Biography of Josquin o Josquin Desprez Des Prés (1440-1521)

French composer of Flemish origin, born in France of Picardy region towards 1440 and died on August 27, 1521 in Condé-sur-L'escaut (France), author mainly of religious works which was much admired in the Europe of his time.

Allegez moy (Josquin Des près).

(Courtesy of early music, S.L.)


There are contradictory about his life data because it is believed that he/she was born around 1440, but the fact that figure among adults choir of the Cathedral of Milan from 1459 to 1472, forced to assume that you came into the world before that date.

It is trained in the Collegiate Church of Saint-Quentin (France) probably with Ockeghem, the memory of which wrote the South Deploration mort de Johannes Ockeghem, and immediately went to Italian chapels where, apart from his stay in Milan Cathedral, also appears as "cantore di capella" in the major chapel of Duke Galeazzo María Sforza to 1474. Also, his name appears linked to the chapel of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, with whom he/she travelled to Rome in 1484, and the Pope in the same city, which remained intermittently until 1501, under the pontificate of the Popes Innocent VIII and Alejandro VI.

Later, once it was part of the clergy, took a trip to France and he/she was summoned by the monarch Luis XII to be court musician. Printer Petrucci published his first book of masses in Venice in 1502, and a year later we know that Josquin was maestro di cappella for Duke Hércules I de Ferrara, charge that would occupy after Jacob Obrecht, following the decision of Josquin's move in 1504 to Condé-sur-L'escaut to flee from the plague. There are data that relate to the Court of the Princess Margaret of Austria around 1510, but there is also evidence that spent the last years of his life linked to the Church of Notre Dame de Conde-sur-Escaut, city in which perish in 1521.


Admired in the Europe of his time, he/she composed 20 masses, Magnificats 2, various Ave Maria, 90 motetes(véa_se Música vocal) and 70 secular compositions. Among them are three books of masses composed between 1502 and 1514, published by the Venetian Publisher Petrucci.

Douleur me bat (Josquin Des près).

(Courtesy of early music, S.L.)

His training within the Franco-Flemish school is heard clearly in its contrapuntal textures (see counterpoint) of 4, 5, and 6 voices and his mastery of the canon, but also has strong Italian influence, especially in regards to the lightness of their short sentences and the use of homophony.

Their production can be divided into three periods. The first covers until 1485 and the Josquin develops a contrapuntal language with a profusion of melismas in the manner of Ockeghem and the franco-flamencos, from this period are his Motet Victimae paschali laudes (1502) and the mass L´ami Baudichon, whose cantus firmus is based on a motif of a dance.

At its second (1486-1505) develops imitative techniques to perfection and pays great attention to the relationship of music to the text, with great influence from the aforementioned Ockeghem but also of Dufay and Italian homophonous music, being a very strong contrast between both styles. Finally, in his last time focuses on the rhetorical expression and Declamation by means of cohesion between music and text, union which increasingly given greater importance. Good examples of this are his last great masses, the Missa De beata Virgine and the Missa Pange Lingua. But his motets are compositions that better show the richness of the musical language of Josquin. Among the most famous are Miserere mei, Deus; Stabat Mater dolorosa and Praeter rerum serium.

His works, which were widespread in Europe due to the birth of the printing press, were a model to be followed by different composers of his time and opened the way to other relevant works by polyphonists such as Cristóbal de Morales and Palestrina. Such was his fame that several authors wrote works to commemorate his death, as the Elegy Musae Jovis of Gombert or the motet in his honor wrote Jacques de Mantua. Josquin was the favorite composer of Martin Luther , but after the arrival of Baroque (see Baroque music) its contribution to music was forgotten until it was rediscovered in the 19th century and was considered the first great musician of the Renaissance.

Links on the Internet; complete discography of the work of Josquin des Pres. In English.; articles related to Josquin and the music of his time. In English.

Selected discography

Amours, Amour: Florilège des chansons Françaises de la Renaissance. Interpreters: Ensemble Gilles Binchois. Director: Dominique Vellard. VIRGIN VERITAS 45458. The Art of the Netherlands. Performers: Early Music Consort of London. Director: David Munrow. EMI 64215. Chateaux Cathedrales et. Performers: various artists. ERATO 20 982-2. De Vlaamse Polyfonie. Performers: Capella Sancti Michaelis, Currende Consort. Director: Erik Van Nevel. EUFODA 1160/69. Chansons de la Renaissance (works of Janequin, Josquin etc.). Interpreters: Ensemble Clément Janequin. Director: Dominique Visse. HARMONIA MUNDI 290838.40. Josquin and his contemporaries. Performers: Binchois Consort. Director: Andrew Kirkman. HYPERION 67183. Missa Lesse faire to my. Performers: Cappella Pratensis. Director: Rebecca Stewart. Ricercar 159166. Missa L´homme armé super voces musicales (+ Requiem by Ockeghem). Performers: Pro Cantione Antiqua. Director: Bruno Turner. ARCHIV 415-293. Missa Ave Maris Stella / motets and songs. Performers: Taverner Consort & Choir. Director: Andrew Parrott. EMI Reflexe 54659. Missa Ave Maris Stella/Motets à la Vierge. Performers: A Sei Voci. Director: Bernard Fabre-Garrus. 8507 ASTRÉE. Missa De beata Virgine. Performers: A Sei Voci. Director: Bernard Fabre-Garrus. 8560 ASTRÉE. Motets and songs. Performers: Hilliard Ensemble. Director: Paul Hillier. EMI Reflexe 49209.Motets. Performers: Orlando Consort. ARCHIV 463 473-2. Stabat Mater. Performers: La Chapelle Royale. Director: Philippe Herreweghe. HARMONIA MUNDI 901243.


OUVRARD, Jean-Pierre. Josquin Desprez et ses contemporains. Arles, Actes Sud, 1986.

SYDNEY ROBINSON, Charles. Josquin des Prez: a guide to research. New York, Garland Publishing, 1983.

SHERR, Richard (ed.). The Josquin Companion. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001.