Josquin des Prez (c.1450/5-1521)
Despite being widely considered the finest composer of the late 15th and early 16th centuries, details of Josquin des Prez’s life remain sketchy and virtually nothing is known of his personality. His birthplace is unknown but it seems he was a chorister at the royal church of Saint-Quentin c.1460 and may have studied counterpoint with Johannes Ockeghem. His first known employment was as a singer for the Duke of Anjou (based in Aix-en-Provence) in 1477 but thereafter scholars disagree as to whereabouts. However, he was certainly active in Milan in the 1480s and was a member of the Papal choir from 1489-1495, later holding positions in Ferrara and ending his days in Northern France. Josquin’s music laid the foundations for the polyphony of the late 16th century, advancing music from the Medieval sound world of the 15th century to the more modern Renaissance language of the 16th century. He composed in all styles and genres of his day, assimilating local and national musical styles into a more pan-European musical language, and was the first composer to have an entire publication dedicated to his work (a book of Masses published in Venice in 1502). Publishing only strengthened his reputation throughout Europe (to the point where publishers would often misattribute pieces to him in order to generate more sales!) and his legacy was such that composers that followed him before the rise of Palestrina were simply known as the “post-Josquin generation”.