Josquin DES PRES (Després, Des Prez)  

Considered a European musician by the many trips he made throughout his career, Josquin des Prés was born around 1440 in Beaurevoir in Picardy.  

He received his first music lessons at the masters of the Collegiate Church of Saint-Quentin, a major musical center at the time, and began his career as a singer at the Chapel of the Dome in Milan. In 1473 (or 1474), Josquin entered the service of Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza in Milan as biscantor (singer using "his two voices", chest and falsetto).

He writes a Music Book for the prince’s chapel, one of the most important in Europe. He was then found in the service of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, brother of the Duke, whom he accompanied to Rome. He won the pseudonym "Josquin d'Ascanio". The cardinal introduces the musician to the court of the pope. From 1486 to 1494, Josquin was a singer and composer in the Sistine Chapel under the pontificates of Innocent VIII and Alexander VI Borgia. He accompanied Cardinal Sforza during his travels in the various courts of Italy and until Nancy (1493). He then returned to Milan and to France around 1499 in the service of King Louis XII, perhaps as chapel master at court.  

From this period are the instrumental fanfare Vive le roy (1500), the motet Memor esto verbi tui, the song Adieu mes amours, and Ludovici Regis Franciae iocosa cantio, with voice called "vox regis".

At the beginning of 1503, Josquin became "maestro della capella" of the Duke of Ferrara Hercule I of Este who sent him to Bruges to recruit singers and musicians. With the Duke's approval, he accompanied Philippe le Beau (born in Bruges) to Spain, who had inherited the crown of Castile. Returning to Ferrara in 1505, Josquin fled the city and an epidemic of plague to return to his region of origin of Condé-sur-Escaut near Valenciennes.  Emperor Maximilian 1st appoints him canon and provost of the Notre-Dame de Condé collegiate church, which he led until the end of his life.

Josquin des Prés died in Condé-sur-Escaut in Hainaut, in 1521 or 1524 (around 76 years old). He is buried in the Notre-Dame de Condé collegiate church (destroyed).  

Josquin des Prés, a composer with multiple talents and great fruitfulness, with almost 400 works attributed to him. He impressed Palestrina and Roland de Lassus. His music was widely distributed thanks to the musical printing press invented in 1501 by the Venetian Ottavio Petrucci  

In the works of the Milan era, the influence of the cantus firmus of Guillaume Dufay (1400-1474) and Jean Ockenghem (1420-1497) is evident. While the motets and songs from the more melodious period of Rome and Ferrara evolve towards a simpler polyphony which gives more importance to the text.  

© Didier Chagnas

DESPREZ or des Prés  (JOSQUIN)

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A thousand regrets for abandoning you. "Mille Regretz" is a polyphonic song whose text has been set to music by several composers. Josquin's version remains one of the most famous songs of the Renaissance. She inspired the Missa "Mille...