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The Musical Mysteries of Josquin

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The Musical Mysteries of Josquin

The singer and composer Josquin Desprez traversed his time enjoy a diffident ghost, glimpsed right here and there amid the splendor of the Renaissance. He is believed to were born around 1450 in what’s now western Belgium, the son of a policeman who used to be once jailed for the usage of uncouth force. In 1466, a boy named Gossequin done a stint as a choirboy in the metropolis of Cambrai. A decade later, the singer Jusquinus de Pratis grew to alter into up on the court of René of Anjou, in Aix. In the fourteen-eighties, in Milan, Judocus Despres used to be in the carrier of the Dwelling of Sforza, which also employed Leonardo da Vinci. On the tip of the last decade, Judo. de Prez joined the musical workers on the Vatican, remaining there into the reign of Alexander VI, of the Dwelling of Borgia. The identify Josquin might perhaps well additionally be seen carved on a wall of the Sistine Chapel. In 1503, the maestro Juschino took a put up in Ferrara, singing in the presence of Lucrezia Borgia. Now not long afterward, Josse des Prez retired to Condé-sur-l’Escaut, shut to his presumed birthplace, serving because the provost of the local church. There he died, on August 27, 1521. His tomb used to be destroyed for the length of the French Revolution.

The murkiness of his existence notwithstanding, Josquin attained an enduring renown of a form that no previous composer had enjoyed. In 1502, the Venetian printer Ottaviano Petrucci, the manager pioneer of movable-form tune publishing, issued a volume of sacred motets, with Josquin’s four-disclose setting of “Ave Maria . . . virgo serena” (“Hail Mary . . . tranquil virgin”) at its head. The piece will deserve to enjoy solid a spell, and the initiating reveals why. The highest disclose, the superius, sings a swish rising-and-falling phrase: G C C D E C. Each and every of the decrease voices gifts the motif in flip. After it arrives in the bass, the superius enters but again on a high C, forming an octave pillar. A second phrase unfurls in identical trend, then a third, with the voices staggered so that handiest two circulate together at a time. Eventually, the device changes, the feel thickens, and the descending enlighten of vocal entries is reversed. A couple of minute in, all four voices coalesce to make a incandescent C-main sonority. The total opening offers the semblance of breadth and depth, as even supposing lamps were lit in a vaulted room. Tune becomes a condominium whereby you lumber around in wonder.

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Hobby in Josquin used to be grand ample that Petrucci released three volumes of the composer’s masses—settings of five sections of the Roman Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei). Posthumously, the flood of publications handiest increased, to the level the set aside an observer wryly talked about, “Now that Josquin is unimaginative, he is placing out extra works than when he used to be unexcited alive.” Extravagant claims were made. The humanist Cosimo Bartoli described Josquin because the Michelangelo of tune; Martin Luther called him “the grasp of the notes.” In subsequent centuries, performances of his works all nonetheless ceased, but his identify remained one to conjure with. In 1782, the historian Charles Burney declared that Josquin had completed “current monarchy and dominion over the affections and passions of the musical share of mankind.” For August Wilhelm Ambros, in 1868, he used to be the first composer in historical past “who makes a prevailing impact of genius.” In the 20th century, the early-tune circulate introduced Josquin’s scores support to existence, and the revival continues five hundred years after his death. The Tallis Scholars, the most handy identified of Renaissance vocal ensembles, now not too long ago done a recorded survey of eighteen masses attributed to Josquin. Such groups as Stile Antico, Cappella Pratensis, Blue Heron, and the Huelgas Ensemble are taking part in a Josquin festival in Antwerp in August. The “Ave Maria” is a staple of choirs all the diagram in which by means of the sector.

With Josquin began the cult of the nice composer—a frame of mind that has left a distinctly ambiguous impress on classical-tune culture. And his upward push to superhero set aside introduced with it a uncommon paradox. Though commentators all the diagram in which by means of five centuries enjoy agreed on Josquin’s preëminence, his works can without anguish be perplexed with those of diverse proficient contemporaries. Two anecdotes from the early sixteenth century illustrate what might perhaps perhaps also very well be called the Josquin mirage, whereby the lustre of his identify warps musical perceptions. Baldassare Castiglione, in his treatise “The Book of the Courtier” (1528), made indicate of the composer’s snob charm in aristocratic settings: “When a motet used to be sung in the presence of the Duchess, it delighted no person, and used to be thought of worthless, unless it became identified that it had been silent by Josquin Desprez.” The reverse fate befell a bit by Adrian Willaert, one of Josquin’s most done successors. When Willaert first came to Rome, he came all the diagram in which by means of that the papal choir used to be singing one of his motets, below the impact that it used to be by Josquin. When Willaert corrected the error, the singers lost interest in the work. Such reports back to indicate why attributions to Josquin proliferated after his death: affixing his identify to a receive used to be guaranteed to jog interest. The identical syndrome has long timid Renaissance art work, the set aside an emphasis on the singular profile of canonical artists has ended in violent debates over authenticity and a thriving market in forgeries.

