Mathaeus Pipelare

A South Netherlandish composer, Pipelare was born c.1450 and died c.1515. He was active in Antwerp but left there to become Master of the Choristers for the Confraternity of Our Lady at 's-Hertogenbosch, remaining there from the spring of 1498 until about 1 May 1500. His name indicates that either he or a forebear played woodwind instruments, perhaps as a town piper. In the words of Ornithoparchus, as translated by John Dowland in 1609, Pipelare was one of several composers whose works ‘flow from the very fountaine of Art’.

Pipelare wrote in almost all the forms of his day, and his style is characterized by its wide diversity, ranging from a dense polyphony, as in the first section of the St John Credo, to a homophonic style, as in Vray dieu d'amours. He approached the style of Pierre de La Rue in the sombre melancholy of some of his works, such as parts of the Missa ‘Mi mi’, but such other compositions as the chanson Morkin ic hebbe are gay and light. Two characteristics of his style are the frequent use of syncopation and sequence.

The Missa ‘Floruit egregius infans Livinus’ is in an early style. The cantus firmus, which migrates freely from voice to voice, employs altogether 20 chants for St Livinus. All movements except the Kyrie conclude with the same musical section in triple metre to produce a final ‘refrain’ reminiscent of Faugues. The third Agnus Dei of the second Missa sine nomine is noteworthy for an altus part consisting only of the note A, which is symbolically notated. The Missa ‘L'homme armé’ contains some of his most exciting writing, building up to the grandiose final Agnus Dei. The Missa ‘Dicit Dominus’ is a study in the complexity of rhythmic structure: the cantus firmus appears in various mensurations conflicting with those of the other parts.

The Missa ‘Fors seulement’, with its rich sonorities, is primarily a cantus firmus mass with the famous melody from Pipelare’s own chanson (second setting) rhythmically differentiated from the other parts. On the other hand, all the parts of the first Missa sine nomine are so permeated with the pre-existing material that it can be called an example of ‘saturation’ technique. Sequence and unpretentious singable lines characterize the Missa ‘Johannes Christe care’/‘Ecce puer meus’; the texture of this mass is a 3 since the cantus firmus is absent much of the time. This work and the St John Credo were probably written in 1498 or 1499. Pipelare was a master of large complex structures, but that he did not need complicated organization to bring out his finest writing is nowhere more obvious than in his Missa de feria, which though simple in style contains some of his most memorable music.

Pipelare's motets show the same diversity of style as his masses. The Salve regina and Ave Maria … virgo serena display an early style in their use of short notes in syncopated rhythms. There is a more careful declamation of the text in Memorare mater Christi (closely modelled on Josquin's Stabat mater) and the Magnificat, in which the composer allowed the voices to move within carefully considered vertical sonorities. Here, especially in the Magnificat, he looked to the future, not only in his careful treatment of dissonance but also in his sense of balance both among the voice parts and in the phrase structures.

Among his Flemish chansons, Een vrolic wesen seems intended as a solo with instrumental accompaniment, as was an earlier setting by Barbireau. Of the three or possibly four French chansons, there are two settings of Fors seulement, one version based on Ockeghem's famous chanson and a second on a new tenor melody. The second version was extremely popular, to judge both by the many manuscripts and prints that contain it and by the many compositions that in turn were based on it.

Ronald Cross

Antonius Divitis

The South Netherlandish composer was born in Leuven, c.1470 and died c.1530. His name was ‘Rycke’ or ‘de Rycke’, but in documents it is often gallicized as ‘Le Riche’ or latinized as ‘Divitis’ (‘of the rich’); his music is inscribed with the latter, presumably the name by which he preferred to be known. In June 1501 ‘Anthonius Rycke, native of Leuven and cleric of the diocese of Liège’ was engaged at the church of St Donatian in Bruges to instruct the choirboys in singing. Later that month he was installed in the residence of the late choirmaster and in July was confirmed by the chapter as succentor. In December he was ordained a priest, celebrating his first Mass in April 1502. In April 1504 he was appointed ‘master of song or succentor and master of the choirboys’ at St Rombout's in Mechelen. There Divitis was pursued by creditors and in the summer of 1505 he suddenly departed. In November 1505 ‘Messire Anthoine Le Riche’ was enrolled in the household of Philip the Fair at Brussels, and in the following month he was listed among the singers of Philip's chapel, joining the company of such eminent musicians as Alexander Agricola, Pierre de La Rue, Marbrianus de Orto and Henry Bredemers. Early in 1506 he travelled with the court to Spain, where in September Philip unexpectedly died. The court, including the chapel, was maintained by Philip's widow Juana until it was disbanded in 1508. Its members returned to the Netherlands or, like Divitis, sought their fortunes elsewhere.

Divitis's next known appointment was as master of the chapel of Anne of Brittany, wife of the French king Louis XII (1510). After her death in 1514 he passed to the royal chapel and was among the chapel singers who participated in the king's funeral in 1515 along with such illustrious court musicians as Jean Mouton and Claudin de Sermisy. Further evidence of his presence at court is his inclusion among the musicians called upon to sing praise to King François I and Queen Claude in Pierre Moulu's ceremonial motet Mater floreat florescat. He continued in François' service until the king's defeat and capture at Pavia in 1525. Knowledge of his activities after that date is uncertain; attempts have been made to identify him with an ‘Ant. Richardus’ who was a singer at S Pietro, Rome, in 1526. The manuscript B-Br IV.922, copied before 1534, contains a ‘Missa pro fidelibus defunctis Anthonius Divitiis pie memorie’, which suggests that Divitis had died before the source was copied. However, the same mass is attributed in other sources to Antoine de Févin, who died in 1512, and the scribe may have confused the two Antoines.

Divitis's works include three parody masses, two mass sections, three Magnificat settings, eight motets (three of them incomplete) and one chanson. Some of these works were printed during his lifetime and publication continued well into the 16th century. First to appear in print was the motet Desolatorum consolator in Petrucci's Motetti de la corona, libro primo (1514). His most famous composition, Missa ‘Quem dicunt homines’, was printed by Giunta in Missarum decem … liber primus (1522), almost certainly a reprint of a lost Petrucci book of 1515. Two impressive canonic motets appeared in 1520 and 1521. A Magnificat quinti toni, printed under Divitis's name by Attaingnant in 1534, was assigned to Richafort in Scotto's edition of 1542 and subsequently reprinted by Rhau (1544), Moderne (1550) and Gardano (1562). Attaingnant's chronological priority and greater authority lend weight to his ascription, which is reinforced by the similarity of the work to other Magnificat settings by Divitis (including his customary chordal emphasis of the word ‘divites’ in the ‘Esurientes’ verse). On the other hand, Missa ‘Dictes moy toutes voz pensées’, assigned to Divitis in I-Rvat C.G.XII.2, is attributed to Antoine de Févin in the earlier C.S.16 and its status must be regarded as doubtful.

Divitis belonged to the generation between the towering Josquin and the younger Willaert that included Mouton, Richafort and Févin. His mastery of traditional polyphonic techniques is demonstrated by his five-part Salve regina constructed on the popular melody Adieu mes amours, and his large-scale cantus firmus setting of the superius of Ockeghem's Fors seulement, as well as his canonic motets Ista est speciosa and Per lignum crucis. Except in his parody masses, which are for four voices, Divitis showed a marked predilection for five- and six-part writing. His duos attracted the attention of later musicians; three movements from his Missa ‘Quem dicunt homines’, two from his Magnificat secundi toni and the ‘Pleni’ of the Missa super ‘Si dedero’ (the last with the contrafact text Semper eris pauper) were printed in didactic collections of two-voice pieces such as Il primo libro a due voci (Venice, 1543) and Diphona amoena et florida (Nuremberg, 1549).

