Josquin des Prez

Born 1450. Died 21 August 1521.
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Josquin: Miserere mei Deus

Howard Goodall and Suzy Klein discuss Miserere mei Deus by Josquin de Prez.

Featured in BBC Music Clips

Biography

Josquin des Prez (or Josquin Lebloitte dit Desprez;; c. 1450/1455 – 27 August 1521), often referred to simply as Josquin, was a Netherlandish composer of the Renaissance. He is also known as Josquin Desprez and Latinized as Josquinus Pratensis, alternatively Jodocus Pratensis. He himself spelled his name "Josquin des Prez" in an acrostic in his motet Illibata Dei virgo nutrix. He was the most famous European composer between Guillaume Dufay and Palestrina, and is usually considered to be the central figure of the Franco-Flemish School. Josquin is widely considered by music scholars to be the first master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music that was emerging during his lifetime.

During the 16th century, Josquin gradually acquired the reputation as the greatest composer of the age, his mastery of technique and expression universally imitated and admired. Writers as diverse as Baldassare Castiglione and Martin Luther wrote about his reputation and fame; theorists such as Heinrich Glarean and Gioseffo Zarlino held his style as that best representing perfection. He was so admired that many anonymous compositions were attributed to him by copyists, probably to increase their sales. More than 370 works are attributed to him; it was only after the advent of modern analytical scholarship that some of these mistaken attributions have been challenged, on the basis of stylistic features and manuscript evidence. Yet in spite of Josquin's colossal reputation, which endured until the beginning of the Baroque era and was revived in the 20th century, his biography is shadowy, and next to nothing is known about his personality. The only surviving work which may be in his own hand is a graffito on the wall of the Sistine Chapel, and only one contemporary mention of his character is known, in a letter to Duke Ercole I of Ferrara. The lives of dozens of minor composers of the Renaissance are better documented than the life of Josquin.

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Links & Information

BBC Reviews

  1. Review of Masses: Malheur Me Bat, Fortuna Desperata

    Masses: Malheur Me Bat, Fortuna Desperata 2009

    Reviewed by Charlotte Gardner
    Showcases the extraordinary complexity of Josquin's writing
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