JOSQUIN DES PRES

I would again like to thank David SM Knopf for the image.

1450 --- 1521

Josquin des Prés (c. 1450-1521): one of the great masters of the contrapuntal style of writing that flourished in the Netherlands in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Born in the province of Hainault, in what is now Belgium, he learned music singing in a church choir at St. Quentin. Later he became director of the choir. In his twenties he traveled to Italy, where he sang in a court choir in Milan. For eight years he was a member of the pope's choir in Rome.

Becoming court composer to Louis XII of France, Josquin dazzled everyone by his ability to write the most complicated music based on simple chants and folk songs. Martin Luther, an admiring friend and a good musician himself, said of him: "Josquin is the master of the notes, others are mastered by the notes." He became one of the best-known composers in Europe, and his style was much imitated.

Much of Josquin's music was written to be sung in church. It included thirty masses and many shorter religious works. But he also wrote hundreds of chansons ---- light songs for three, four, or five voices ----- that are gay and charming. The religious works are full of every known learned device of counter-point, although the melodies that Josquin wove above the chant or folk song are spun out with marvelous freshness. In the chansons this composer used a lighter style with simple melodies and little touches of dance rhythms. He was fond of splitting four voices into different pairs, so that little duets are constantly taking place. At other times the master wrote chansons that move along so much like music of a later period that Josquin has been called the "father of modern harmony."

Josquin was a good-humored man and fond of little musical jokes. When Louis XII forgot to give him a promised gift, Josquin wrote a motet to be sung in Louis's church. At the service Louis was embarrassed to hear the choir sing about those who broke their promises. On another occasion, noting that Louis was fond of singing but had a very poor voice, Josquin wrote a duet in which the king had but one long note to sing throughout the whole composition. Josquin also wrote a mass based on a pun. The melodic theme of the mass is: la sol fa re mi, suggesting, in Italian, La ci fare mi, or "Let me take care of it."

After all his worldly successes, Josquin settled down as provost of the cathedral in Condé-sur-l'Escaut, France. While he was alive his music was sung in all of the cities of Europe, but after his death people turned to the works of newer composers. The music of the one-time "Prince of Music" was almost unheard. But music lovers have recently discovered Josquin, and many of his works have been published in modern editions and recorded.

My sincere thanks goes to David SM Knopf for writing and donating the above information. Thank you.

Last Updated on 2nd December 2000
By Steven

And now for the Music

I like to thank Emily for the sequencing the following piece, to contact please email (HappyMusician@opendiary.com"> EMILY.

(1842) "Fanfare for a King" Sequenced by Emily Gray

(1819) "Avia Maria" Sequencer Unknown

(832) "Avia maria Virginitas" Sequenced By ?

(833) "De Profundis Clamavi" Sequenced By Andy Averill

(530) "El Grillo" Nicely sequenced By Mike Starke

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