Divitis's most significant works are his parody masses. His Missa super ‘Si dedero’, based on Agricola's song-motet, possibly dates from his association with Agricola in 1505–6, when both were members of the chapel of Philip the Fair. The Missa ‘Quem dicunt homines’, based on a motet by Richafort, may have been written in competition with a similar mass by Mouton when they were in the French royal chapel. His Missa ‘Gaude Barbara’, based on a motet attributed to Mouton, could have been written in homage to his colleague. All three masses illustrate the chief feature of parody technique, still novel at the beginning of the 16th century: the basing of a new work on the principal motifs, and not merely on a theme or single voice, of an older one. Divitis, along with Mouton and other musicians of the French royal chapel, played an important role in the shaping of this technique, which was to dominate mass composition in the 16th century.

Martin Picker

Antoine de Févin

French church musician and composer Antoine de Févin was born in Arras (?), c.1470 and died in Blois, 1511/12. He is mentioned in connection with the French royal court in a letter from Louis XII in 1507. On his death he was commemorated in song by another court composer, Jean Mouton. Févin was one of the earliest composers of parody masses, and wrote polyphonic arrangements of popular songs. His most celebrated work, however, is the crisply declamatory motet Sancta Trinitas. Robert de Févin (fl 1500–15), probably his brother, was also a singer and composer.

John Milsom

Loyset Compère

Was born in Hainaut c. 1445 and died in Saint Quentin in 16 August 1518. His earliest known position, in the mid-1470s, was in the cappella of Galeazzo Maria Sforza in Milan. Following the duke's murder in 1476 he established links with the French court, and later held posts in Cambrai and Douai. His last years were spent at the collegiate church in Saint Quentin, where he is buried. Compère has long been overshadowed by his younger contemporary, Josquin des Prez. His works bridge the stylistic gap between the late medieval sound world of Busnois and Ockeghem and, at the other extreme, the declamatory imitative texture typical of 16th-century polyphony. His surviving output consists principally of motets and chansons. During his Milanese years he also wrote motet cycles (‘motetti missales’) to be sung, according to local custom, in place of the words of the Mass.

John Milsom

Johannes Prioris

Prioris was a Franco-Flemish composer who flourished in 1485 and died in 1512. Vander Straeten's hypothesis of Flemish origin seems likely. The original version of the composer's surname may have been ‘De Veurste’ or ‘De Vorste’; the name ‘Prioirs’ found in a registry of the town of Vorst (near Brussels) for the year 1536 may represent an adaptation of the Latin form of the name by a relative of the composer. The only certainty concerning his biography is that Prioris was choirmaster of the French royal chapel for a time. On 8 June 1503 the Ferrarese ambassador to the court of Louis XII wrote to Duke Ercole I that he was sending, as promised, a mass by ‘Prioris, suo [i.e., the king's] maystro de capella’. Prioris presumably held that position for at least four more years; the chronicler Jean d'Auton placed him, again identified as maistre de chapelle, with Louis XII at the siege of Genoa in April 1507. Prioris's representation in a number of French music manuscripts compiled during the last two decades of the 15th century, sources that tend to restrict their repertories to composers employed at the court, may indicate that he was already there some years before 1503. In Guillaume Crétin's famous lament on the death of Jean Braconnier, dit ‘Lourdault’ – who died in January, 1512 – the poet called upon ‘nostre bon pere et maistre Prioris’ to add his voice to the lament by composing a Ne recorderis. Although this citation has generally been taken as evidence that Prioris was still the king's maistre de chapelle at the time, Vatican documents refer to Hylaire Bernoneau as ‘magister capelle Christianissimi francorum regis’ as early as 1510. Whatever position Prioris may still have held at the court in 1512, he had probably died by January 1515, since his name appears nowhere in the accounts of Louis' elaborate funeral.

Prioris was included among the finest musicians of his day by writers such as Crétin, Eloy d'Amerval, Jean Daniel and François Rabelais, and he appears among the second group of composers to whom tribute is paid in Pierre Moulu's motet Mater floreat. Nor was he entirely forgotten by a younger generation of French court musicians. Sometime around 1545, a singer of the French royal chapel, Pernot Vermont (died in 1558), requested that his obsequies should include a performance of Prioris's Missa de mortuis. His extant output of Masses, motets, Magnificat settings and secular songs is characteristic in kind for a composer working in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

All but one of the nine French-texted songs that carry Prioris's name are rondeaux (although one survives with only a text incipit). Mon cueur et moy, however, is probably not by him. Already in circulation by around 1465, two decades before another piece ascribed to him turns up in any extant source, the chanson received its single attribution only some forty years later. Although the source providing it, I-Fc Basevi 2439 is an important one for Prioris, transmitting seven pieces under his name, the number of unique attributions in the manuscript as a whole (among them all seven works given to Prioris) makes its authority difficult to assess. Four rondeaux appear in (mostly French) sources dating from the 1480s and 1490s, and the remaining three may well have been composed before the turn of the century, although their earliest source was compiled in the early 16th century. For three voices, in duple meter, based on a structural duet of discantus and tenor with an added contratenor, and occasionally imitative, they display the usual characteristics of the genre. Other aspects – repeated notes, homorhythmic textures, rhythmically diminished motivic reworking, and consistent anticipation by the contratenor and discantus of the tenor's melody (in one piece, Vostre oeul) – bespeak a more modern style. The single extant setting of a monophonic melody in popular style and most likely his latest secular work, Entré je suis (Par vous je suis), derives its melodic material and canonic structure from Josquin's three- and four-voice settings. Prioris also wrote two motet-chansons, both for four voices, in which (as usual for the genre) the cantus firmus is dispersed so as to accommodate the rondeau structure of the whole.

Prioris composed at least five settings of the Mass ordinary as well as a Missa de mortuis. The earliest of them, the Missa ‘Allez regrets’ (in circulation by the late 1480s), may have been the first to be based on Hayne van Ghizeghem's rondeau. Compact and frequently homorhythmic in the prevailing four-voice passages, its skilful combination of cantus-firmus structure with principles of parody technique recurs in the Missa ‘Tant bel mi sont pensade’. The more varied texture of the Missa de angelis derives from a greater reliance on the technique of imitative voice-pairing. The Requiem, most likely his latest mass, is one of the earliest known polyphonic settings of the Mass for the Dead. The texture is prevailingly full throughout, and often homorhythmic. The simplicity of the melodic lines, with their (mostly chant-derived) repeated notes and free repetitions, may be an intentional reflection of the fact that at the time the Mass for the Dead was normally celebrated in plainchant.

Although three of his settings of the Mass ordinary and the Requiem were probably written while Prioris was at the French court, his main compositional energy after 1500 seems to have been focussed on the motet. This is not surprising, since the serious motet was relatively new at the time and the main genre cultivated in France. Mostly for four voices, sometimes utilizing imitation between pairs of voices, many paraphrase the chant on which they are based. Prioris's single extant five-voice motet, Benedicta es caelorum regina, treats a northern French sequence in strict canon. Such canonic procedures culminate in the two late multiply-canonic motets that circulated posthumously, Ave Maria (8vv) and Da pacem Domine (6vv). The greater length of Factum est cum baptizaretur and In principio results from the imitative setting of lengthy Gospel texts, a practice that first shows up in the early 16th century in the motets of northern – especially French – composers.

Even given the fact that the two pieces of extant evidence explicitly identifying Prioris as maistre de chapelle at the French royal court during the first decade of the 16th century also document the circulation of his music and his presence in Italy, it is striking that half of his motets, as well as two Magnificat settings and at least one mass, all survive in manuscripts compiled for the papal chapel and nowhere else – indeed, in all the music copied for that chapel between 1497 and 1512, Prioris is second only to Josquin in the number of works copied. Moreover, although the references to ‘D[omino] Priori’ as playing the organ of S Pietro, Rome, in 1491, once thought to refer to Johannes Prioris, are now known to refer to the ‘reverend prior’ Johannes Brunet, it seems likely that Prioris did have Italian connections before 1500. Such an earlier association would account for his two most popular compositions: the setting of Serafino de' Ciminelli dall'Aquila's strambotto Consommo la vita mya, an anomaly for a strictly northern composer and composed no later than the very beginning of the 16th century, and the lauda Dulcis amica Dei.

Prioris's compositional output was not large nor (with the exception of the two works just mentioned) widely circulated. Current scholarship mostly consigns him to the second rank of composers. His music displays variety and skill, however, and in his own day he was successful. Contemporary references included him in musically élite company, and he attained and held for at least five years one of the most prestigious positions for a musician in Europe.

