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Issue 06 – Corpus Christi 2021


Josquin des Prez

On a high Renaissance composer.


In April 1503, Josquin des Prez arrived in Ferrara to begin his one-year term as maestro di cappella at the court of Duke Ercole d’Este. Already around fifty years old, Josquin was nearing the end of an enviable career as a singer in the court of King Louis XII of France, one whose voice had even graced the Sistine Chapel. While Josquin was an active composer throughout his adult life, none of his positions before Ferrara had entailed composing per se; singers, not composers, were required for the everyday business of chapel music-making. By the end of the fifteenth century, however, some courts specifically sought out composers and emphasized that aspect of their work. In Ferrara was one such court.

We know this not only because of Ferrara’s history and the records of its chapel, but also because of a famous letter that tells us the somewhat unusual story behind Josquin’s hiring. In late 1502, Duke Ercole received a letter from Gian di Artiganova, one of his singers at court. The letter in part reads as follows:

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About the author

Brett Kostrzewski