Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Josquin des Prez and His Musical Legacy

Josquin des Prez and His Musical Legacy: An Introductory Guide

Willem Elders
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 248
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Josquin des Prez and His Musical Legacy
    Book Description:

    Josquin des Prez and His Musical Legacy is the most up-to-date contribution to the research on one of the most important and internationally famous composers of the Renaissance. This monograph offers factual information on the composer as well as insights into his 16th-century and modern reception, a survey of the sources of his music, and a discussion of the thorny issue of authorship. Willem Elders, one of the most distinguished scholars of Josquin's music, also discusses the influence of Gregorian chant as a source of inspiration and explains the various aspects of Josquin's symbolic language. Each individual work (including some of those in the old Josquin edition now considered inauthentic) receives a short discussion of relevant contextual aspects and interesting musical features. Ranges and lengths are given for each work. The style is adapted to the professional musicologist as well as to the 'music lover' and performer. Includes 45 figures and 90 musical examples

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-126-5
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Bibliographical abbreviations and manuscript sigla
    (pp. 13-14)
  2. PART I Josquin and his cultural environment

    • 1 Biography
      (pp. 17-28)

      It could be called a twist of fate that neither the year, nor the place of birth of the greatest composer of the Renaissance is known. After Josquin des Prez died in Condé-sur-l’Escaut (nowadays Northern France) on 27 August 1521, it took until the end of the twentieth century before it was discovered that his actual name was ‘Jossequin Lebloitte, dit Desprez’.¹ Little is known about the life of the man who, by many contemporaries, was considered the ‘princeps musicorum’, and who was courted by the great of the world to work as a singer or composer in their service....

    • 2 Josquin in the eyes of his admirers
      (pp. 29-45)

      Josquin was the first composer in the history of Western music not to have been forgotten after his death. References to the composer are not only very numerous but also very varied.¹ A bibliography of titles containing his name, put together by Carlo Fiore, lists more than 1100 items up to the year 2000. The anthology included in this chapter is preceded by a brief, general discussion.

      For more than half a century after his death, we find numerous remarkable tributes to Josquin’s fame. Several are worth mentioning here. In hisRagionamenti accademici[…]sopra alcuni luoghi difficili di Dante...

    • 3 The sources of Josquin’s music
      (pp. 46-56)

      Josquin’s reputation and the quality of his music explain why his work is preserved in a large number of sources. Scrutinising their distribution, it is clear that we are concerned with a composer whose music was performed in most European countries.

      The sources fall into four categories:

      Manuscripts, the earliest of which date from the 1480s

      Printed editions, which appear from the beginning of the sixteenth century

      Manuscripts and printed editions of instrumental arrangements

      Handwritten or printed music theory treatises

      More than for the monophonic music of the Middle Ages, which had a long oral tradition, notation was a prerequisite...

    • 4 Issues of authenticity and chronology
      (pp. 57-64)

      In the history of Western music, more works have been wrongly attributed to Josquin than to any other composer. As mentioned in the Preface, the question of authorship is the reason for the significant differences in content between the old and the new editions of his works. Thus, 45 titles in the Smijers edition have been omitted from theNJEbecause the editors were of the opinion that they are not from Josquin’s pen. On the other hand, theNJEincludes 24 compositions, mostly chansons, that are not found in the earlier edition, though the authenticity of 14 of these...

    • 5 Gregorian chant as a source of inspiration
      (pp. 65-72)

      The monodic, diatonic vocal music called Gregorian chant originated in the Middle East. It was a source of inspiration to composers from the beginning of polyphony until well into the sixteenth century. Josquin was no exception, quite the reverse: four of his Masses, six Mass movements, twenty-five motets and five chansons are indebted to one or more chants from this repertoire. One frequently quoted liturgical chant is Credo I from the modern Solesmes chant editions, fragments of which recur in most of Josquin’s settings of the text.

      Gregorian chant can rightly be called a European heritage. Familiarity with chant was...

    • 6 Aspects of Josquin’s symbolic language
      (pp. 73-95)

      In Josquin’s time, the functions of worship and of music within worship were interwoven. Sacred music derived from worship (in the most comprehensive sense) its own terms of reference; that is, it had its place in an existing system of understanding and belief, a system that, for the composer, was an existential reality. Central were an omnipresent God, hell as the final home of the damned after the Last Judgement, and the Virgin Mary in the role of mediator between heaven and earth. It is not easy for anyone outside this reality to understand the essential character of many of...

  3. PART II Josquin’s musical legacy

    • 7 Masses and Mass movements
      (pp. 97-127)

      The eighteen Mass settings by Josquin that have been accepted in theNJEas authentic cover about 45 years of activity as a composer and demonstrate a high degree of stylistic diversity. While the two earliest Masses,L’ami BaudichonandUne mousse de Biscaye, betray the influence of Dufay and Ockeghem, it appears that Josquin, in his latest settings, was far ahead of his time. The determination of the chronological order is difficult not only because the dates of the sources are generally of little help, also because the composer poses, in most of his Masses, a different musical problem....

    • 8 Motets
      (pp. 128-186)

      In over 300 sources that could possibly contain works by Josquin, 171 motets have been attributed to him. Sixty-two have been accepted in theNJEas authentic, nineteen as doubtful. The remaining ninety are considered to have been wrongly ascribed to him. Except for the cycleO admirabile commercium(NJE 21.7), which consists of five individual motets, all other multipartite motets are counted as one composition. Six motets are preserved incompletely. The motets cover the composer’s entire period of creative activity. Precise datings are known for only a few of them. As is the case with Josquin’s Mass settings, his...

    • 9 Secular works
      (pp. 187-226)

      A hundred and ten secular works have been catalogued with at least one attribution to Josquin. For about a quarter of these, however, the ascriptions are considered incorrect, either because of the unreliability of the relevant source(s), or because of the stylistic aspects of the music. For more than twenty other works, Josquin’s authorship is doubtful.

      The majority of the secular works in theNJEare chansons with a French text. In addition, 28 pieces survive with only a title or with the first few words of a text. As will be seen, twelve of these were written for instruments....

  4. Epilogue
    (pp. 227-230)

    Five centuries separate us from the composer that is the subject of this book. To answer the question “Who was he?” we are dependent on sixteenth-century witnesses who, since they did not know Josquin personally, were certainly not always reliable. Moreover, they are so few in number that the following conclusion seems inescapable: Josquin’s fame rests solely on the unparalleled quality of his music, a quality that had been recognized by the end of the fifteenth century and became legendary shortly after his death.

    Josquin spoke the same musical language and used the same compositional techniques as his fellow composers,...

  5. Appendix A New Josquin Edition: Summary of volumes and editors
    (pp. 235-236)
  6. Appendix B List of authentic and doubtful works of Josquin
    (pp. 237-242)