Louise Litterick

Alexander Agricola

Was born c. 1446 and died in Valladolid, August 1506. Like many of his contemporaries, he spent much of his career in Italy—at Milan, Florence, and, with the Aragonese court, Naples—though he also worked briefly at Cambrai and on several occasions for the French royal chapel. He joined the household of Philip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy and King of Castile, in 1500, and it was during a visit to Spain with the court that he died, apparently of the plague. In terms both of quantity and of quality, Agricola's compositions rank on a level with those of Compère and Brumel, being less numerous and on the whole less innovatory than those of Josquin. His secular works—chansons and instrumental pieces—were particularly widely known, although he also wrote masses (Petrucci published a collection of them in 1504), motets, and miscellaneous liturgical items. Much of his output displays a fondness for lively, syncopated, and decorative melodic lines, in contrast to the plainer declamatory style which Josquin was developing at this time.

John Milsom

Antoine Brumel

French church musician and composer Antoine Brumel was born c. 1460 and died (?) in 1512. Nothing certain is known about him until 1483, when he is listed as a singer at Chartres Cathedral. Between 1486 and 1498 he held posts at the cathedrals of Geneva and Laon, and visited the court of Savoy. From 1498 until 1500 he was given charge of the choristers at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris; he then returned to the Savoy court as a singer. He spent his final years in Italy, first as choirmaster at the ducal court at Ferrara (1506–10), later in the vicinity of Mantua. Brumel is important for his church music, especially his masses; the 12-voice Missa ‘Et ecce terrae motus’ in particular is celebrated for its spectacular sonorities and rhythmic energy. His Magnificat settings are also especially lively. Comparatively few secular works by him survive.

John Milsom

[I'll be posting a more extensive article on this fine composer soon]

Heinrich Isaac

Was born in Flanders c. 1450 and died in Florence 26 March 1517. Beyond the fact that he was writing music in the mid-1470s, almost nothing is known about him until July 1485, when he became one of the singers at the baptistry of S. Giovanni in Florence. The position brought him into the orbit of the Medici, whose patronage he enjoyed for the next eight years. By November 1496 he had moved into the service of Emperor Maximilian I, as court composer and a member of the chapel choir. In 1502 he was considered for a post at the Este court of Ferrara, but the position was given instead to Josquin des Prez. Between 1505 and 1508 Isaac was resident in Konstanz, where the cathedral chapter commissioned him to write a cycle of liturgical works. He returned to Florence for his last years, possibly acting as a diplomat to Maximilian.

Isaac was one of the most prolific and influential composers of his time, and is unusual for having been employed principally for his compositional skills rather than as a performer. 36 masses by him survive, based variously on secular material—songs, dances, and mottoes—or on plainchant; in many of the latter settings, Isaac set only portions of the liturgical texts to music, these to be sung in alternation with either chant or organ music. His massive cycle of mass Propers, built round plainchant melodies, was composed partly in response to the Konstanz commission, partly for use by the imperial chapel choir. His large output of motets and secular works is extremely varied, and reflects his international career and outlook. Isaac's best-known work is also one of his shortest and simplest, the lied Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen.

John Milsom

Jacob Obrecht

Jacob Obrecht was Franco-Flemish church musician and composer. He was born in Ghent in 1457 or 1458 and died in Ferrara, July 1505. He was the son of a civic trumpeter, and through his father may have come into early contact with musicians at the Burgundian court. During his adult career he held positions, often short-lived and variously as choirmaster or succentor, at churches or cathedrals in Bergen op Zoom, Cambrai, Bruges, and Antwerp. It is not always clear what precipitated these frequent moves; some evidently arose from career opportunities, others were the result of dismissal. In 1487–8 he visited the court of Ferrara at the invitation of Duke Ercole d'Este, returning there as maestro di cappella in 1504. He died in Ferrara of the plague.

Obrecht's career, unlike that of his contemporary Josquin des Prez, was focused on the Low Countries, and that may partly account for the fundamental differences between the two men, who are generally regarded as the towering figures of their age. Josquin was essentially a court composer, based in Italy for much of his early life, and was allowed free rein to explore a text-expressive style, heard to best advantage in his motets and chansons. Obrecht, conversely, was a church-based musician, a prolific composer above all of masses, and had fewer opportunities to encounter or be influenced by Italian humanism. Geography also accounts for differences in their subsequent reception: relatively few of Obrecht's works were published or widely disseminated, whereas Josquin's were more readily accessible to the pioneer of music-printing, Ottaviano Petrucci. Wide distribution and sheer variety of output have helped to ensure Josquin a prominent place in history, whereas Obrecht, less wide-ranging and conspicuous, and less obviously influential on 16th-century music, has had to fight harder for modern recognition.

The majority of Obrecht's masses are constructed round either plainchant melodies or secular songs. The chant-based masses include several that can be linked, through their choice of cantus firmus, to his places of work; in the earliest of them it is possible to hear echoes of music by his more senior contemporaries, Busnois and Ockeghem. Later settings include the spectacular Missa ‘Sub tuum presidium’, which opens in three-voice texture but gains an extra voice in each successive movement as additional cantus firmi are superimposed on one another. Secular models include both monophonic songs (as in the vast Missa ‘Maria zart’, based on a German devotional song) and voice parts extracted from polyphonic chansons. Ingenious principles of design and numerological ideas underpin several of the masses, not always in ways that are obvious or even audible to the listener.

The motets, fewer in number than the masses, are arguably Obrecht's most approachable works. They vary in technique from complex canonic structures (Haec Deum coeli) and luxuriantly sonorous polyphony (the six-voice Salve regina) to works of exquisitely transparent texture in which the words are declaimed with a clarity unusual for Obrecht (Factor orbis, based on a miscellany of plainchant melodies for the Christmas period). The secular music, which includes songs in Middle Dutch and textless pieces, is generally of less importance. In this area Obrecht is conspicuously overshadowed by contemporaries such as Josquin, Compère, and Pierre de la Rue; but as a composer of church music he stands out as one of the most interesting and important figures of the late 15th century.

John Milsom

Josquin Desprez

[Much I had to say about this composer, for now I leave this article on one of the greatest and most influential composers of the Renaissance]

Franco-Flemish Josquin des Prez (or Jossequin Lebloitte) was born c.1450 and died in Condé-sur-Escaut, 27 August 1521.The towering composer of the Renaissance, he was profoundly influential on 16th-century music. His biography, which has never been easy to pin down, was substantially revised during the 1990s through the discovery that it conflated the lives of two different musicians; the other Josquin, variously called ‘Judocus de Francia’, ‘Joschino di Picardia’, etc., can now be isolated with certainty, and he appears not to have been a significant composer. As a result of this disentanglement, it is now clear that Josquin des Prez was born at a later date, and resident in Italy for far fewer years, than had previously been thought.

Josquin probably came from the region of Saint Quentin, and at an early age had connections with Condé-sur-Escaut (near Valenciennes), the town where he lived in his later years. Nothing is known about his early training or career. In 1477 he is recorded as a singer in the choir of René of Anjou; he may also have spent some time in Budapest. By 1484 he was in the service of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, and from 1489 until about 1495 was a member of the papal choir in Rome. His exact whereabouts are unknown for the next seven years. Between June 1503 and April 1504 he was a member of the chapel choir of Ercole d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, an important position to which he was recruited in preference to Heinrich Isaac. From Ferrara he moved to the collegiate church of Notre Dame in Condé-sur-Escaut, where in May 1504 he was installed as canon and provost, posts he held until his death.

