has already been acknowledged by many, and a widespread movement exists in Germany to recall the old music to the service of the Catholic church, then we may indeed hope to gain a more intimate knowledge of Josquin and his followers, than by groping about libraries, copying MSS. or reading theoretical treatises. Fortunately the study of counterpoint is hardly a more necessary condition of appreciating the music of Josquin, than it is in the case of Bach. But the ear will have to accustom itself to many extraordinary combinations of sounds, meagre harmonies, unsatisfactory cadences, final chords which seem to have lost all character, before any of these works can be thoroughly enjoyed. In the meantime, and till we may possibly hear them performed again in the churches for which they are written, there is much pleasure to be derived from the private study of them; and a real love for them, even with an imperfect understanding, grows up in us very quickly.
The reasons which the council of the church gave for suddenly abandoning the works of Josquin's school were not founded on any want of admiration for their musical effect. One objection was the fact of the melodies which the composers took for their canto fermo being secular, and the voice to which it was assigned singing the secular words, while the other voices sang the words of the mass. The other objection was that the excessively florid style in which the parts were often written made the words of so little importance that it was often impossible to trace their existence. The first objection was not a strong one, for the church had sanctioned the use of the secular melodies as the foundation of masses for more than a century, and some of the melodies had become almost hallowed to their purpose. The singing of the secular words might have been easily given up without forsaking the music.
But the second objection was stronger; for though Josquin began, and his followers, Gonibert especially, tried still more, to give expression to the general sense of the text, still we find often a few syllables scattered over a page to do service for a host of notes, as if the notes were everything and the words nothing. Still as the first objection applies entirely to the masses, so the second also applies to them much more than to the motets, and it is by these latter works, we venture to think, that their composers will be known, if their music is destined to live again.
Apart however from all considerations of the vitality of the school which he represents, of the reason of its downfall or the chances of its revival, 'Josquin deserves to be classed as one of the greatest musical geniuses of any period.' (Kiesewetter's History of Music.) Fortune favoured him in appointing the time of his birth. He was the first composer who came into the world with the materials of his work thoroughly prepared for him. Masses written with counterpoint had been taken to Rome from the Netherlands towards the end of the 14th century, and Dufay, who was a singer in the Papal chapel in 1380 (or exactly 100 years before Josquin held the same position), was a contrapuntist of sufficient importance to be quoted as an authority by theoretical writers of a much later date, and whose art though simple was sufficiently perfect to suggest that he too must have had predecessors to prepare his way. But we cannot regard musicians from the time of Dufay to that of Ockenheim as composers in the sense that Josquin was one. Their genius was expended on the invention of counterpoint, which Josquin was the first to employ as a means to a higher end. They were but pilgrims to a promised land, which they may have seen from afar; but Josquin was the first who was to be allowed to enter it. 'In Josquin,' says Ambros (whose knowledge of and admiration for the old music surpasses that of any modern historian), 'we have the first musician who creates a genial impression.' [App. p.686 "… who impresses us as being a genius."]
In another sense, a very practical one, Josquin stands first on the list of composers. He is the oldest writer whose works are preserved to us, if not entire, at least in such quantities as adequately to represent his powers. The invention of printing music by moveable types, which gave such a wonderful impetus to publication, dates from 1498, the very time when Josquin was at the height of his power; and it is a testimony to the superiority of his music over that of his predecessors, that though Ockenheim is supposed to have been still living at the beginning of the 16th century, and perhaps as late as 1512, the publishers thought fit to print very few of his compositions, whilst few collections were issued to which Josquin did not largely contribute.
Commer, in his 'Collectio Operum Musicorum Batavorum' (Berlin, Trautwein), has printed 12 motets and two chansons.
Rochlitz in his 'Sammlung' (Schotts) gives a hymn, 'Tu pauperum refugium'; portions of a mass; and a motet, 'Misericordias Domini,' all for 4 voices. Choron, in his 'Collection generale,' gives his Stabat Mater à 5; and Hawkins (chap. 72) a motet, à 4, 'O Jesu fili.' The 11 large volumes of Burney's Musical Extracts (Add. MSS. 11,581–91) contain many and valuable compositions of Josquin's.In Van der Straeten's 'La Musique aux Pays-Bas' (Brussels, 1867) a portrait of Josquin is reproduced from a book published by Peter Opmeere at Antwerp in 1591. It seems to have been copied from a picture originally existing in the Brussels cathedral, and thence probably came the tradition that Josquin was buried there. Opmeere accompanies the portrait with the following words: 'Conspicitur Josquinus depictus Bruxellis in D. Gudulæ [ecclesiâ], in tabula aræ dextræ ante chorum honestâ sane facie ac blandis oculis.'
[ J. R. S.-B. ]