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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Josquin Deprès

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DEPRÈS, Josquin (1440–1521), also called Desprez, and, by a Latinized form of his name, Jodocus Pratensis or a Prato, a celebrated musical composer, was born about 1440 at Vermand, near St Quentin, in French Flanders. He was a pupil of Ockenhehn, the great contrapuntist, and himself one of the most learned musicians of his time. In spite of his great fame, the accounts of his life are vague and scanty, and even the place of his birth has only lately been established beyond dispute Belgians, Germans, Italians, and Frenchmen claiming him as their countryman. M. Fetis, the well-known historian of music, has contributed greatly towards elucidating the doubtful points, and to that author s Biographic Universelle the reader is referred for more detailed information. In his early youth Josquin seems to have been a member of the choir of the collegiate church at St Quentin ; when his voice changed he went (about 1455) to Ockenheim to take lessons in counterpoint; afterwards he again lived at his birth-place for some years, till Pope Sixtus IV. invited him to Rome to teach his art to the musicians of Italy, where musical knowledge at that time was at a low ebb. Ih Rome Depres lived till the death of his protector (1484), and it was there that many of his works were written. His reputation grew rapidly, and he was considered by his contemporaries to be the greatest master of his age. Luther, himself an excellent musical amateur, is credited with the saying that " other musicians do with notes what they can, Josquiu what he likes." The composer s journey to Rome is in itself a most important event in the history of musical progress : for it marks in a manner the transference of the art from its Gallo- Belgian birth-place to Italy, which for the next two centuries remained the centre of the musical world. To the school of the Netherlands, of which Depres and his pupils Arcadelt, Mouton, and others are the chief repre sentatives, modern music owes its rise. But far more important than this school itself was its outgrowth and successor, the so-called Roman school, immortalized by the name of Palestrina. After leaving Rome Depres went for a time to Ferrara, where the art-loving duke Hercules I. offered him a home ; but before long he accepted an invitation of King Louis XII. of France to become the chief singer of the royal chapel. According to another account, he was for a time at least in the service of the emperor Maximilian I. The date of his death has by some writers been placed as early as 1501. But this is suffi ciently disproved by the fact of one of his finest com positions, A Dirge (Dcploration) for Five Voices, being written to commemorate the death of his master Ocken heim, which took place after 1512. The real date of Josquin s decease has since been settled as the 27th August 1521. He was at that time a canon of the cathedral of Conde. The most complete list of Depres s compositions consisting of masses, motets, psalms, and other pieces of sacred music will be found in Fetis. The largest collection of his MS. works, containing no less than 20 masses, is in the possession of the Papal chapel in Rome. The well-known works by Drs Burney and Hawkins give specimens of his music.