The collected edition of Josquin's music gives the impression of a prolific composer. Opinions vary, however, about the authenticity of many of the works attributed to him in 16th-century sources; doubts have even been cast over pieces that were once thought to be firmly his, such as the motet Absalon fili mi, which has now been tentatively reassigned to Pierre dela Rue. The problem arises from the fact that Josquin's music won international recognition during his lifetime, and was widely imitated. This was true especially in Germany, where the demand for ‘new’ works by Josquin continued long after his death; many of the disputed pieces are found only in posthumous German sources. Compounding the problem of attribution is the fact that Josquin's compositions are often individually idiosyncratic, making it hard not only to be sure what he might or might not have written, but also to place his works in chronological order. Josquin scholarship therefore has to consider four interrelated issues: biography, problems of attribution, the question of chronology, and Josquin's reputation and reception. A few of his works can be linked with specific patrons, employers, or colleagues, and they provide some pillars of certainty. For example, the solemn five-voice motet Miserere mei, Deus belongs to the year Josquin spent at Ferrara (1503–4), and was written expressly for Ercole d'Este. Virgo salutiferi, a vigorous five-voice motet quite different in style from Miserere, probably dates from the same year. Josquin also paid homage to Duke Ercole in one of his Mass settings; it is built round an eight-note melody derived from the syllables ‘Her-cu-les Dux Fer-ra-ri-e’ (‘Ercole, Duke of Ferrara’), which are translated by assonance of vowels into the solmization syllables re–ut–re–ut–re–la–mi–re. The resulting melody, which is used throughout as a cantus firmus, thus becomes an emblem of Ercole himself. What is not clear, however, is whether this work too dates from Josquin's year in Ferrara. Most authorities place it earlier on stylistic grounds, and this raises the possibility that Josquin's links with Ercole d'Este began some years before his actual residence in Ferrara.

The Missa ‘La sol fa re mi’, too, is built round a motto derived from words; according to Glarean they echo the phrase ‘Laise faire moy’ (‘Leave it to me’). For many years both this saying and Josquin's Mass were associated with Cardinal Ascanio Sforza. However, one manuscript copy of the work shows a turbaned figure bearing the words ‘Lesse faire a mi’, and this has led to the suggestion that both saying and Mass refer in some way to Prince Djem (half-brother of Sultan Bayezit II), who was courted by the popes during Josquin's years in Rome. Other works linked to specific persons include Nymphes des bois, the déploration which commemorates Johannes Ockeghem (d 1497)—though it is not known how soon after Ockeghem's death Josquin wrote the piece—and the late five-voice De profundis, which is clearly a memorial work for an unidentified French magnate. Examples such as these show how pieces of apparently firm attribution may nevertheless resist precise dating. Even the paired settings of ‘Pater noster’/‘Ave Maria’, which Josquin intended to be sung after his death in front of his house on days in the church calendar when processions passed by, could have been written many years before 1521. What these and other works of secure authorship do make possible, however, is the task of sketching a profile of Josquin's musical personality. They provide benchmarks against which to judge pieces that are less certainly by him.

Josquin was a singer by profession, and virtually all his music is vocal in conception. His interest lay principally in three genres: the mass, the motet, and the French-texted chanson. He was an important contributor to all three; the masses in particular are striking, and were widely circulated at the time, but if impact on later generations is to be taken as a guide to significance, then Josquin's motets must be reckoned the works on which his reputation is most firmly anchored. This is partly because of their sheer number, partly because of their varied range of style and structure (compared, for instance, with the more homogeneous motet outputs of contemporaries such as Isaac and Pierre de la Rue), and partly on grounds of their intrinsic interest and quality. Even in early motets such as the popular Ave Maria … virgo serena Josquin shows true independence of mind, strongly innovatory tendencies, and a concern for the clear, rhetorical declamation of the words. Viewing his motets as a whole, it is remarkable how Josquin seems constantly to have reinterpreted and reinvented the genre, in ways that clearly stimulated his successors. In particular his interest in expressive text-setting was singled out for comment and praise by 16th-century writers; the great Miserere mei, Deus provides a magnificent example.

The masses are very varied indeed. They include works based on plainchant (the Missa ‘Pange lingua’), monophonic songs (the two L'Homme armé masses), or voice parts extracted from polyphonic chansons (Missa ‘Faisant regretz’). One, the Missa ad fugam, is an exercise in continuous canon. The chansons, too, cover a wide range, from lively little arrangements of popular songs to sombre, densely scored settings of languorous love poetry, and the déploration in memory of Ockeghem, mentioned above. A few wordless pieces, such as La Bernardina and Ile fantazies de Joskin, were probably meant for instrumental consort. The garrulous El grillo is one of three Italian-texted songs attributed to him. Placed side by side, these works cover such a wide range of style and substance that they are barely credible as the work of one composer; in time, some may even be removed from him. Nevertheless it is clear that Josquin's genius extends beyond wit, inventiveness, and technical skill to include a striking characteristic: an extreme reluctance to repeat himself. 16th-century reports speak of him as a composer who wrote when he chose, not when asked, and who released new pieces only when fully satisfied with them. Apocryphal or not, these anecdotes chime in well with the evidence of the music itself.

John Milsom

Franco-Flemish School: Third Generation

The third generation of Franco-Flemish composers (until ca.1520):

Henry Purcell

The English composer Henry Purcell was born in Westminster in autumn 1659 and died in Westminster on 21 November 1695. Purcell was the second musician in his family to be named Henry. There is some doubt concerning the precise relationships between the family members, and whether the younger Henry was the son of Henry Purcell (i) (1624–64) and his wife Elizabeth or of Thomas Purcell (1627–82) has not been established (see Purcell). If he was the son of Henry (i) he was aged only four when his father died and certainly owed his musical upbringing to Thomas. He became a Child of the Chapel Royal, following in the footsteps of Blow and Humfrey, both of whom may have taught him. He proved from the start to be exceptionally gifted, composing songs at the age of eight. He left the choir when his voice broke in 1673 but was kept at court as assistant to John Hingston as tuner of keyboard and wind instruments (Hingston's will, dated 1683, records that he was godfather to a ‘Henry Pursall, son of Elizabeth’, suggesting that Henry (i) was indeed the father of Henry (ii)). During the next few years Purcell tuned the organs and copied music for Westminster Abbey, until in 1677, at the death of Matthew Locke, he was appointed composer for the violins. Two years later John Blow resigned as organist of Westminster Abbey and Purcell took his place.

His first mature anthems and songs date from about 1676. In 1680, perhaps as much for compositional training as for performance, he wrote a series of viol consorts that show a complete mastery of the old English polyphonic art. Fantasias in three parts owe much to Gibbons and Jenkins, while those in four are structurally closer to examples by Locke. However, Purcell explores such contrapuntal devices, avoided by Locke but common in earlier fantasias, as inversion and augmentation. He even revives the defunct In nomine form in six and seven parts—the most archaic pieces in the group. There are also some single pavans. These consorts show a rich vein of imagination, contrasting polyphony with homophony, and simple diatonic with chromatic passages, so that the contrapuntal devices act as a backdrop to the expression of intimate, fluctuating emotions. The same depth of feeling and imagination can be found in the full anthems of this period, such works as Hear my prayer, O Lord and Remember not, Lord, our offences also stemming from Elizabethan polyphony, with its clashing harmonies and (to us) strange turns of phrase.

Purcell married Frances Peters or Pieters probably in the autumn of 1680, and in 1682 was appointed one of the organists to the Chapel Royal. The following year a set of 12 trio sonatas was published; according to the preface they were written after the manner of ‘fam'd Italian masters’—meaning Cazzati and Colista rather than Corelli. The format is indeed Italian, falling into several movements, as is the trio texture with continuo, in contrast with the equal-voiced fullness of the fantasias. The style, however, is by no means wholly Italianate: the second movements (sometimes marked ‘canzona’) especially show Purcell's gift for old-fashioned counterpoint.

Also in 1683 Purcell took up the full post of tuner at court following the death of Hingston. Together with John Blow, he supported Bernard Smith against Renatus Harris in the competition to supply an organ for the Temple Church (1684–8); they were successful. During the 1680s in particular, Purcell's energies were devoted to the verse anthem, especially those written for the Chapel Royal with parts for a string band to play overtures and ritornellos. Thomas Tudway remarked that after his accession Charles II was soon ‘tyr'd wth the Grave & Solemn way, And Order'd the Composers of his Chappell, to add Symphonys &c wth Instruments to their Anthems’. The support of wind instruments which had been traditional in the Chapel Royal gave way to a string ensemble. The solo sections of these anthems contain arioso writing, with virtuoso decorations to highlight individual words or phrases (those composed for the bass John Gostling—such as They that go down to the sea in ships and I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord—are especially spectacular). The choral writing tends to be sonorously homophonic rather than contrapuntal, reflecting the monarch's French tastes, but undeniably effective for the Chapel Royal. Nevertheless, in some of the ‘Gloria’ sections of his canticles Purcell indulges in ingenious canonic writing, inspired it seems by earlier examples by Child and Blow.

