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Josquin and Isaac

Peter Phillips celebrates the wonder of Renaissance choral music by exploring the lives and works of two contemporary Flemish composers, Josquin des Prez and Heinrich Isaac.

Peter Phillips continues his six-part series celebrating the Glory of Polyphony.

Polyphony (literally, 'many sounds') reached its peak in choral music during the historic Renaissance period. Peter Phillips first discovered its magnificent sound world at the age of 16 and ever since has devoted his life to performing and recording it. He even formed his record label and choir -The Tallis Scholars - to share the music with others. In each programme in this series, Peter will share his knowledge of and passion for Renaissance choral music by exploring the lives and works of two very contrasting composers. He'll showcase their unique styles against the social backdrops of the late 15th to early 17th centuries by telling some of their personal stories and explaining the original purpose of the music. He'll also explore the music's meditative qualities and its power to affect worshippers and audiences past and present.

In this second programme, Peter will delve into the lives and music of two contemporary but contrasting Flemish composers: Josquin des Prez and Heinrich Isaac.

Flemish musicians were in great demand in the 15th and 16th Centuries, and many were brought across the Alps to Italy as young choristers and remained there their entire careers. What became known as the Franco-Flemish vocal style influenced the development of religious music across the whole of Europe.
Josquin was employed in Rome, Milan and Ferrara, and his fame spread far and wide - he was greatly admired by Martin Luther, who described Josquin's intimately crafted music as being "as free as the song of the finch".

The widely-travelled Isaac worked for three of Europe's most powerful families - the Habsburgs, the Estes and the Medicis. Full of pomp and ceremony, his music is vastly different to Josquin's; Isaac was the man for the great occasion. The two men once competed for the same job in Ferrara, but Isaac was thought to have been "of a better disposition among his companions and will compose new works more often.".

Available now

26 minutes

Music Played

  • Josquin des Prez

    Ave Maria a 4

    Choir: The Cambridge Singers. Conductor: John Rutter.
  • Josquin des Prez

    L'homme arme sexti toni (Agnus dei)

    Choir: Tallis Scholars. Conductor: Peter Phillips.
  • Josquin des Prez

    Missa Faisant regretz (Credo)

    Ensemble: The Clerks. Director: Edward Wickham.
  • Josquin des Prez

    Pater noster

    Ensemble: The Hilliard Ensemble.
  • Heinrich Isaac

    Optime divino date munere pastor ovili

    Choir: Capella Reial De Catalunya Vocal Ens. Ensemble: Hespèrion XXI. Director: Jordi Savall.
  • Heinrich Isaac

    Virgo Prudentissima

    Choir: Tallis Scholars. Conductor: Peter Phillips.
  • Heinrich Isaac

    Tota Pulchra Es

    Choir: Tallis Scholars. Conductor: Peter Phillips.
  • Heinrich Isaac

    Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen

    Performer: Stimmwerck.