Josquin des Prez ca. 1450–1521 French Composer

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Josquin des Prez ca. 1450–1521 French composer

Josquin des Prez was one of the greatest composers of the Renaissance. He created many religious and secular* pieces and developed a new style that influenced composers for a century after his death. Josquin's unique musical style led the German religious reformer Martin Luther to pronounce him "the master of the notes."

Josquin was born in northern France, where he received training as a choirboy. Later, he had an active musical career in France and Italy, performing and writing music for church officials and royalty, including the French king Louis XII. Over the course of his career, Josquin wrote 18 masses, 70 secular pieces, and 50 motets (sacred musical works for several voices without instruments). Many of Josquin's motets feature lyrics in honor of the Virgin Mary. Others are musical settings for the Bible's psalms.

Josquin also gained recognition for his original musical style. Earlier composers of vocal music had emphasized musical structure while downplaying the lyrics. Josquin crafted melody lines that brought out the meaning of the words. He also showed great talent for expressing emotion through music. His love song "A Thousand Regrets" weaves together several voice parts to create a powerful sense of sorrow.

(See alsoMusic; Music, Vocal. )

* secular

nonreligious; connected with everyday life