a result of Italian influence, are homophonic.


Masses (In Petrucci’s Lib. I, Venice, 1502): L’Omme arme; La sol fa re mi; Gaudeamus; Fortunata desperata; L’Omme arme, sexti toni. (Ibid., II, 1505): Ave Maris stella; Hercules, dux Ferrarae; Malheur me bat; Lami Baudichon; Una musque de Buscaya; Dung aultre amor. (Ibid., Ill, 1514): Mater patris; Faysans regrets; Ad fugam; Di dadi; De Beata Virgine; Sine nomine. Petrucci’s vols. contain all but 1 of the extant masses. (In Graphaus’s Missae III): Pange lingua; Da pacem; Sub tuum praesidium. Some of these are scattered in other collections, and fragments are found in still others. Motets were publ. by Petrucci (8 in the Odhecaton, 1501; others in his books of motets); by Peutinger (Liber selectarum cantionum, 1520); and by others of the period. French chansons were publ. by T. Susato (1545), P. Attaignant (1549), and Du Chemin (1553). A complete ed. of Josquin’s works was issued (1921–69; 55 vols.) by the Vereeniging voor Nederlandsche Muziekgeschiedenis under the general editorship of A. Smijers, M. Amlonowycz, and W. Elders. The New Josquin Edition, under general ed. W. Elders, was launched in 1988. The International Josquin Festival Conference was held in N.Y. from June 21 to 25, 1971; reports appeared in Journal of the American Musicological Society (Fall 1971), Die Musikforschung (Oct.-Dec. 1971), and Current Musicology, 14 (1972); papers presented at the conference were ed. by E. Lewinsky (London, 1976).


R de Mértil, Les Grands Musiciens du Nord: J. de Pres (Paris, 1897); A. Schering, Die niederlandische Orgelmesse im Zeitalter des J. (Leipzig, 1912); M. Antonowitsch, Die Motette “Benedicta Es” von J. D. P. (Utrecht, 1951); H. Osthoff, /. Desprez (2 vols., Tutzing, 1962, 1965); A. Ghislanzoni, /. D. P. (Joducus

858 Pratensis) (Frosinone, 1976); S. Charles, /. des Pres.: A Guide to Research (N.Y. and London, 1983); J.-P. Ouvrard, /. Desprez et ses contemporains: De I’ecrit au sonore, guide pratique drinterpretation (Aries, 1986).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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