Classic Cat

Biography of

Josquin des Pres

ca. 1450 (Hainaut) - 27 aug 1521 (Condé)
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1611 woodcut of Josquin des Prez, copied from a now-lost oil painting done during his lifetime[1]

Josquin des Prez (French pronunciation: [ʒɔskɛ̃ depʁe]; c. 1450 to 1455 – August 27, 1521), often referred to simply as Josquin, was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance. He is also known as Josquin Desprez and Latinized as Josquinus Pratensis, alternatively Jodocus Pratensis, although he himself expressed his preferred spelling of his name, Josquin des Prez, in an acrostic in his motet Illibata Dei virgo nutrix.[2][3] He was the most famous European composer between Guillaume Dufay and Palestrina, and is usually considered to be the central figure of the Franco-Flemish School. Josquin is widely considered by music scholars to be the first master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music that was emerging during his lifetime.

During the 16th century, Josquin gradually acquired the reputation as the greatest composer of the age, his mastery of technique and expression universally imitated and admired. Writers as diverse as Baldassare Castiglione and Martin Luther wrote about his reputation and fame; theorists such as Heinrich Glarean and Gioseffo Zarlino held his style as that best representing perfection.[4] He was so admired that many anonymous compositions were attributed to him by copyists, probably to increase their sales.[5] At least 374 works are attributed to him;[6] it was only after the advent of modern analytical scholarship that some of these mistaken attributions have been challenged, on the basis of stylistic features and manuscript evidence. Yet in spite of Josquin's colossal reputation, which endured until the beginning of the Baroque era and was revived in the 20th century, his biography is shadowy, and we know next to nothing about his personality. The only surviving work which may be in his own hand is a graffito on the wall of the Sistine Chapel, and only one contemporary mention of his character is known, in a letter to Duke Ercole I of Ferrara. The lives of dozens of minor composers of the Renaissance are better documented than the life of Josquin.[7]

Josquin wrote both sacred and secular music, and in all of the significant vocal forms of the age, including masses, motets, chansons and frottole. During the 16th century, he was praised for both his supreme melodic gift and his use of ingenious technical devices. In modern times, scholars have attempted to ascertain the basic details of his biography, and have tried to define the key characteristics of his style to correct misattributions, a task that has proved difficult. Josquin liked to solve compositional problems in different ways in successive compositions, as did Stravinsky more than 400 years later. Sometimes he wrote in an austere style devoid of ornamentation, and at other times he wrote music requiring considerable virtuosity.[8] Heinrich Glarean wrote in 1547 that Josquin was not only a "magnificent virtuoso" (the Latin can be translated also as "show-off") but capable of being a "mocker", using satire effectively.[9] While the focus of scholarship in recent years has been to remove music from the "Josquin canon" (including some of his most famous pieces) and to reattribute it to his contemporaries, the remaining music represents some of the most famous and enduring of the Renaissance.[10]



Birth and early career

Little is known for certain of Josquin's early life. Much is inferential and speculative, though numerous clues have emerged from his works and the writings of contemporary composers, theorists, and writers of the next several generations. Josquin was born in the area controlled by the Dukes of Burgundy, and was possibly born either in Hainaut (modern-day Belgium), or immediately across the border in modern-day France, since several times in his life he was classified legally as a Frenchman (for instance, when he made his will). Josquin was long mistaken for a man with a similar name, Josquin de Kessalia, born around the year 1440, who sang in Milan from 1459 to 1474, dying in 1498. More recent scholarship has shown that Josquin des Prez was born around 1450 or a few years later, and did not go to Italy until the early 1480s.

Around 1466, perhaps on the death of his father, Josquin was named by his uncle and aunt, Gilles Lebloitte dit Desprez and Jacque Banestonne, as their heir. Their will gives Josquin's actual surname as Lebloitte. According to Matthews and Merkley, "des Prez" was a nickname.[11]

According to an account by Claude Hémeré, a friend and librarian of Cardinal Richelieu whose evidence dates as late as 1633, and who used the records of the collegiate church of Saint-Quentin,[12] Josquin became a choirboy at Saint-Quentin, probably around 1460, and was in charge of its music. He may have studied counterpoint under Ockeghem, whom he greatly admired throughout his life: this is suggested both by the testimony of Gioseffo Zarlino and Lodovico Zacconi, writing later in the 16th century, and by Josquin's eloquent lament on the death of Ockeghem in 1497, Nymphes des bois/Requiem aeternam, based on the poem by Jean Molinet.[13] All records from Saint-Quentin were destroyed in 1669; however the cathedral there was a center of music-making for the entire area, and in addition was an important center of royal patronage. Both Jean Mouton and Loyset Compère were buried there, and it is certainly possible that Josquin acquired his later connections with the French royal chapel through early experiences at Saint-Quentin.

