Okeghem, Jan van
OKEGHEM, JAN VAN
Great Renaissance composer of the Flemish school (also Ockeghem, Okenghem); b. Hainaut?, Flanders, c. 1420; d. Tours, France, c. 1495. He began his musical career as a member of the polyphonic section of the Antwerp cathedral choir. In 1446 he joined the chapel of the Duke of Bourbon and seven years later transferred to the Royal Chapel, where he successively served as chaplain and composer to three French Kings, Charles VII, Louis XI, and Charles VIII. He was appointed treasurer of the Abbey of St. Martin, of which French monarchs were titular abbots. Fellow musicians wrote motets in his honor during his lifetime and elegies at his death. His stature and influence during the later 15th century were considerable, for his style both links and separates the era of dufay and that of desprez.
Although he wrote some secular music, Okeghem's church music forms by far the larger and more important part of his output. Plainsong is used either as a cantus firmus or by way of paraphrase in several of his motets, which include magnificent settings of the antiphons ave maria, salve regina, and alma redemptoris mater. The responsory for Vespers of the Purification, Gaude Maria, is also a work of impressive proportions and noble polyphonic textures. Of his Masses, 11 survive in complete form. He was one of many composers who successfully transmuted the secular character of the L'homme armé melody into a contrapuntal mosaic of intensely religious fervor, and (like Dufay and J. obrecht) he employed the flowing final melisma of a Maundy Thursday antiphon in a notable Missa Caput. In the Missa Fors seulement he draws upon a rondeau of his own composition for highly diversified melodic material. Of his four-part Masses, the Missa Mi-Mi (so called for its bass voice motto) provides ready proof of his ability to write a straightforward and classical style. Both the Missa Cuiusvis toni and the Missa Prolationum are feats of almost unrivaled musical technique, the latter providing a veritable "art of canon" comparable to J. S. bach's great Art of Fugue. The impressive Requiem qualifies as the earliest extant polyphonic setting of the Missa pro Defunctis.
Bibliography: Collected Works, ed. d. plamenac (2d ed. Philadelphia 1959– ). d. plamenac, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949– ) 9: 1826–38. g. reese, Music in the Renaissance (rev. ed. New York 1959) f. fitch, Johannes Ockeghem: Masses and Models (Paris 1997). a. magro, "'Premièrement ma baronie de Chasteauneuf': Jean de Ockeghem, Treasurer of St. Martin's in Tours" Early Music History 18: Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Music, ed. i. fenlon (Cambridge 1997) 165–258. m. j. raley, "Johannes Ockeghem and the Motet Gaude Maria Virgo, " Anuario Musical 46 (1991), 27–55. e. schreurs, "Ockeghem in Tours herdacht," Musica Antiqua 14 (1997), 77–78. r. stewart, "…Ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus (Ps. 42:1), Johannes Ockeghem, a Most Medieval Composer,"Tidschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis 47 (1997), 163–200. j. van benthem, "'Prenez sur moy vostre exemple': Signae, Text and Cadences in Ockeghem's Prenez sur moy and Missa Cuiusvis toni, " Tidschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis 47 (1997), 99–118. d. van overstraeten, "Le lieu de naissance de Jean Ockeghem (ca 1420–1497), une énigme élucidée," Revue Belge de Musicologie 46 (1992), 23–32.