One distinctly English genre that flourished after the Restoration was the court ode. Odes celebrated New Year and royal birthdays, or were ‘welcome songs’ performed when the monarch returned to London. Cooke, Humfrey, and Blow had led the way before Purcell wrote his first ‘welcome song’ in September 1680, on the return of Charles II from Windsor. Other welcome songs by him followed annually until 1689, together with an ode for the marriage of Prince George of Denmark to Princess Anne on 28 July 1683. The texts of these occasional pieces are naturally sycophantic and of mixed quality, but they do provide a wide range of opportunities for musical illustration. Short and constantly changing sections in the earliest examples soon gave way to sequences of longer movements. The presence of expert French recorder and oboe players at court encouraged the provision of solo parts for these instruments. To a prevailing dance idiom (perhaps even involving dancers in performance) was later added an increased use of counterpoint in the choruses. Another important feature of the odes (and also found among the solo songs) was the ground bass, showing Purcell's exceptional flair for avoiding monotony and increasing tension by making the phrase ends of melody and bass overlap. Those in the odes are often based on a lively quaver pattern in the ground.

Purcell also wrote many songs for publications by Playford and others. They vary from simple strophic tunes and straightforward rondo forms to dramatic cantatas of the kind known in England from the works of Rossi and Carissimi, which were then circulating in copies. Many of these songs are settings of trivial verse, but devotional pieces, such as the setting of Fuller's Now that the sun hath veiled his light, match the seriousness of the verse in fine music.

Purcell contributed the magnificent anthem My heart is inditing to James II's coronation in 1685. The new reign brought substantial changes to the court establishment. The Chapel Royal was virtually sidelined when James established his own Catholic Chapel—served mainly by foreign musicians, although the Anglican Chapel continued to be patronized by Princess (later Queen) Anne. Furthermore the whole musical establishment was reorganized and reduced in size; Purcell was sworn as ‘Harpsicall’ in the new group. Through an oversight his tuner's place had been omitted and he had to petition for it—and was eventually granted arrears and a salary from Christmas 1687.

On the whole Purcell had written little for the public theatre during the 1680s, since his first contribution to Nathaniel Lee's Theodosius in 1680, but in 1688 he contributed seven songs and a duet to D'Urfey's A Fool's Preferment. One or two isolated songs were composed for other productions around this time. The context of his short opera Dido and Aeneas is the subject of much debate. Certainly it was performed at Josias Priest's School for Young Ladies in Chelsea in 1689, even though many male singers are required. The discovery in 1989 that John Blow's Venus and Adonis, hitherto known only to have been performed at court about 1682, was also performed at Priest's school in 1684 now raises the question of whether Purcell's work too was originally first given at court. Charles II was certainly interested in operatic developments in France and Italy: he sent his Master of Music, Nicholas Staggins, to both countries to study, gave him an allowance to be paid to the French and Italian musicians at court, and supported efforts to establish an opera company in England. He might well have encouraged opera performances at court.

Unfortunately the only sources surviving for Dido date from 1775 or later, apart from the 1689 text of the version performed at Priest's school. Differences between them suggest that some of the music is missing, particularly the prologue. Both Venus and Adonis and Dido are set to music throughout—a device not usual in English theatres—and share many structural features: a prologue and three acts, soprano and baritone leads, and much involvement for chorus and dancers. The last—familiar elements in the French style—were perhaps influenced by a performance of Lully's Cadmus that may have been given in London in 1686, but are equally evident in Locke's Psyche of 1675. There are also Italian elements—notably the chromatic ground of the final lament, ‘When I am laid in earth’, and the declamatory vocal writing generally. The pace of both works is rapid, but Purcell neatly gives each act a distinctive key-centre to help unify it. He also adds splendid ground-bass movements to the design. Dido is a masterpiece, and its last scene is one of the greatest in opera.

The accession of William III in 1689 effectively marked the end of court patronage as the chief pinnacle to which a musician could aspire. Although a music establishment was retained, the king seems to have had little regard for it, preferring martial expeditions. A decree was issued that Chapel Royal anthems were no longer to incorporate string symphonies. In spite of the king's indifference, musicians continued to serve the arts-loving Queen Mary and Purcell wrote some fine birthday odes for her, including Come ye sons of art away of 1694, with its countertenor duet ‘Sound the trumpet’ set to one of those straightforward, memorable tunes typical of the composer. Again by an oversight the ‘Vocall Musick’ (to which Purcell seems to have acted as accompanist) received no official listing (or payment); they petitioned for arrears in 1693 but the matter was ‘to bee respited till the establishment is altered’. Not surprisingly Purcell turned his attention to other activities.

In his later years he contributed a good deal of music for the amateur musician, including published versions of some of his songs and simple arrangements of his music for keyboard. He also is known to have taught several pupils, including the composer John Weldon, and contributed extensively to the 1694 edition of Playford's instruction book An Introduction to the Skill of Musick. But dominating his last five years was his work for the theatre, satisfying the demand for music in plays and ‘semi-operas’. Between 1690 and 1695 he contributed to more than 40 theatre works, the music varying from single numbers to lengthy suites of dances. His operatic ventures include four extensive examples: Dioclesian (1690), King Arthur (1691), The Fairy Queen (1692), and The Indian Queen (1695).

These works, known as semi-operas, are part speech and part music and include all kinds of pieces—French overtures, dances, and songs—some separate and others forming long scenes in which Purcell shows a distinct sense of character and situation. The continuous sections generally occur at the close of acts and frequently accompanied elaborate scenic effects. They might be separate masques or entertainments within the main plot, or develop some ceremonial ritual arising from it. The ‘Cold’ scene in King Arthur, with its descriptive music for chattering teeth, is a masterly evocation of atmosphere; the flirtation duet of Corydon and Mopsa in The Fairy Queen and the pub song of the rustics in King Arthur are both delightfully humorous; the chromatic writing for the invocation of the magician Ismeron in The Indian Queen shows Purcell at his imaginative greatest; while popular tunes such as ‘Fairest isle’ and ‘Come if you dare’ from King Arthur can still stir the patriotic heart.

The more austere attitudes of William III's reign (1689–1702) may account for the relative lack of church music from Purcell's last years. The Te Deum and Jubilate in D are bright rather than profound ceremonial pieces, with their use of trumpets and strings; they were composed for the St Cecilia's Day celebrations of 1694 and remained in favour for the annual festival for many years. Trumpets became a fixture in Purcell's orchestra from 1690, perhaps in part because of the skill of the Shore family, and John Shore in particular. As well as the queen's birthday odes of the 1690s, there was also Purcell's splendid Hail, bright Cecilia, written for the London St Cecilia's Day celebration of 1692, in which the composer takes the opportunity to illustrate the musical references in Brady's text (the ‘box and fir’ turn out to be the recorder and the violin).

Purcell provided the music for Queen Mary's funeral in 1694. The following year he himself died, and some of it was used again at his funeral in Westminster Abbey, on 26 November, attended by the choirs of the abbey and the Chapel Royal. Several volumes of his music were published after his death, including a further set of ten trio sonatas in 1697 (but composed in the 1680s) and some collections of songs.

Although Purcell was recognized as a genius in his own lifetime, his music was subsequently neglected and was not revived until the later 19th century, when a collected edition (completed in 1965) was begun in 1878. In spite of renewed interest generated by the tercentenary celebrations of 1995, and increasing availability of recorded performances, only a fraction of his music remains widely known, and there are many riches to be found among the little-performed songs, odes, and church music. As with Mozart and Schubert, Purcell's early death was the greater tragedy because there are signs that he was still ripening as a composer.