The first definite record of his employment is dated April 19, 1477, and it shows that he was a singer at the chapel of René, Duke of Anjou, in Aix-en-Provence. He remained there at least until 1478. No certain records of his movements exist for the period from March 1478 until 1483, but if he remained in the employ of René he would have transferred to Paris in 1481 along with the rest of the chapel. One of Josquin's early motets, Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo, suggests a direct connection with Louis XI, who was king during this time. In 1483 Josquin returned to Condé to claim his inheritance from his aunt and uncle, who may have been killed by the army of Louis XI in May 1478, when they besieged the town, locked the population into the church, and burned them alive.[13]


The period of 1480 to 1482 has puzzled biographers: some contradictory evidence exists, suggesting either that Josquin was still in France, or was already in the service of the Sforza family, specifically with Ascanio Sforza, who had been banished from Milan and resided temporarily in Ferrara or Naples. Residence in Ferrara in the early 1480s could explain the Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae, composed for Ercole d'Este, but which stylistically does not fit with the usual date of 1503–4 when Josquin was known to be in Ferrara. Alternatively it has been suggested that Josquin spent some of that time in Hungary, based on a mid 16th century Roman document describing the Hungarian court in those years, and including Josquin as one of the musicians present.[13]

In either 1483 or 1484 Josquin is known to have been in the service of the Sforza family in Milan. While in their employ, he made one or more trips to Rome, and possibly also to Paris; while in Milan he made the acquaintance of Franchinus Gaffurius, who was maestro di cappella of the cathedral there. He was in Milan again in 1489, after a possible period of travel; but he left that year.


From 1489 to 1495 Josquin was a member of the papal choir, first under Pope Innocent VIII, and later under the Borgia pope Alexander VI. He may have gone there as part of a singer exchange with Gaspar van Weerbeke, who went back to Milan at the same time. While there, he may have been the one who carved his name into the wall of the Sistine Chapel; a "JOSQUINJ" was recently revealed by workers restoring the chapel. Since it was traditional for singers to carve their names into the walls, and hundreds of names were inscribed there during the period from the 15th to the 18th centuries, it is considered highly likely that the graffiti is by Josquin – and if so, it would be his only surviving autograph.[14][15]

Josquin's mature style evolved during this period; as in Milan he had absorbed the influence of light Italian secular music, in Rome he refined his techniques of sacred music. Several of his motets have been dated to the years he spent at the papal chapel.

Departure from Rome; France

Around 1498 Josquin most likely re-entered the service of the Sforza family, on the evidence of a pair of letters between the Gonzaga and Sforza families.[13] He probably did not stay in Milan long, for in 1499 Louis XII captured Milan in his invasion of northern Italy and imprisoned Josquin's former employers. Around this time Josquin most likely returned to France, although documented details of his career around the turn of the century are lacking. Prior to departing Italy he most likely wrote one of his most famous secular compositions, the frottola El grillo, as well as In te Domine speravi ("I have placed my hope in you, Lord"), based on Psalm 30. The latter composition may have been a veiled reference to the religious reformer Girolamo Savonarola, who had been burned at the stake in Florence in 1498, and for whom Josquin seems to have had a special reverence; the text was the monk's favorite psalm, a meditation on which he left incomplete in prison prior to his execution.[16]

Some of Josquin's compositions, such as the instrumental Vive le roy, have been tentatively dated to the period around 1500 when he was in France. A motet, Memor esto verbi tui servo tuo ("Remember thy promise unto thy servant"), was, according to Heinrich Glarean writing in the Dodecachordon of 1547, composed as a gentle reminder to the king to keep his promise of a benefice to Josquin, which he had forgotten to keep. According to Glarean's story, it worked: the court applauded, and the king gave Josquin his benefice. Upon receiving it, Josquin reportedly wrote a motet on the text Benefecisti servo tuo, Domine ("Lord, thou hast dealt graciously with thy servant") to show his gratitude to the king.[17]


Ercole I d'Este was an important patron of the arts during the Italian Renaissance; he was Josquin's employer in 1503 and 1504.

Josquin probably remained in the service of Louis XII until 1503, when Duke Ercole I of Ferrara hired him for the chapel there. One of the rare mentions of Josquin's personality survives from this time. Prior to hiring Josquin, one of Duke Ercole's assistants recommended that he hire Heinrich Isaac instead, since Isaac was easier to get along with, more companionable, was more willing to compose on demand, and would cost significantly less (120 ducats vs. 200). Ercole, however, chose Josquin.[13]

While in Ferrara, Josquin wrote some of his most famous compositions, including the austere, Savonarola-influenced Miserere,[18] which became one of the most widely-distributed motets of the 16th century; the utterly contrasting, virtuoso motet Virgo salutiferi;[19] and possibly the Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae, which is written on a cantus firmus derived from the musical letters in the Duke's name, a technique known as soggetto cavato.

Josquin did not stay in Ferrara long. An outbreak of the plague in the summer of 1503 prompted the evacuation of the Duke and his family, as well as two thirds of the citizens, and Josquin left by April of the next year, possibly also to escape the plague. His replacement, Jacob Obrecht, died of the plague in the summer of 1505,[13] to be replaced by Antoine Brumel in 1506, who stayed until the disbanding of the chapel in 1510.

