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Obrecht, Jakob


Composer, also called Hobrecht, Obertus, etc.; b. Bergen-op-Zoom, Holland, Nov. 22, 1452; d. Ferrara,

Italy, 1505. He was at the University of Louvain in 1470 and was ordained in 1480. In 1479 he became choir director in his native town, and from 1484 to 1485 he served at Cambrai cathedral; he was then appointed succentor at Bruges. On a short leave of absence in 1487 he visited Ferrara at the invitation of Duke Hercules I. From 1492 to 1496 he was a chaplain of Antwerp cathedral, but he spent his last few years at Ferrara, where he died during the plague. Composer of some 30 secular works, he first gained prominence for his Masses, some of which were inspired by (if not based upon) material by Frye, busnois, A. Agricola, and okeghem. Mostly scored for four voices, they exhibit some conservative features (rigid cantus firmus treatment, little melodic imitation), although harmonically they have strong tonal tendencies. His thematic material derives from a variety of sources: a German song in praise of the Virgin (Missa Maria zart ), a Marian antiphon and other texts (Missa Sub tuum praesidium ), an antiphon for Holy Thursday (Missa Caput ); a secular song (Missa L'homme arm é), a motet by another composer (Missa Ave Regina caelorum ); it was the custom to honor past masters by borrowing their melodies, polyphonic textures, and structural ideas, integrating them into new works with entirely different texts. In his motets, he sometimes shows an old-fashioned predilection for polytextuality (Beata es, Maria; Salve crux arbor ), though his treatment of texture usually leans toward the clarity and fluidity of Desprez. Among his masterpieces are his settings of the marian antiphons salveregina, alma redemptoris mater, and ave regina caelorum. A motet-Passion long ascribed to him is now known to be the work of Antoine Longueval.

Bibliography: Werken, ed. j. wolf, 30 v. (Amsterdam 190821). Opera Omnia, ed. a. smijers and m. van crevel (Amsterdam 1953). o. j. gombosi, Jacob Obrecht (Leipzig 1925). g. reese, Music in the Renaissance (rev. ed. New York 1959). b. murray, "A New Light on Jacob Obrecht's Development," Musical Quarterly (New York 1957) 43 500516. "Jacob Obrecht's Connection with the Church of Our Lady in Antwerp," Revue belge de musicologie 11 (1957) 125133. l. finscher, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949) 9:181422. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, ed. n. slonimsky (5th, rev. ed. New York 1958) 1175. b. j. blackburn, "Obrecht's Missa Je ne demande and Busnoys's Chanson: An Essay in Reconstructing Lost Canons," Tidschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis 45 (1995), 1832. j. m. bloxham, "Plainsong and Polyphony for the Blessed Virgin: Notes on Two Masses by Jacob Obrecht," The Journal of Musicology 12 (1994), 5175. d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge 1996). r. d. ross, "The Motets of Jacob Obrecht: A Stylistic Analysis" (Ph.D. diss. University of Cincinnati, 1973). r. c. wegman, Born For the Muses: The Life and Masses of Jacob Obrecht (Oxford: 1994.) "Agricola, Bordon, and Obrecht at Ghent: Discoveries and Revisions," Revue Belge de Musicologie 51 (1997), 3448.

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