Denis Arnold/Andrew Ashbee

Josquin - Masses Malheur me bat & Fortuna desperata

2 reviews on the latest album of The Tallis Scholars:

Fluent, urgent recordings, the Scholars at their best – but why the short cuts?

Josquin’s two Mass cycles based on polyphonic songs were latecomers to the CD catalogue. This new recording leaves one to wonder that they remained untouched for so long. To my mind, the first few movements of Fortuna desperata, though assured, only set the wheels in motion; things really take off in the Sanctus, in whose opening section Josquin deploys his favoured ostinato technique to spellbinding expressive effect. At such movements The Tallis Scholars summon cogency (and, in the Osanna, an urgency) that forces admiration. The Agnus Dei is also full of incident and the entire Malheur me bat cycle seems to build – in spaces – on the lessons of Fortuna desperate. It’s difficult to single out any one moment, because Josquin’s inventiveness tempered by the clarity of his textures, is virtually inexhaustible; perhaps the Agnus Dei, with its seamlessly woven canons, is as good a one as any.

This is the fourth disc The Tallis Scholars have devoted to Josquin, more than a third of whose Mass output they’ve now committed to disc. On a purely subjective note it’s this latest recording that I’ve enjoyed the most. To quibble with details of interpretation seems unnecessary: as a piece of ensemble-singing the disc is hugely impressive and I suspect that listeners will come away feeling that they’ve learnt something important about Josquin. It’s good to be reminded just how experienced and poised a group of singers Peter Philips has at His disposal. But with singers this good, one’s got to ask why the producers have (and not for the first time) audibly re-used identical takes for the two statements of the entire Osanna – well over a minute of music – in both Masses.


The Tallis Scholars have made an enormous impact on our modern understanding of Josquin des Prés (c. 1440-1521) and without their contribution it is very likely that he might still be considered as a minor composer. In 1987 The Tallis Scholars (Gimell Records) became the first independent label and the first early music recording to win The Gramophone magazine Record of the Year with their album of Josquin's Missa Pange lingua & Missa La sol fa re mi, and after this success the L'homme armé Masses followed in 1989 and Missa Sine nomine & Missa Ad fugam last year (Diapason D'or, Choc du Monde de la musique). This is their fourth disc devoted to his masses and a fifth is due out in 2010 by which time they will have recorded more-or-less half of his (attributed) masses.

The first work on this newest album is the magnificent missa Malheur me bat, based on a popular song which is currently thought to be by Malcort, a little-known Flemish composer. Little-known maybe but his beautiful song was used extensively by composers as a model for their masses at the turn of the sixteenth century. The second mass, missa Fortuna desperata is also a parody mass based on a song thought to be by Busnoys. What links these two works is that Josquin chose not to limit his use of the borrowed song to a single voice part (known as a paraphrase) but to take the entire polyphonic model and submit it all to his musical reworking. The fluency of Josquin's style disguises how complicated this compositional procedure really is; no formula or pattern to the borrowing has revealed itself as yet but rather Josquin moves between the three voices of the song-model with ease absorbing the material into his own composition seemingly at will until by the Sanctus of missa Malheur me bat fragments of the song appear in all parts simultaneously. But of course you don't need to know about such technicalities to enjoy the music – it is enough for me to say that the resulting work is outstanding, and so is this recording

The Tallis Scholars sing both masses with their trademark clarity and stylish phrasing. Peter Phillips paces the music beautifully and, as ever, negotiates Josquin's tricky section changes with panache. This is an ensemble with considerable experience of the idiom and the quality of their performance can be heard as clearly in the exposed two-voice textures as it can when the ensemble is augmented in the latter Agnus sections.

Finding a unique and immediately identifiable sound has been one of the major achievements of The Tallis Scholars throughout their recorded history. A whole generation of musicians has now grown up listening to their performances and as a result Peter Phillips and his ensemble can safely claim to have influenced the current success that the sound of British singers in early music enjoys all over the world. However, it would be wrong to assume that this meticulous style has remained entirely unchanged. I would like to think that The Tallis Scholars allow themselves to be influenced by the music they sing - like in this album, with it's lower superius parts that steer away from the characteristically stratospheric soprano sound lending themselves to a gentler, mellow tone backed up by the use of high-tenors on the Altus. In the second mass the Altus (the top part here) is shared by Tessa Bonner, Caroline Trevor and David Gould – a soprano, a mezzo and a countertenor – this highlights the outstanding versatility of these singers and the wide variety of textures that they can produce. I can also detect a small but definite move towards a bigger vocal sound when comparisons are made with much earlier albums which suits Josquin's music very well.

Touchingly, this album is the last that Tessa Bonner recorded with The Tallis Scholars before she died following a year's battle with cancer on New Years Eve. Her distinctive sound and keen musicality, so prevalent across her 37 albums with this ensemble, will be much missed. Apart from being another musical triumph this album is therefore also of great sentimental value to those of us who have been touched by this music through Tessa's singing.

For a limited period of time Gimell Records are providing a free download track from this album on their website. Gimell have one of the most comprehensive websites that I have seen in the classical music industry and they offer downloads for the vast majority of their catalogue in many formats including the standard Mp3 but also FLAC lossless format encompassing Studio Master and Studio Master 5.1 releases. So if you have advanced hi-fi equipment you can now, finally, download in a format worthy of such reproduction, which is a great comfort for those of us that have previously found that digital compression has tended to champion convenience over quality.

Ed Breen

Hayne van Ghizeghem

Was born c1445 and died 1476–97). Hayne, or his family, may have come from the village of Gijzegem, about 20 km from Ghent; he was perhaps related to Henricus de Ghizeghem, a singer at Cambrai Cathedral in 1453. Hayne was still a young boy in 1457 when Charles, Count of Charolais (later Charles the Bold), placed him in the care of Constans Breuwe, a singer in the employ of Charles’s father, Philip the Good, and possibly Hayne’s first teacher. Hayne is listed as a singer and chamber valet in Charles’s account book for January–December 1467. Hayne seems always to have served in a secular capacity, never becoming a member of the ducal chapel. The following year he received a special payment to equip himself for military service, presumably in preparation for Charles’s campaign against Liège. Hayne was no doubt with him in October when the duke stopped at Cambrai on his way to battle; this may have been the occasion of the performance there by Hayne and his colleague Robert Morton referred to in the anonymous rondeau La plus grant chiere de jamais. On 6 July 1472 Hayne was with Charles at the siege of Beauvais. The latest known record concerning the composer’s life, from 9 December 1476, places him with the duke on his final campaign, the siege of Nancy, where Charles’s death on 5 January 1477 led to the breakup of the Burgundian territory.

The transmission of Hayne’s songs for the most part postdates the extant documentation for his life. Only two of his chansons, Amours amours and De tous biens plaine, appear in manuscripts written before 1480, while new works – many in a distinctly more advanced style – entered circulation throughout the next two decades. Nearly all of these are in manuscripts from the French royal court; indeed, Hayne’s representation in these sources, which show a strong tendency to favour the music of composers in royal service, is equalled only by that of Agricola and Compère. Although no evidence of his presence appears among the scarce documents pertaining to musicians in French-speaking regions at the time, the pattern of transmission of Hayne’s music suggests strongly that he survived the siege of Nancy and left Burgundy to pursue his career at the court of France. He was certainly dead, however, by the time Crétin wrote his déploration for Ockeghem, who died on 6 February 1497; in this poem Hayne is depicted performing with his lute the motet Ut heremita solus (possibly not by Ockeghem) as the culmination of a series of performances of Ockeghem’s works by already-deceased musicians welcoming their colleague to the afterworld.

20 chansons are attributed to Hayne in late 15th- and early 16th-century sources. Some of the chansons also appear under other names, and the ascriptions of a few of the pieces found only under Hayne’s name do not seem entirely reliable. Thus the disputed De vous servir is almost certainly by Fresneau, as indicated in I-Fr 2794, in spite of ascriptions to Hayne in two manuscripts of Italian origin. Conversely, the ascription of Les grans regretz to Agricola in the Savoyard manuscript B-Br 11239 should be disregarded in favour of that to Hayne in F-Pn fr.2245 and US-Wc M2.1.L25. In one instance, however, stylistic considerations seem to contradict the authority of one of the principal sources: the bergerette Se je vous esloigne, though ascribed to Hayne in I-Fr 2794, is written in a form found nowhere else in his extant output and is undoubtedly by Agricola, to whom it is ascribed in the Florentine manuscript I-Fn Magl.XIX.178.

