Josquin des Prez

Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance (Saint-Quentin, 1450 - Condé-sur-l'Escaut, 1521)

Together with Dufay, Ockeghem, Palestrina, Lassus and Byrd, des Prez was part of the most emblematic composers of the Renaissance period. His works bridged the late Middle Age music and the first decades of the new style.

Raised in Saint-Quentin, an important music hub, Josquin des Prez worked in the papal choir for different popes and was a great traveler: he went to Milan, Pavia, Piacenza, Modena... In his travels, mainly to Italy, he was happy to absorb and experience the Italian influence and, once back, he provided a renewed sense to northern music. He belonged to those transitional musicians between Franco-Flemish polyphonic music and Italy’s Renaissance.

After composing in the contrapuntal style of Ockeghem and his contemporaries, the homophonic textures of the Italian lauda and secular music began to emerge. Unifying these two textures, he embodied a new style, of which the most famous composers would be Palestrina and Lassus. Josquin wrote in all of the important forms current at the time: masses, motets, chansons. He is regarded today as one of the inventors of polyphony.

6 key dates in the life of Josquin Desprez

1470: Served the Duke of Anjou.

1477: Sang at the chapel of René, Duke of Anjou, in Aix-en-Provence, he serves king Louis XI at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris

1480: In the service of the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, then of Ascanio Sforza

1489-1495: Worked at the papal chapel

1503-1505: Hired by Duke Ercole I of Ferrara for the chapel

1515: Provost and choirmaster at Saint Quentin collegiate church, Condé-sur-l'Escaut

6 key works in the life of Josquin Desprez 

1480-83: Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo, motet

1497: Nymphes des bois, Je me complains, Mille regretz… chansons

1502: L’homme armé, mass

• 1503: Miserere

• 1505: Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae, composed for the Duke of Ferrara

• 1515: Missa pange lingua