Clemens non Papa
Lucie Skeaping explores the life and music of the intriguingly named Jacobus Clemens non Papa - one of the most successful Flemish composers of the 16th century.
Lucie Skeaping explores the music of the 16th century Flemish composer Jacobus Clemens non Papa. In the hierarchy of the Flemish school, you could say that Clemens was of the fourth generation - if Dufay is taken as the first, Ockeghem as the second, Josquin the third, with Orlando di Lassus still to come. He was one of the few successful Flemish musicians not to travel to Italy, he spent his entire life in Flanders, working in towns such as Bruges, Dordrecht and Ypres. Also unlike most other composers of that period, Clemens non Papa seems never to have been employed by the church - at least not on a permanent basis.
It's unclear as to how Jacobus Clemens came to adopt the epithet "non Papa" - in fact, it has been the subject of much conjecture. The most widely accepted version is that it meant "not the Pope" Clement - presumably because Pope Clement VII was in the Vatican at the time. Pope Clement VII died in 1534, though, so it's possible that he may have been given the nickname in childhood and it simply stuck with him for the rest of his life! Certainly, the Antwerp-based publisher Tielman Susato, with whom he had a lucrative business partnership, seemed to find the papal suffix amusing! His name is much less well known now, but in the late 1500s, Clemens non Papa was one of the most frequently published composers of the time.