Retirement to Condé-sur-l'Escaut

Josquin went directly from Ferrara to his home region of Condé-sur-l'Escaut, southeast of Lille on the present-day border between Belgium and France, becoming provost of the collegiate church of Notre-Dame on May 3, 1504, a large musical establishment that he headed for the rest of his life.[20] While the chapter at Bourges Cathedral asked him to become master of the choirboys there in 1508, it is not known how he responded, and there is no record of his having been employed there; most scholars presume he remained in Condé.[21]

During the last two decades of his life, Josquin's fame spread abroad along with his music. The newly-developed technology of printing made wide dissemination of his music possible, and Josquin was the favorite of the first printers: one of Petrucci's first publications, and the earliest surviving print of music by a single composer, was a book of Josquin's masses which he printed in Venice in 1502. This publication was successful enough that Petrucci published two further volumes of Josquin's masses, in 1504 and 1514, and reissued them several times.[22]

On his death-bed Josquin asked that he be listed on the rolls as a foreigner, so that his property would not pass to the Lords and Ladies of Condé.[23] This bit of evidence has been used to show that he was French by birth. Additionally, he left an endowment for the performance of his late motet, Pater noster/Ave Maria, at all general processions in the town when they passed in front of his house, stopping to place a wafer on the marketplace altar to the Holy Virgin. Pater noster may have been his last work.[24]



Josquin lived during a transitional stage in music history. Musical styles were changing rapidly, in part due to the movement of musicians between different regions of Europe.[25] Many northern musicians moved to Italy, the heart of the Renaissance, attracted by the Italian nobility's patronage of the arts; while in Italy, these composers were influenced by the native Italian styles, and often brought those ideas with them back to their homelands. The sinuous musical lines of the Ockeghem generation, the contrapuntal complexity of the Netherlanders, and the homophonic textures of the Italian lauda and secular music began to merge into a unified style; indeed Josquin was to be the leading figure in this musical process, which eventually resulted in the formation of an international musical language, of which the most famous composers included Palestrina, and Lassus.[26]

Josquin likely learned his craft in his home region in the North, in France, and then in Italy when he went to Milan and Rome. His early sacred works emulate the contrapuntal complexity and ornamented, melismatic lines of Ockeghem and his contemporaries, but at the same time he was learning his contrapuntal technique he was acquiring an Italianate idiom for his secular music: after all, he was surrounded by Italian popular music in Milan. By the end of his long creative career, which spanned approximately 50 productive years, he had developed a simplified style in which each voice of a polyphonic composition exhibited free and smooth motion, and close attention was paid to clear setting of text as well as clear alignment of text with musical motifs. While other composers were influential on the development of Josquin's style, especially in the late 15th century, he himself became the most influential composer in Europe, especially after the development of music printing, which was concurrent with the years of his maturity and peak output. This event made his influence even more decisive than it might otherwise have been.

Many "modern" musical compositional practices were being born in the era around 1500. Josquin made extensive use of "motivic cells" in his compositions, short, easily-recognizable melodic fragments which passed from voice to voice in a contrapuntal texture, giving it an inner unity. This is a basic organizational principle in music which has been practiced continuously from approximately 1500 until the present day.[27]

Josquin wrote in all of the important forms current at the time, including masses, motets, chansons, and frottole. He even contributed to the development of a new form, the motet-chanson, of which he left at least three examples. In addition, some of his pieces were probably intended for instrumental performance.

Each area of his output can be further subdivided by form or by hypothetical period of composition. Since dating Josquin's compositions is particularly problematic, with scholarly consensus only achieved on a minority of works, discussion here is by type.


Manuscript showing the opening Kyrie of the Missa de Beata Virgine, a late work. (Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Capp. Sist. 45, ff. 1v-2r)

Josquin wrote towards the end of the period in which the mass was the predominant form of sacred composition in Europe. The mass, as it had developed through the 15th century, was a long, multi-section form, with opportunities for large-scale structure and organization not possible in the other forms such as the motet. Josquin wrote some of the most famous examples of the genre, most using some kind of cyclic organization.

He wrote masses using the following general techniques, although there is considerable overlap between techniques in individual compositions:

  • cantus firmus mass, in which a pre-existing tune appeared, mostly unchanged, in one voice of the texture, with the other voices being more or less freely composed;
  • paraphrase mass, in which a pre-existing tune was used freely in all voices, and in many variations;
  • parody mass, in which a pre-existing multi-voice song appeared in whole or in part, with material from all voices in use, not just the tune;
  • soggetto cavato, or solmization mass, in which the tune is drawn from the syllables of a name or phrase (for example "la sol fa re mi" — A, G, F, D, E — based on the syllables of Lascia fare mi ("leave me alone", a phrase used by an unknown patron, in a context around which much legend has arisen).
  • canon, in which an entire mass is based on canonic techniques, and no pre-existing material has been identified.[28]

Most of these techniques, particularly paraphrase and parody, become standardized during the first half of the 16th century; Josquin was very much a pioneer, and what was perceived as mixing of these techniques by later observers was actually the process by which they were created.[26]

Josquin was fond of canonic techniques, as were many other composers of his generation, and canon appears in all of his masses, sometimes to the exclusion of other structural devices.

Cantus-firmus masses

Prior to Josquin's mature period, the most common technique for writing masses was the cantus firmus, a technique which had been in use already for most of the 15th century. It was the technique that Josquin used earliest in his career, with the Missa L'ami Baudichon, possibly his first mass.[26] This mass is based on a secular – indeed ribald – tune similar to "Three Blind Mice". That basing a mass on such a source was an accepted procedure is evident from the existence of the mass in Sistine Chapel part-books copied during the papacy of Julius II (1503 to 1513).[29]

Josquin's most famous cantus-firmus masses are the two based on the L'homme armé tune, which was the favorite tune for mass composition of the entire Renaissance. The earlier of the two, Missa L'homme armé super voces musicales, is a technical tour-de-force on the tune, containing numerous mensuration canons and contrapuntal display. It was by far the most famous of all his masses.[30] The second, Missa L'homme armé sexti toni, is a "fantasia on the theme of the armed man."[31] While based on a cantus firmus, it is also a paraphrase mass, for fragments of the tune appear in all voices. Technically it is almost restrained, compared to the other L'homme armé mass, until the closing Agnus Dei, which contains a complex canonic structure including a rare retrograde canon, around which other voices are woven.[32]

Paraphrase masses

The paraphrase technique differs from the cantus-firmus technique in that the source material, though it still consists of a monophonic original, is embellished, often with ornaments. As in the cantus-firmus technique, the source tune may appear in many voices of the mass.

