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Josquin500 – Video Killed the Radio Star?

Composer anniversaries, such as the 500th anniversary of Josquin Desprez’s death, bring new attention to the jubilarian. This was already the case in 1971, when a true “Josquin renaissance” began with the International Josquin Conference in New York from 21 to 25 June. The opulent conference report edited by Edward Lowinsky may also have contributed to this.

The 500th anniversary of Josquin’s death coincided with the pandemic. Perhaps the most ambitious project was the performance of all Josquin’s masses from 25 to 28 August 2021 in the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin by the Tallis Scholars under the direction of Peter Phillips. On 27 August 2021, the 500th anniversary of Josquin’s death, the Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae, among others, was to be heard. Unfortunately, the concert series has fallen victim to the Corona travel restrictions. According to current plans, the concerts are now to be made up from 13 to 16 July 2022.


However, the festival “Laus Polyphoniae” took place from 20 to 29 August 2021. The organisers have opted for a mixture of live concerts and video recordings, which are freely accessible online. Particularly noteworthy are seven documentary concerts with the participation of Josquin experts, which focus on Josquin’s masses:

  1. Misse Josquin I – Missa Ave maris stella – Capella Pratensis – Eric Jas & Stratton Bull
  2. Misse Josquin II – Missa Malheur me bat – Huelgas Ensemble – David Burn & Paul Van Nevel
  3. Misse Josquin III – Missa Hercules dux Ferrarie – Vox Luminis -Patrick Macey & Lionel Meunier
  4. Misse Josquin IV – Missa Pange lingua – Cappella Pratensis – Alanna Ropchock Tierno & Stratton Bull
  5. Misse Josquin V – Missa Faisant regretz – Huelgas Ensemble – Fabrice Fitch & Paul Van Nevel
  6. Misse Josquin VI – Missa Gaudeamus – Cappella Mariana – David Fallows & Vojtěch Semerád
  7. Misse Josquin VII – Missa L’homme armé super voces musicales – Huelgas Ensemble – Jesse Rodin & Paul Van Nevel

In addition, the other concerts of the festival are also available on YouTube:

  1. Huelgas Ensemble | Josquin des Prez: a man for all seasons
  2. Cappella Pratensis | Josquin in Ferrara
  3. Pluto-ensemble | Cela sans plus. Sur les ailes de Jossequin
  4. Vox Luminis | Missa L’homme armé sexti toni
  5. Cappella Pratensis | Josquin and the art of eloquence
  6. Huelgas Ensemble | In memoriam Josquin des Prez
  7. Utopia | Lux aeterna
  8. Ratas del viejo Mundo | Voice of a mute


Also worth mentioning are some radio programmes that devote an unusual amount of time to various aspects of Josquin’s life and work.

BBC Radio 3 has previously given Josquin Desprez space in the “Composer of the Week” series. The individual episodes are no longer accessible, but a summary (with much abridged music) is still available as on the BBC website. In 90 minutes, Donald Macleod and Jeremy Summerly give an excellent insight into Josquin’s life and work.

Donald MacLeod has used the anniversary year as an opportunity to take another look at Josquin. This time the focus is on the relationship between Josquin and Netherlandish Art in five one-hour episodes. Together with art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon, he visits the National Gallery in London and paints a picture of art and music in the age of Josquin:

  1. Josquin and Netherlandish Art (1/5)Link to the artworks in the National Gallery London
  2. Music and Art in Josquin’s Age: Branching Out (2/5)Link to the artworks in the National Gallery London
  3. Josquin and Art in Northern Italy (3/5)Link to the artworks in the National Gallery London
  4. Josquin and Art in Rome (4/5)Link to the artworks in the National Gallery London
  5. Josquin and Art in Ferrara (5/5)Link to the artworks in the National Gallery London

For legal reasons, the full episodes will only be available for a limited time (a maximum of thirty days after broadcast), but again a podcast will be made available which will include heavily abridged music interludes.

In the German-speaking world, the SWR2 theme evening on the 500th anniversary of the death of Josquin Desprez deserves special mention: in the first part, Doris Blaich interviews the Josquin biographer David Fallows, the lutenist Marc Lewon, professor of historical lute instruments at the Schola Cantorum Basilienses and director of the Ensemble Leones, and the conductor Paul van Nevel, director of the Huelgas Ensemble. The second part is devoted to the masses. The interview guest is the musicologist Christiane Wiesenfeldt.

Also well worth listening to is the programme “Der Komponist Josquin Desprez: Europas erster Musikstar” by Jenny Berg, which was broadcasted on SRF on 2 August 2021. In the first segment, David Fallows explains why Josquin fascinates him, then the musician Jean-Christophe Groffe and leader of the Ensemble Thélème talks about his CD project “Baisiez moy” and in the third segment, the musician Tabea Schwarz reports on the example of the ReRenaissance concert series in Basel, which framework conditions are necessary for the performance of Renaissance music.

A good introduction to the performance practice of Renaissance music and different approaches to interpretation is given by Michael Stegemann in his contribution entitled “500. Todestag von Josquin Desprez – Erster Superstar der Musik”. The contribution was broadcasted on Deutschlandfunk Kultur in the series “Interpretations” on 22 August 2021. Stegemann focuses on Josquin’s masses and structures his almost two-hour overview through the five sections of the mass ordinary: Agnus Dei, Sanctus, Credo, Gloria, Kyrie. He presents historical and more recent recordings and compares the different approaches to interpreting the various parts of the Mass.

Finally, the programme “Notendrucker Ottaviano Petrucci – Der Gutenberg der Musik” (Ottaviano Petrucci – The Gutenberg of Music) by Eva Blaskewitz should be mentioned, which was broadcasted on 28 April 2021 on Deutschlandfunk Kultur as part of the series “Early Music”. In her 30-minute contribution, Blaskewitz focuses on the music printer Ottaviano Petrucci, the inventor of printing music with movable metal types.