Josquin des Prez, aka “Josquin”

Composer 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
Circa 1450-1455, near San Quentin on the France/Belgium border
August 27, 1521, in Condé-sur-l’Escaut, France
Performed As:
Singer/director in chapel choirs
During 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.
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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)
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