Several of Josquin's masses feature the paraphrase technique, and they include some of his most famous work. The relatively early Missa Ave maris stella, which probably dates from his years in the Sistine Chapel choir, paraphrases the Marian antiphon of the same name; it is also one of his shortest masses.[33] The late Missa de Beata Virgine paraphrases plainchants in praise of the Virgin Mary; it is a Lady Mass, a votive mass for Saturday performance, and was his most popular mass in the 16th century.[26][34]

By far the most famous of Josquin's masses using the technique, and one of the most famous mass settings of the entire era, was the Missa pange lingua, based on the hymn by Thomas Aquinas for the Vespers of Corpus Christi. It was probably the last mass that Josquin composed.[35] This mass is an extended fantasia on the tune, using the melody in all voices and in all parts of the mass, in elaborate and ever-changing polyphony. One of the high points of the mass is the et incarnatus est section of the Credo, where the texture becomes homophonic, and the tune appears in the topmost voice; here the portion which would normally set "Sing, O my tongue, of the mystery of the divine body" is instead given the words "And he became incarnate by the Holy Ghost from the Virgin Mary, and was made man."[36]

Parody masses, masses on popular songs

In parody masses, the source material was not a single line, but an entire texture, often of a popular song. Several works by Josquin fall loosely into this category, including the Missa Fortuna desperata, based on the three-voice song Fortuna desperata (possibly by Antoine Busnois); the Missa Malheur me bat (based on a chanson variously ascribed to Obrecht, Ockeghem, or, most likely, Abertijne Malcourt);[26] and the Missa Mater Patris, based on a three-voice motet by Antoine Brumel. The Missa Mater Patris is probably the first true parody mass to be composed, for it no longer contains any hint of a cantus firmus.[37] Parody technique was to become the most usual means of mass composition for the remainder of the 16th century, although the mass gradually fell out of favor as the motet grew in esteem.

Masses on solmization syllables

The earliest known mass by any composer using this method of composition – the soggetto cavato – is the Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae, which Josquin probably wrote in the early 1480s for the powerful Ercole I, Duke of Ferrara. The notes of the cantus firmus are drawn from the musical syllables of the Duke's own name: Re – Ut – Re – Ut – Re – Fa – Mi – Re. Another mass using this technique is the Missa La sol fa re mi, based on the musical syllables contained in "Lascia fare mi" ("leave me alone!"). The story, as told by Glareanus in 1547, was that an unknown aristocrat used to order suitors away with this phrase, and Josquin immediately wrote an "exceedingly elegant" mass on it as a jab at him.[38]

Canonic masses

Opening of the Agnus Dei II from the Missa L'homme armé super voces musicales. The movement consists of a three-out-of-one mensuration canon. The middle voice is the slowest; the lowest voice sings at twice the speed of the middle voice, and the top voice at three times the speed. The first four notes of the canon are shown connected by lines of the same color. (The first eight notes of the canon are a quotation of the contratenor of Ockeghem's "Ma bouche rit")

Canonic masses came into increasing prominence in the latter part of the 15th century. Early examples include Ockeghem's famous Missa prolationum, consisting entirely of mensuration canons, the Missa L'homme armé of Guillaume Faugues, whose cantus firmus is presented in canon at the descending fifth, and the Missa [Ad fugam] of Marbrianus de Orto, based on freely composed canons at the fifth between superius and tenor. Josquin makes use of canon in the Osanna and Agnus Dei III of the Missa L'homme armé sexti toni, throughout the Missa Sine nomine, and in the final three movements of the Missa De beata virgine. The Missa L'homme armé super voces musicales incorporates mensuration canons in the Kyrie, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei II.[39]


Josquin's motet style varied from almost strictly homophonic settings with block chords and syllabic text declamation to highly ornate contrapuntal fantasias, to the psalm settings which combined these extremes with the addition of rhetorical figures and text-painting that foreshadowed the later development of the madrigal. He wrote many of his motets for four voices, an ensemble size which had become the compositional norm around 1500, and he also was a considerable innovator in writing motets for five and six voices.[40] No motets of more than six voices have been reliably attributed to Josquin.

A passage from the psalm motet Domine ne in furore (Ps. 37). Three variants of a motive built on a major triad are introduced, each in paired imitation between two voices.

