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1450 1521

Josquin des Prez, aka “Josquin”

Josquin des Prez
  • The Beethoven of the Renaissance; his style set the standard for vocal part-music in the 1500s, and he was constantly imitated and referred to.

Vital Statistics

Born: Circa 1450-1455, near San Quentin on the France/Belgium border
Died: August 27, 1521, in Condé-sur-l’Escaut, France
Nationality: French
Genre: Renaissance
Performed as: Singer/director in chapel choirs
During the composer's lifetime: Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The first book of music printed from movable type was published by Ottaviano Petrucci of Venice (1501).

Biographical Outline

  • Full name: Josse Lebloitte dit [called] des Prez. “Josquin” is a diminutive of the saint’s name.
  • Beginnings, ca. 1475-1483: Josquin works in the chapel of Rene, Duke of Anjou, and then, possibly, for King Louis IX. Josquin pens an early masterpiece motet, Ave Maria, virgo serena, in about the year 1476.
  • Heading south: From 1484 to 1489, he works for the Sforza family, rulers of Milan.
  • Fame: From 1489 to roughly 1495, sings in the Pope’s chapel choir. This was an extremely prestigious position, with associated perks.
  • Chapel master: For the Duke of Ferrara, 1503-1504.
  • Active retirement: In 1504, Josquin is confirmed as provost of the church of Notre-Dame in Condé-sur-l’Escaut, with attached benefice (salary).
  • Swan song: Writes two last, famous masses, Missa “Pange Lingua” and Missa de Beata Virgine.

Fun Facts

  • Graffiti artist: Josquin’s name is carved in a wall in the Sistine Chapel.
  • Name dropping #1: He probably was a student of, or knew, another renowned early Renaissance composer, Johannes Ockeghem.
  • Famous firsts: He was the first composer with a book of printed music devoted to his works (Petrucci, Misse Josquin, 1502).
  • Name dropping #2: Josquin was one of Martin Luther’s favorite composers.
  • Chart topper: He was so popular after his death that publishers put his name on many things that weren’t composed by him — to make them sell.

Recommended Biography

  • Most biographies of Josquin assume a scholarly audience. The article in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed., is a good place to go. And this new book shows promise, though it's not clear it will be published in the U.S.
  • David Fallows, Josquin (Brepols Publishers, May 15, 2009). Fallows is one of the foremost Renaissance music experts and here collects the fruit of intensive Josquin research that has gone on for the last 25 years.

Explore the Music

  • In Italy, Josquin encountered Italian carnival songs, and even composed a few himself, like El grillo (The cricket). Their snappy rhythms left their mark on his religious music, too.
  • Josquin is most famous for his masses and motets, as well as a few chansons (partsongs)

Recommended Websites

Missa Pange Lingua Missa Pange Lingua By Josquin des Prez (1440-1521). Arranged by Nigel Davison. For SATB Choir, Piano (SATB). Music Sales America. Renaissance, Choral. 44 pages. Chester Music #CH55220. Published by Chester Music (HL.14026186)

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Ave Maria look inside Ave Maria (For Mixed Voices (S.A.T.B.)). By Josquin des Prez (1440-1521). Edited by Paul Boepple. Arranged by Paul Boepple. Mixed chorus. For SATB Choir. Dessoff Choir Series - Music of the French Renaissance. Choral. Piano/Vocal Score. Standard notation. 11 pages. Published by Theodore Presser Company (PR.352000440)

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