Illustrious Renaissance composer of Franco-Flemish style (also des Prez, Jodocus Pratensis); b. Picardie or Hainaut c. 1440; d. Condé-sur-l'Escaut, Aug. 27, 1521. He is considered, on vague evidence, to have been a pupil of okeghem. He was a singer at Milan cathedral (1459–72), then in the ducal chapel until c. 1479. He served as singer, then choirmaster, in the papal chapel from 1486 to at least 1494 and choirmaster to Duke Ercole I d'Este at Ferrara (for whom he wrote Missa Hercules ) c. 1496 to 1505. He was probably associated with the court of Margaret of Austria at Malines c. 1507 and with that of Louis XII of France c. 1512 or 1515. Toward the end of his life he was provost of the chapter of Notre Dame at Condé-sur-l'Escaut, while maintaining ties with the imperial court at Brussels. He was universally regarded as the finest composer of his era. In a music MS written in Paris c. 1520 (St. Gall MS 463) he is designated omnium princeps. C. Bartoli, in his Ragionamenti accademici (Venice 1567), likens his importance in music to that of michelangelo in visual arts. Glareanus in his Dodecachordon (Basel 1547) repeatedly praises him as the preeminent musician of his time.
Josquin's works include 20 Masses, nearly 100 motets, and about 60 secular works with texts in French, Italian, and Latin. Petrucci published three books of Masses by him, the only composer so honored. Josquin brought to a point of perfection the Franco-Flemish polyphonic style, combining elaborate cantus firmus treatment with pervasive imitation. His Masses, notably L'Homme armé (2), Hercules, and Pange lingua, provide abundant illustration of his fluent technique. This Northern heritage was subtly remolded under the influence of Italian humanism, which led Josquin to conceive of music as a means for the communication of a text. His motets offer many fine examples: the stark, imploring Miserere, the mournful Absalon fili mi, and the serene Ave Maria are among his best.
Bibliography: Werken, ed. a. smijers (Amsterdam 1925–), continued by m. antonowytch. h. osthoff, Josquin Desprez (Tutzing 1962–); Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949–) 7:190–214. w. wiora, "Der religiöse Grundzug im neuen Stil und Weg Josquins des Prez," Die Musikforschung 6 (1953) 23–37. m. antonowytch, "The Present State of Josquin Research," International Musicological Soc., Report of the 8th Congress, 2 v. (Kassel 1961) 1:53–64. e. h. sparks, Cantus Firmus in Mass and Motet (Berkeley 1963). g. reese, Music in the Renaissance (rev. ed. New York 1959) 228–260. g.g. allaire, "Some Overlooked Modulations in the Works of Josquin Des Prés?," Revue Belge de Musicologie, 46 (1992) 33–51. l. f. bernstein, "Ma bouche rit et mon cueur pleure: A Chanson a 5 Attributed to Josquin des Prez," Journal of Musicology, 12 (1994) 253–286. l. d. brothers, "On Music and Meditation in the Renaissance: Contemplative Prayer and Josquin's Miserere, " Journal of Musicological Research, 12 (1992) 157–187. a.-e. ceulemans, "A Stylistic Investigation of Missa Une mousse de Biscaye, in the Light of Its Attribution to Josquin des Prez," Tidschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 48 (1998) 30–50. n. davison, "Absalom fili mi Reconsidered," Tidschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 46 (1996) 42–56. c. c. judd, "Some Problems of Pre-Baroque Analysis: An Examination of Josquin's Ave Maria…Virgo Serena, " Music Analysis, 4 (1985) 201–239. p. macey, "Galeazzo Maria Sforza and Musical Patronage in Milan: Compere, Weerbeke, and Josquin," in Early Music History 15: Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Music, ed. i. fenlon (Cambridge, Eng. 1996) 147–204. l. matthews and p. l. merkley, "Josquin Desprez and His Milanese Patrons," Journal of Musicology, 12 (1994) 434–463. p. f. starr, "Josquin, Rome, and a Case of Mistaken Identity," Journal of Musicology, 15 (1997) 43–65.