Almost all of Josquin's motets use some kind of compositional constraint on the process; they are not freely composed.[41] Some of them use a cantus firmus as a unifying device; some are canonic; some use a motto which repeats throughout; some use several of these methods. The motets that use canon can be roughly divided into two groups: those in which the canon is plainly designed to be heard and appreciated as such, and another group in which a canon is present, but almost impossible to hear, and seemingly written to be appreciated by the eye, and by connoisseurs.[42]

Josquin frequently used imitation, especially paired imitation, in writing his motets, with sections akin to fugal expositions occurring on successive lines of the text he was setting. An example is his setting of Dominus regnavit (Psalm 93), for four voices; each of the lines of the psalm begins with a voice singing a new tune alone, quickly followed by entries of other three voices in imitation.[43]

In writing polyphonic settings of psalms, Josquin was a pioneer, and psalm settings form a large proportion of the motets of his later years. Few composers prior to Josquin had written polyphonic psalm settings.[44] Some of Josquin's settings include the famous Miserere, written in Ferrara in 1503 or 1504 and most likely inspired by the recent execution of the reformist monk Girolamo Savonarola,[45] Memor esto verbi tui, based on Psalm 119, and two settings of De profundis (Psalm 130), both of which are often considered to be among his most significant accomplishments.[43][46]

Chansons and instrumental compositions

In the domain of secular music, Josquin left numerous French chansons, for from three to six voices, as well as a handful of Italian secular songs known as frottole, as well as some pieces which were probably intended for instrumental performance. Problems of attribution are even more acute with the chansons than they are with other portions of his output: while about 70 three and four-voice chansons were published under his name during his lifetime, only six of the more than thirty five- and six-voice chansons attributed to him were circulated under his name during the same time. Many of the attributions added after his death are considered to be unreliable, and much work has been done in the last decades of the 20th century to correct attributions on stylistic grounds.[47]

Josquin's earliest chansons were probably composed in northern Europe, under the influence of composers such as Ockeghem and Busnois. Unlike them, however, he never adhered strictly to the conventions of the formes fixes – the rigid and complex repetition patterns of the rondeau, virelai, and ballade – instead he often wrote his early chansons in strict imitation, a feature they shared with many of his sacred works.[26] He was one of the first composers of chansons to make all voices equal parts of the texture; and many of his chansons contain points of imitation, in the manner of motets. However he did use melodic repetition, especially where the lines of text rhymed, and many of his chansons had a lighter texture, as well a faster tempo, than his motets.

Inside of his chansons, he often used a cantus firmus, sometimes a popular song whose origin can no longer be traced, as in Si j'avoye Marion.[48] Other times he used a tune originally associated with a separate text; and still other times he freely composed an entire song, using no apparent external source material. Another technique he sometimes used was to take a popular song and write it as a canon with itself, in two inner voices, and write new melodic material above and around it, to a new text: he used this technique in one of his most famous chansons, Faulte d'argent ("The problem with money"), a song sung by a man who wakes in bed with a prostitute, broke and unable to pay her.

Some of his chansons were doubtless designed to be performed instrumentally. That Petrucci published many of them without text is strong evidence of this; additionally, some of the pieces (for example, the fanfare-like Vive le roy) contain writing more idiomatic for instruments than voices.[26]

Josquin's most famous chansons circulated widely in Europe. Some of the better known include his lament on the death of Ockeghem, Nymphes des bois/Requiem aeternam; Mille regretz (the attribution of which has recently been questioned);[49] Plus nulz regretz; and Je me complains.

In addition to his French chansons, he wrote at least three pieces in the manner of the Italian frottola, a popular Italian song form which he would have encountered during his years in Milan. These songs include Scaramella, El grillo, and In te domine speravi. They are even simpler in texture than his French chansons, being almost uniformly syllabic and homophonic, and they remain among the most frequently sung portions of his output.


While in Milan, Josquin wrote several examples of a new type of piece developed by the composers there, the motet-chanson. These compositions were texturally very similar to 15th century chansons in the formes fixes mold, except that unlike those completely secular works, they contained a chant-derived Latin cantus-firmus in the lowest of the three voices. The other voices, in French, sang a secular text which had either a symbolic relationship to the sacred Latin text, or commented on it.[50] Josquin's three known motet-chansons, Que vous madame/In pace, A la mort/Monstra te esse matrem, and Fortune destrange plummaige/Pauper sum ego, are similar stylistically to those by the other composers of the Milan chapel, such as Loyset Compère and Alexander Agricola.


Josquin's fame lasted throughout the 16th century, and indeed increased for several decades after his death. Zarlino, writing in the 1580s, was still using examples from Josquin in his treatises on composition; and Josquin's fame was only eclipsed after the beginning of the Baroque era, with the decline of the pre-tonal polyphonic style. During the 18th and 19th centuries Josquin's fame was overshadowed by later Roman School composer Palestrina, whose music was seen as the summit of polyphonic refinement, and codified into a system of composition by theorists such as Johann Fux; however, during the 20th century, Josquin's reputation has grown steadily, to the point where scholars again consider him "the greatest and most successful composer of the age."[51][52] According to Richard Sherr, writing in the introduction to the Josquin Companion, addressing specifically the shrinking of Josquin's canon due to correction of misattributions, "Josquin will survive because his best music really is as magnificent as everybody has always said it was."[10]

Since the 1950s Josquin's reputation has been boosted by the increasing availability of recordings, of which there are many, and the rise of ensembles specializing in the performance of 16th century vocal music, many of which consider Josquin's output to be at the heart of their repertory.[53]


Works list

The difficulties in compiling a works list for Josquin cannot be overstated. Because of his immense prestige in the early sixteenth century, many scribes and publishers did not resist the temptation of attributing anonymous or otherwise spurious works to Josquin. The German editor Georg Forster summed up the situation admirably in 1540 when he wrote, "Now that Josquin is dead, he is putting out more works than when he was alive."[54] Thus, many of the works listed below are of disputed authenticity.


