Abstract

Only recently has our ever-changing image of Josquin's life and career come into sharper focus. With the composer's date of birth pushed forward by ten or perhaps as many as fifteen years and the importance of Milan as the first stop on his Italian tour now fading, it looks increasingly as though Josquin's first compositional maturity occurred while he was a singer in the Sistine Chapel choir in Rome (ca. 1489–at least 1494). The new biographical picture also points toward an unfamiliar possibility: that Josquin learned something from the music of his contemporaries. In particular, he seems to have engaged closely with compositions by his “Roman” colleague Marbrianus de Orto (d. 1529).

Through an examination of music by de Orto and Josquin likely composed in Rome, I have uncovered a series of close musical connections between the composers. It is now clear, for instance, that the cantus firmus treatment in Josquin's Missa L'homme armé super voces musicales is dependent on de Orto's. Josquin's tenor motet Illibata Dei virgo nutrix (a 5) may also owe something to de Orto's example, as may his four-voice setting of the song Si j'ay perdu mon amy. Josquin and de Orto are even united in their unusual preference for certain contrapuntal and melodic strategies. All of this suggests that de Orto played a pivotal role in Josquin's compositional development, and calls for a revised historiographical model with which to frame studies of the elusive Josquin des Prez.

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