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Josquin Depres

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Depres, JOSQUIN (diminutive of Joseph), latinized JOSQUINUS PRATENSIS, b. probably c. 1450 at Conde, Hainault, Belgium; d. there August 27, 1521. He was the most gifted and most learned contrapuntist and composer before Palestrina and was the head of the Second Netherland School. At an early age he became choir boy in the collegiate church of Saint-Quentin in his native town. After his voice changed he studied counterpoint under Okeghem (1430-1494).

In 1471 he was at the court of the Sforza in Milan and, in 1480, in the service of Lorenzo the Magnificent in Florence. From 1486 to 1494 (except the year 1487-1488, which he spent in Ferrara), Josquin was a member of the papal choir under Pope Innocent VIII. He then entered the service of King Louis XII of France. The opinion that, towards the end of his career, he was identified with the musical personnel of the court of the Emperor Maximilian I lacks confirmation. Depres dominated the musical world of his time, not only on account of his learning and skill but particularly because of his originality. His vivid conception of the meaning and dramatic possibilities of the sacred texts, as well as his great inventiveness, enabled Josquin to free himself more than any other composer before Palestrina from the conventions of his time. In consequence, most of the works of Depres show the storm and stress of a transition period, in contrast to the productions of his successor, Palestrina, which breathe serenity and repose. Josquin’s fame was overshadowed by Palestrina and his school, and the subsequent change in taste caused his works to be neglected and finally forgotten. The present age, however, is doing justice to those early masters in music who laid the foundation for that which is greatest in sacred polyphony. Josquin wrote thirty-two masses, seventeen of which were printed by Petrucci (1466-1539) in Fossombrone and Venice. Others were preserved in MS. in the archives of the papal choir in Rome and in the libraries of Munich, Vienna, Basle, Berlin, the Ratisbon cathedral, and Cambrai. Motets by Depres were published by Petrucci, Pierre Attaignant (1533), Tylman Susato (1544), and by Le Roy and Ballard (1555). Numerous fragments and shorter works are reproduced in the historical works of Forkel, Burney, Hawkins, Busby, and in Choron’s collection.

JOSEPH OTTEN


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