  1. Missa Ave maris stella (Rome, 1486–1495) (4 voices)
  2. Missa D'ung aultre amer (4 voices; authorship questioned by Jeremy Noble)
  3. Missa de Beata Virgine (around 1510) (4 voices in parts I–II, 5 voices in parts III–V)
  4. Missa Di dadi (=N'aray je jamais) (4 voices; authorship doubted by some scholars)
  5. Missa Faisant regretz (4 voices)
  6. Missa Fortuna desperata (4 voices)
  7. Missa Gaudeamus (4 voices)
  8. Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae (Ferrara, 1503/04) (4 voices, 6 in Agnus III)
  9. Missa La sol fa re mi (4 voices)
  10. Missa L'ami Baudichon (4 voices)
  11. Missa L'homme armé sexti toni (4 voices, 6 in Agnus III)
  12. Missa L'homme armé super voces musicales (4 voices)
  13. Missa Malheur me bat (4 voices, 6 in Agnus III)
  14. Missa Mater patris (4 voices; authorship doubted by some scholars)
  15. Missa Pange lingua (Condé, around 1514) (4 voices)
  16. Missa Sine nomine (4 voices; canonic mass, originally titled "Missa Ad fugam")

Doubtful works:

  1. Missa Ad fugam (4 voices)
  2. Missa Da pacem (4 voices)
  3. Missa Une musque de Biscaye (4 voices)

Mass fragments

Of questionable authenticity, with the exception of the Credo De tous biens playne:

  1. Credo Chascun me crie (= Des rouges nez)
  2. Credo De tous biens playne
  3. Credo Vilayge (II)
  4. Credo [Quarti toni] (canonic)
  5. Gloria De beata virgine
  6. Sanctus De passione
  7. Sanctus D'ung aultre amer
  8. Credo Vilayge (I)
  9. Credo La belle se siet (probably Robert de Févin)


  1. Absalon, fili mi (4vv) (attribution has been challenged; possibly Pierre de La Rue)
  2. Absolve, quaesumus, Domine/Requiem aeternam (6vv) (attribution has been challenged)
  3. Alma redemptoris mater;
  4. Alma redemptoris mater / Ave regina caelorum;
  5. Ave Maria, gratia plena ... benedicta tu (4vv);
  6. Ave Maria, gratia plena ... Virgo serena (Milan 1484/85);[55]
  7. Ave munda spes, Maria (not in first complete works edition)
  8. Ave nobilissima creatura
  9. Ave verum corpus natum
  10. Benedicta es, caelorum regina
  11. Christum ducem, qui per crucem (4vv)
  12. De profundis clamavi (4vv) (possibly middle-period composition: attribution has been questioned)
  13. De profundis clamavi (5vv) (late composition)
  14. Domine exaudi orationem meam
  15. Domine, ne in fuore tuo (4vv)
  16. Domine, non secundum peccata nostra (2-4vv; for Rome)
  17. Ecce, tu pulchra es, amica mea
  18. Factum est autem
  19. Gaude virgo, mater Christi
  20. Homo quidam fecit cenam magnam
  21. Honor, decus, imperium
  22. Huc me sydereo descendere jussit Olympo (5vv)
  23. Illibata Dei virgo nutrix
  24. In exitu Israel de Aegypto
  25. In illo tempore assumpsit Jesus doudecim disciplus
  26. Iniquos odio habui (4vv, only tenor part survives)
  27. In principio erat Verbum (authenticity has been questioned)[56]
  28. Inviolata, integra et casta es, Maria
  29. Jubilate Deo omnis terra
  30. Liber generationis Jesu Christi
  31. Magnificat quarti toni (attributed to Josquin on stylistic grounds)
  32. Magnificat terii toni (attributed to Josquin on stylistic grounds)
  33. Memor esto verbi tui
  34. Miserere mei Deus (Ferrara, 1503)
  35. Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo (France, 1480/83)
  36. Missus est Gabriel angelus ad Mariam Virginem
  37. Mittit ad virginem
  38. Monstra te esse matrem
  39. O admirabile commercium (part of a 5-motet cycle)
  40. O bone et dulcissime Jesu
  41. O Domine Jesu Christe (part of a Passion setting in 5 sections)
  42. O virgo prudentissima
  43. O virgo virginum
  44. Pater noster, qui es in caelis (Condé, 1505–1521)
  45. Planxit autem David
  46. Praeter rerum seriem
  47. Qui edunt me adhuc
  48. Qui habitat in adiutorio altissimi
  49. Qui velatus facie fuisti (part of a Passion setting in 6 sections)
  50. Salve regina (4vv)
  51. Salve regina (5vv, 1502)
  52. Stabat Mater
  53. Tu lumen, tu splendor
  54. Tu solus qui facis mirabilia
  55. Usquequo Domine oblivisceris me (attrib on stylistic grounds; only part survives)
  56. Ut Phoebi radiis
  57. Veni, sancte spiritus (also attrib to Forestier)
  58. Victimae paschali laudes
  59. Virgo prudentissima
  60. Virgo salutiferi (Ferrara, 1504/05)
  61. Vultum tuum deprecabuntur (7-part Passion cycle) (1480s)


  1. A la mort / Monstra te esse matrem
  2. Fortune destrange plummaige/Pauper sum ego
  3. Que vous madame / In pace in idipsum