The most problematic source is the Ferrarese manuscript I-Rc 2856, in which nine pieces are ascribed to Hayne. Four of these are confirmed by other sources, two have conflicting ascriptions to Busnoys that seem more credible on the grounds of both sources and style, and three are anonymous elsewhere. In addition, the manuscript contains Hayne’s Ce n’est pas jeu under Ockeghem’s name. These errors raise some doubt as to the reliability of the manuscript’s unique ascriptions to Hayne.

Two other chansons, Gentil galans and A l’audience, also lack strong claims to authenticity, since they appear solely in Italian sources, and each is attributed to Hayne only once. A l’audience seems particularly uncertain in that it is the only four-voice piece attributed to Hayne, though the contratenor may be a si placet part. An extended quotation from Allez regrets could indicate Hayne’s authorship but more likely argues against it; if the piece is not his, the quotation may be the reason that Petrucci’s editor assigned it to him. Conversely, Elle en est, found in only one source, without attribution, may well be by Hayne, since it belongs to a group of his works transmitted anonymously in GB-Lbl Roy.20.A.XVI and is stylistically compatible with the works known to be his.

Hayne’s output, as far as it can be established, consists entirely of rondeaux (including, probably, the two pieces that survive without text). With the possible exception of A l’audience all are for three voices, and all are in duple metre. The pieces share the traits typical of their genre in the later 15th century: a treble-dominated texture, probably intended for texted performance of the top voice and solmized or instrumental performance of the lower voices; a contrapuntal structure built around a duet of discantus and tenor with an added contratenor; a break roughly halfway through corresponding to the division in the poetic form; and a prevailing line-for-line agreement of music and refrain text.

Hayne tended to make the most of the clarity inherent in this framework. His phrases are balanced and directed; they generally open in relatively long note-values (seemingly conceived for syllabic text setting), gradually become more melismatic and syncopated, and close almost invariably with a suspension cadence. In approximately two-thirds of the chansons the first and last phrases finish on the same degree of the mode; Hayne seems to have been one of the earliest composers to use this means of achieving tonal unity. The counterpoint of the discantus and tenor is generally smooth, with dissonances for the most part carefully handled; imperfect consonances and conjunct motion predominate. The contratenor, usually moving in 2nds, 4ths and 5ths, lends a quasi-harmonic feeling to the music, but sometimes produces awkward combinations with the other voices. Imitation, most often among all three voices, occurs at the opening of about half the chansons but only occasionally within the body of a piece.

Although the quality of Hayne’s music varies somewhat, the best of his chansons, such as Allez regrets, De tous biens plaine, La regretée and Mon souvenir, are among the finest works of their genre, distinguished by melodic elegance and restrained expressive intensity. Several of his compositions became very popular: Allez regrets and De tous biens plaine appear in some 25 sources each and served as the basis for numerous works by other composers.

Louise Litterick

Johannes Martini

The South Netherlandish composer Johannes Martini was born in Leuze, c1430–40, and died in Ferrara, between late October and late December 1497). He is thought by some biographers to be the ‘Ioannes Martinus’ mentioned by the 16th-century writer Jacques de Meyere as having two brothers named Thomas and Petrus, all cantores who came originally from Armentières. A document specifies his place of origin as ‘Luce’; whether this refers to Leuze near Tournai or Lueze near Namur is uncertain. In a letter of 10 December 1471 written by Duke Ercole I d’Este of Ferrara to the Bishop of Konstanz, the newly installed duke announced his intention to create a musical chapel at his court and to hire a ‘D. Martinus de Alemania’, who though then visiting Ferrara was in service at Konstanz. It is not clear whether this singer was the ‘Johannes Martini cantor capelle’ who was later at Ferrara. On the other hand, a document of 27 January 1473 states that a ‘Giovanni d’Alemagna’ was installed in the ducal chapel at Ferrara, and this undoubtedly refers to the composer, so it can be accepted that Martini’s long association with the ducal chapel began no later than January 1473 and, apart from a brief interruption in 1474, lasted until his death. In 1474 he spent a brief period in the rival chapel of Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza in Milan and visited Mantua (according to a travel permit of 28 February 1474 issued by Galeazzo Maria Sforza). A list of singers in the Sforza chapel dated 15 July 1474 includes Martini together with Compère and ‘Josquin’; all three received the relatively low stipend of five ducats a month. An earlier list of Milanese court singers compiled some time between 1472 and 1474 does not contain his name, and court records show that he returned to Ferrara in November 1474. The account books of the ducal musical establishment at Ferrara list him in these years as ‘Zohane Martini de Barbante’ (Brabant) and also as ‘Zohane Martino todescho cantadore compositore’, recognizing him as a composer holding a position of leadership in the chapel. He received not only an above-average salary but also a house in Ferrara and income from benefices procured for him with the duke’s help. Correspondence between Duke Ercole I and his ambassadors in Rome shows that Martini himself travelled to Rome in February 1487 and again in November 1488 to negotiate his claims to benefices.

In 1487 Martini was a member of the Ferrarese retinue that accompanied the eight-year-old Ippolito d’Este (the second son of Ercole) to Hungary for his installation as Archbishop of Esztergom. He returned to Ferrara by the autumn of that year. In 1489 he is mentioned in letters between Duke Ercole and Queen Beatrice of Hungary as a friend of the organist Paul Hofhaimer, whom she was anxious to bring into her own service. In 1479 there is a record of payment for a Libro da canto da vespero per la capella … composto per Giovan Martin componitore; this is undoubtedly the large, two-volume manuscript I-MOe a.M.1.11–12. The two volumes contain vesper psalms, hymns and Magnificat settings attributed to Johannes Martini and Giovanni Brebis, another member of the Ferrara chapel. This is one of the earliest known manuscripts containing sacred music, particularly psalms, for double chorus and it reflects the division of the court chapel into a double choir from the early years of Ercole’s reign to 1482, pointed out by the contemporary writer Sabadino degli Arienti. In 1491 and 1492 Martini corresponded with Ercole’s daughter Isabella d’Este Gonzaga (he may have been her music tutor before she went to Mantua to marry Francesco Gonzaga on 15 February 1490). Martini is also the leading figure in an important chanson collection compiled in honour of the marriage, which bears the arms of both the Este and Gonzaga families.

Martini composed both sacred and secular music. The preponderance of masses over motets is more nearly characteristic of the generation of the later Du Fay and of Ockeghem than of Josquin’s. Compared with Josquin, Martini gives the impression of being a more conservative musician whose work is still more concerned with structural devices than with text expression. His secular music includes principally three-voice settings of French texts as well as some settings of Italian texts for three or four voices. His music contains skilful imitative devices, and an elaborate contrapuntal style where this is appropriate to the genre (as in his masses and motets): it makes extensive use of small-scale repetition of motifs and of sequential writing at times not unlike Obrecht’s. On the other hand, his vesper psalms written with Brebis are in a simple homophonic style fitting to their liturgical functions.

Lewis Lockwood/Murray Steib

Johannes Ockeghem

The Franco-Flemish church musician and composer Johannes okeghem (or Jean Ockeghem) was born in St. Ghislain, near Mons, c.1410 and died (?) in Tours, 6 February 1497.

In 1443 he was a singer at the church of Notre Dame in Antwerp, and by 1446 was a member of the chapel of Charles I, Duke of Bourbon, centred on the Burgundian town of Moulins (near Dijon). His talents were recognized by Charles VII, King of France, and by about 1452 Ockeghem had moved to the French court, with which he remained for the rest of his life, serving three successive monarchs (Charles VII, Louis XI, and Charles VIII). In 1459 he was given the important post of treasurer of the church of St Martin in Tours. During his years with the court Ockeghem travelled outside France in the retinue of diplomatic missions, including one (in 1470) to Spain. After his death he was commemorated by some of the finest writers of the day: Erasmus, Guillaume Crétin, and Jean Molinet, whose déploration set to music by Josquin des Prez, Nymphes des bois, describes him as learned and handsome, and calls on four leading composers of the day—Josquin, Pierre de la Rue, Brumel, and Compère—to weep for the passing of their ‘bon père’.