  1. A l'heure que je vous
  2. A l'ombre d'ung buissonet, au matinet (3vv)
  3. Adieu mes amours
  4. Adieu mes amours (6vv or 7vv)
  5. Baisé moy, ma doulce amye (4vv)
  6. Belle, pour l'amour de vous
  7. Bergerette savoyenne
  8. Cela sans plus
  9. Comment peult haver joye
  10. Cueur langoreulx
  11. De tous biens plaine (3vv)
  12. De tous biens plaine (4vv)
  13. Douleur me bat
  14. Du mien amant
  15. Dulces exuviae
  16. En l'ombre d'ung buissonet tout, au long (3vv)
  17. En l'ombre d'ung buissonet tout, au long (4vv)
  18. Entré je suis en grant pensée (3vv)
  19. Entré je suis en grant pensée (4vv)
  20. Fama malum
  21. Faulte d'argent
  22. Fors seulement (only one of six voice parts survives)
  23. Fortuna d'un gran tempo
  24. Helas madame
  25. Ile fantazies de Joskin
  26. Incessament livré suis à martire
  27. Je me complains
  28. Je n'ose plus
  29. Je ris et si ay larme
  30. Je sey bien dire
  31. La belle se siet
  32. La Bernardina
  33. La plus de plus
  34. Le villain [jaloux]
  35. Ma bouche rit et mon cueur pleure
  36. Mille Regretz (4 voices)
  37. Mon mary m'a diffamée
  38. N'esse pas ung grant desplaisir
  39. Nymphes des bois (written for the death of Johannes Ockeghem)
  40. Nymphes, nappés / Circumdederunt me
  41. Parfons regretz
  42. Petite camusette;
  43. Plaine de dueil
  44. Plus n'estes ma maistresse
  45. Plus nulz regretz (written between 1508 and 1511, commemorating the 1507 Treaty of Calais);
  46. Plusieurs regretz
  47. Pour souhaitter
  48. Quant je vous voye
  49. Qui belles amours a
  50. Recordans de my signora
  51. Regretz sans fin;
  52. Se congié prens
  53. Si j'ay perdu mon amy (3vv)
  54. Si j'ay perdu mon amy (4vv)
  55. Tant vous aimme Bergeronette
  56. Tenz moy en voz bras
  57. Une mousque de Biscaye;
  58. Vive le roy (instrumental piece, written for Louis XII)
  59. Vous l'arez, s'il vous plaist
  60. Vous ne l'arez pas
  61. textless (4vv)


  1. El Grillo
  2. In te Domine speravi per trovar pietà
  3. Scaramella va alla guerra

References and further reading

  • Fallows, David. Josquin. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2009, ISBN 978-2-503-53065-9
  • Atlas, Allan W., ed. Renaissance music: music in western Europe, 1400–1600. NY: Norton, 1998. ISBN 0393971694.
  • Brown, Howard M. "Chanson" The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. London, Macmillan, 1980. (20 vol.) ISBN 1-56159-174-2.
  • Duffin, Ross W., ed. A Josquin Anthology. Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-19-353218-2
  • Gleason, Harold, and Warren Becker. Music in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Bloomington, Indiana: Frangipani Press, 1981. ISBN 0-89917-034-X.
  • Godt, Irving. "Motivic Integration in Josquin's Motets." Journal of Music Theory, 21, 2 (Autumn, 1977): 264–292.
  • International Josquin Symposium, Willem Elders, and Frits de Haen. Proceedings of the International Josquin Symposium. Utrecht: Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 1986. ISBN 90-6375-148-6
  • Elder, Willem, et al., ed. New Josquin Edition. Utrecht: Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 1987- . ISBN 978-90-6375-051-0
  • Macey, Patrick. Bonfire Songs: Savonarola's Musical Legacy. Oxford, Clarendon Press. 1998. ISBN 0-19-816669-9.
  • Macey, Patrick. "Josquin des Prez" Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy. (Accessed 2006-10-08) (subscription required)
  • Noble, Jeremy. "Josquin Desprez (works)" The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. London, Macmillan, 1980. (20 vol.) ISBN 1-56159-174-2.
  • Pietschmann, Klaus. "Ein Graffito von Josquin Desprez auf der Cantoria der Sixtinischen Kapelle" Die Musikforschung vol. 52 no. 2 (1999), pp. 204–207.
  • Reese, Gustave. Music in the Renaissance. New York: W.W. Norton, 1954. ISBN 0-393-09530-4.
  • Reese, Gustave. "Josquin Desprez (biography)" The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. London, Macmillan, 1980. (20 vol.) ISBN 1-56159-174-2.
  • Sherr, Richard, ed. The Josquin Companion. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000. ISBN 0-19-816335-5.
  • Charles, Sydney R. Josquin des Prez: A Guide to Research. New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1983.
  • Lowinsky, Edward E., ed. Josquin des Prez. London: Oxford University Press, 1976.