Although it seems likely that only a fraction of Ockeghem's output has survived—14 masses, fewer than ten motets, and some 20 chansons—even from these he emerges a composer of exceptional interest. His style is characterized by its rich polyphonic texture, in which all voices are melodically significant, hierarchically equal, and thematically independent of one another. Unlike other 15th-century composers he shows relatively little interest in imitative exchanges or declamatory word-setting, preferring instead the continuous unfolding of pure melody, and an ever-changing array of texture, harmony, and sonority.

The masses range in structure from the conventional (settings based on a cantus firmus, often the tenor voice of a chanson) to the bizarre: the Missa prolationum is made completely out of canons, constantly changing in technique and always of awesome complexity; the Missa cuiusvis toni is notated without clefs and can be sung in several different modes; throughout the Missa ‘Caput’ an angular plainchant cantus firmus is placed in the lowest voice, in spite of its unsuitability to act as the bass of the texture. In these and other works Ockeghem's compositional choices seem game-like, especially to singers reading from the original mensural notation. They must also have posed real challenges to Ockeghem as a composer. The unsuspecting listener, however, misses all of this. Quite different from such virtuoso constructions is the Missa pro defunctis, a work of solemn simplicity that has the distinction of being the earliest known polyphonic requiem.

Too few of Ockeghem's motets survive to allow a fair assessment of his achievements in that genre, but he seems to have been a pioneer of richly textured works freely composed without reference to plainchant (as in Intemerata Dei mater). He is reputed to have written a canonic motet for 36 voices, but the 36-voice Deo gratias attributed to him in a 16th-century source is barely credible as his work. The chansons, in contrast, are remarkable for their quality rather than their curiosity. Such pieces as Fors seulement l'attente and Ma bouche rit were among the most popular polyphonic songs of their day.

John Milsom

The Textures of Music

Summary: A short introduction to the basic element of music called texture.


Texture is one of the basic elements of music. When you describe the texture of a piece of music, you are describing how much is going on in the music at any given moment. For example, the texture of the music might be thick or thin, or it may have many or few layers. It might be made up of rhythm only, or of a melody line with chordal accompaniment, or many interweaving melodies. Below you will find some of the formal terms musicians use to describe texture. Suggestions for activities to introduce the concept of texture to young students can be found in Musical Textures Activities.

Terms that Describe Texture

There are many informal terms that can describe the texture of a piece of music (thick, thin, bass-heavy, rhythmically complex, and so on), but the formal terms that are used to describe texture all describe the relationships of melodies and harmonies. Here are definitions and examples of the four main types of texture. For specific pieces of music that are good examples of each type of texture, please see below.


Monophonic music has only one melodic line, with no harmony or counterpoint. There may be rhythmic accompaniment, but only one line that has specific pitches. Monophonic music can also be called monophony. It is sometimes called monody, although the term "monody" can also refer to a particular type of solo song (with instrumental accompaniment) that was very popular in the 1600's.

Examples of Monophony
  • One person whistling a tune
  • A single bugle sounding "Taps"
  • A group of people all singing a song together, without harmonies or instrument.
  • A fife and drum corp, with all the fifes playing the same melody

Homophonic music can also be called homophony. More informally, people who are describing homophonic music may mention chords, accompaniment, harmony or harmonies. Homophony has one clearly melodic line; it's the line that naturally draws your attention. All other parts provide accompaniment or fill in the chords. In most well-written homophony, the parts that are not melody may still have a lot of melodic interest. They may follow many of the rules of well-written counterpoint, and they can sound quite different from the melody and be interesting to listen to by themselves. But when they are sung or played with the melody, it is clear that they are not independent melodic parts, either because they have the same rhythm as the melody (i.e. are not independent) or because their main purpose is to fill in the chords or harmony (i.e. they are not really melodies).

Examples of Homophony
  • Choral music in which the parts have mostly the same rhythms at the same time is homophonic. Most traditional Protestant hymns and most "barbershop quartet" music is in this category.
  • A singer accompanied by a guitar picking or strumming chords.
  • A small jazz combo with a bass, a piano, and a drum set providing the "rhythm" background for a trumpet improvising a solo.
  • A single bagpipes or accordion player playing a melody with drones or chords.

Polyphonic music can also be called polyphony, counterpoint, or contrapuntal music. If more than one independent melody is occurring at the same time, the music is polyphonic. (See counterpoint.)

Examples of Polyphony
  • Rounds, canons, and fugues are all polyphonic. (Even if there is only one melody, if different people are singing or playing it at different times, the parts sound independent.)
  • Much Baroque music is contrapuntal, particularly the works of J.S. Bach.
  • Most music for large instrumental groups such as bands or orchestras is contrapuntal at least some of the time.
  • Music that is mostly homophonic can become temporarily polyphonic if an independent countermelody is added. Think of a favorite pop or gospel tune that, near the end, has the soloist "ad libbing" while the back-up singers repeat the refrain.

A heterophonic texture is rare in Western music. In heterophony, there is only one melody, but different variations of it are being sung or played at the same time.

Examples of Heterophony
  • Heterophony can be heard in the Bluegrass, "mountain music", Cajun, and Zydeco traditions. Listen for the tune to be played by two instruments (say fiddle and banjo) at the same time, with each adding the embellishments, ornaments, and flourishes that are characteristic of the instrument.
  • Some Middle Eastern, South Asian, central Eurasian, and Native American music traditions include heterophony. Listen for traditional music (most modern-composed music, even from these cultures, has little or no heterophony) in which singers and/or instrumentalists perform the same melody at the same time, but give it different embellishments or ornaments.
Suggested Listening

  • Here is an excerpt from James Romig's Sonnet 2, played by John McMurtery.
  • A Bach unaccompanied cello suite
  • Gregorian chant
  • Long sections of "The People that Walked in Darkness" aria in Handel's "Messiah" are monophonic (the instruments are playing the same line as the voice). Apparently Handel associates monophony with "walking in darkness"!
  • A classic Scott Joplin rag such as "Maple Leaf Rag" or "The Entertainer"
  • The "graduation march" section of Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance No. 1"
  • The "March of the Toreadors" from Bizet's Carmen
  • No. 1 ("Granada") of Albeniz' Suite Espanola for guitar
  • The latest hit tune by a major pop solo vocalist
  • The opening section of the "Overture" Of Handel's "Messiah" (The second section of the overture is polyphonic)
  • Pachelbel's Canon
  • Anything titled "fugue" or "invention"
  • The final "Amen" chorus of Handel's "Messiah"
  • The trio strain of Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever", with the famous piccolo countermelody
  • The "One Day More" chorus from the musical "Les Miserables"
  • The first movement of Holst's 1st Suite for Military Band
  • There is some heterophony (with some instruments playing more ornaments than others) in "Donulmez Aksamin" and in "Urfaliyim Ezelden" on the Turkish Music page.
  • The performance of "Lonesome Valley" by the Fairfield Four on the "O Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack is quite heterophonic. (Old-style blues owes more to African than to Western traditions.)
This work is licensed by Catherine Schmidt-Jones under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY 1.0), and is an Open Educational Resource.

Catherine Schmidt-Jones
Last edited on January 8, 2008

Franco-Flemish School: Second Generation

The second generation of Franco-Flemish composers (until ca.1495):

Next: Third generation (the group of Josquin, Brumel and Isaac)

Soon on Atrium Musicologicum,,, #4

This week we have passed 10000 visitors to the blog. This was a great surprise for me. I had no idea of how many people visited my blog until I added visitor's maps. Well, I hope that this kind-of-webpage will be helpful for those seeking information on early music.

These past few weeks I wasn't able to post any new materials. So I'll continue the posts that were anounced on the previous "Soon on Atrium Musicologicum...", with the second generation of the Franco-Flemish school. A generation that had very important composers.

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