  1. ^ Macey, Grove, §8.
  2. ^ ChoralWiki Illibata Dei virgo nutrix (Josquin des Prez)
  3. ^ Autobiographical Constructions in Josquin's Motet Illibata Dei virgo nutrix
  4. ^ Wegman, in Sherr, p. 21–25.
  5. ^ Reese, Grove
  6. ^ Wegman, in Sherr, p. 28.
  7. ^ Wegman, in Sherr, p. 21–22.
  8. ^ Sherr, p. 3.
  9. ^ Glareanus, quoted in Sherr, p. 3.
  10. ^ a b Sherr, p. 10.
  11. ^ Lora Matthews and Paul Merkley, "Josquin des Prez", in The Journal of Musicology, Summer 1998.
  12. ^ Gustave Reese et al., High Renaissance Masters. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1984.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Macey, Grove
  14. ^ Pietschmann
  15. ^ Sherr, frontispiece
  16. ^ Macey, p. 155.
  17. ^ David W. Barber, If It Ain't Baroque: More Music History as It Ought to Be Taught (Toronto: Sound and Vision, 1992), p. 34.
  18. ^ Macey, p. 184.
  19. ^ John Milsom, in Sherr, p. 307.
  20. ^ Sherr, p. 16.
  21. ^ Sherr, p. 17.
  22. ^ Boorman, Stanley. "Petrucci, Ottaviano (dei)." Music Printing and Publishing. New York: Norton, 1990, pp. 365–369.
  23. ^ Sherr, p. 16.
  24. ^ Milsom, in Sherr, p. 303–305.
  25. ^ Reese, p. 184–185.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g Noble, Grove (1980)
  27. ^ Irving Godt, JMT, 264–292.
  28. ^ Blackburn, Planchart, Bloxham, Sherr, in Sherr, 51–248.
  29. ^ Bonnie J. Blackburn, in Sherr, p. 72.
  30. ^ Blackburn, in Sherr, p. 53–62
  31. ^ Blackburn, in Sherr, p. 63
  32. ^ Blackburn, in Sherr, p. 64
  33. ^ Planchart, in Sherr, p. 109.
  34. ^ Planchart, in Sherr, p. 120–130
  35. ^ Planchart, in Sherr, p. 130, 132.
  36. ^ Planchart, in Sherr, p. 142.
  37. ^ Reese, p. 240.
  38. ^ Blackburn, in Sherr, p. 78.
  39. ^ A canon from the Agnus Dei II from the Missa L'homme armé super voces musicales is written in a triangular form in Dosso Dossi's Allegory of Music. See the entry Eye music.
  40. ^ Milsom, in Sherr, p. 282
  41. ^ Milsom, in Sherr, p. 284
  42. ^ Milsom, in Sherr, p. 290
  43. ^ a b Reese, p. 249
  44. ^ Reese, p. 246
  45. ^ Macey, p. xxx
  46. ^ Milsom, in Sherr, p. 305
  47. ^ Louise Litterick, in Sherr, p. 335, 393
  48. ^ Brown, Grove (1980), "Chanson."
  49. ^ Litterick, in Sherr, p. 374–376
  50. ^ Litterick, in Sherr, p. 336
  51. ^ David Fallows, in Sherr, p. 575.
  52. ^ See Paula Higgins, "The Apotheosis of Josquin des Prez and Other Mythologies of Musical Genius," Journal of the American Musicological Society, 57.3 (Autumn, 2004), pp. 443–510.
  53. ^ Sherr, p. 577; also Appendix B (Discography)
  54. ^ Jesse Rodin, "A Josquin Substitution," Early Music 34.2 (2006), p. 246
  55. ^ For the latest work on dating, see Joshua Rifkin, Munich, Milan, and a Marian Motet: Dating Josquin's "Ave Maria ... virgo serena," Journal of the American Musicological Society 56.2 (2003), pp. 239–350
  56. ^ Finscher, Sherr, p. 264n


  • 1993 – Renaissance-polyfonie in Brugge. The Songbook of Zeghere van Male.. Capilla Flamenca. Eufoda 1155. Contains a recording of O intemerata and Mille regretz.
  • 1996 – Pierre de la Rue . Missa Alleluia. Music at the Burgundy Court. Capilla Flamenca. Eufoda 1232. Contains a recording of Gaude Virgo and Huc me sidereo by Josquin des Prez
  • 1996 – Oh Flanders Free. Music of the Flemish Renaissance: Ockeghem, Josquin, Susato, De la Rue. Capilla Flamenca. Alamire LUB 03, Naxos 8.554516. Contains a recording of El grillo, Guillaume se va chaufer and Kyrie from Missa la sol fa re mi by Josquin des Prez
  • 1998 – Margarete – Maximilian I. Musik um 1500. Capilla Flamenca with La Caccia, Schola Cantorum Cantate Domino Aalst, Schola Gregoriana Lovaniensis. ORF Shop CD 265 (2 CDs). Contains a recording of Adieu mes amours by Josquin des Prez.
  • 2000 – Magic. Flanders Recorder Quartet and friends. Contains a recording of Mille Regretz and Scaramella by Josquin des Prez.
  • 2002 – Pierre de la Rue: Missa de septem doloribus. Capilla Flamenca and Psallentes. MEW 0207. Contains a recording of Stabat mater by Josquin des Prez.
  • 2005 – Dulcis Melancholia. Biographie musicale de Marguerite d’Autriche. Capilla Flamenca. MEW 0525. Contains a recording of Belle pour l'amour de vous, Plus nulz regretz and Que vous madame / In pace by Josquin Desprez.
  • 2007 – Désir D'aymer. Love Lyrics Around 1500: From Flanders To Italy. Capilla Flamenca. Eufoda 1369. Contains a recording of Baisés moy (4 voices and 6 voices) and O venus bant by Josquin des Prez.
  • 2007 – Salve Mater Salve Jesu. Chant and Polyphony From Bohemia Around 1500. Capilla Flamenca and Schola Gregoriana Pragensis, with Barbara Maria Willi. KTC 1346. Contains a recording of Qui velatus facie fuisti by Josquin des Prez.

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