Wisely over 300 pieces were ascribed to Josquin at one time or one more. In original decades, musicologists were culling dubious items from the catalogue. This spring, I adopted the work of two leading Josquin authorities, Joshua Rifkin and Jesse Rodin, who are making ready a enormously pruned list of likely Josquin pieces—a hundred and three in all. Some students dismay that the deattribution assignment has got out of hand; the half of-joking dismay is that Josquin will pause up disappearing nearly totally, enjoy the Cheshire Cat. On account of the pandemic-technology phenomenon of the Zoom seminar, I used to be ready to circulate seeking to salvage some of the deliberations, which saved raising better philosophical questions: How does an air of secrecy of infallibility attain to encompass a resolve enjoy Josquin? What becomes of the tune that lapses into anonymity, simply as “The Man with the Golden Helmet” appears to enjoy fallen out of the Rembrandt canon?

There might be nothing deceptive about that air of secrecy: Josquin used to be a good composer, one whose contrapuntal dazzlements can create Bach detect clumsy. However he dwelled inside a comprehensively incredible neighborhood of ingenious artists. To search out Renaissance choral tune is to enter a forbidding forest of names: Dunstable, Vitality, Binchois, Dufay, Busnois, Ockeghem, Regis, Faugues, Compère, Weerbeke, Agricola, de Orto, Obrecht, Isaac, de la Rue, Mouton, Brumel, Févin, Richafort, Ghiselin, Gombert, Pipelare, Martini, Clemens non Papa, Morales, Willaert, Lassus, Palestrina. Every person of them wrote tune worth hearing. The duration bears look for to the emergence of composition as an art work: Josquin becomes the patron saint of an in actuality new profession that is struggling to develop the extent of recognition long accorded to painters and poets. Distinct personalities materialize from the historical mist. We hear the sound of the self, singing toward a form of freedom.

The term “composer” began to enter typical circulation handiest in the leisurely fifteenth century. The observe of naming the authors of musical works used to be unexcited catching on. Paperwork of the duration in total name Josquin a cantore, or singer. Yet his upward push to fame helped consequence in a alternate in set aside. In 1502, a courtier to Ercole I, the Duke of Ferrara, wrote a letter evaluating candidates for a musical appointment. One of them, Heinrich Isaac, used to be “easy to salvage along with,” the courtier talked about; one more, Josquin, “composes when he needs to, and never when one needs him to.” Also, Josquin asked for two hundred ducats, Isaac for worthy less. Ercole I hired Josquin.

Composers were a new phenomenon as a consequence of written tune used to be itself a slightly original innovation in the long historical past of the humanities. The earliest examples of fully decipherable workers notation, from the early eleventh century, file Gregorian chant; multivoiced sacred tune used to be written down at Notre-Dame, in Paris, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Troubadours, trouvères, and diverse poet-composers produced a cherished corpus of song, even supposing the words tended to receive extra attention than the notes. Potentially the most ambitious resolve of the age used to be Guillaume de Machaut, who lived from around 1300 to 1377. Renowned primarily for his sung poems of courtly enjoy, Machaut also wrote two dozen motets and the earliest mass cycle for which a composer is identified. Such nice-scale elaborations on canonical texts sustained careers in the following century, as Popes, princes, and diverse potentates sought to flesh out courtly ceremonies with gorgeous sounds. The historical past of written tune is inextricable from buildings of worldly energy, although the composers occupied a low set aside in the hierarchy.

Josquin exemplifies the art work of polyphony: the interweaving of a couple of voices in line with strict contrapuntal tips. The principle mandate used to be to manipulate dissonance—a term that used to be understood in any other case in medieval and Renaissance times than it’s far right this moment. It indicated now not simply discordant combinations of tones nonetheless also problematic relationships between notes. The octave, the fifth, and every so often the fourth were thought of to be “absolute top” consonances; thirds and sixths were “execrable”; diverse intervals fell into the “dissonant” class. A wariness of thirds partly explains why medieval tune can sound stark and peculiar to stylish ears. Thirds are on the core of tonal harmony, defining main and minor keys. In the early fifteenth century, English composers, led by John Dunstable, began the usage of thirds in abundance. Their lush, chord-well off sound became identified because the “English countenance,” handsome and delighting listeners on the Continent. English sources are also the first to identify composers in nice numbers.

“And that, son, is the set aside wealth comes from.”
Comic strip by Robert Leighton

Geopolitics had a hand in what came about next. King Henry V of England, who might perhaps enjoy dabbled in composing, received at Agincourt, in 1415, and almost as we say took over northern France. English officials introduced with them their favourite choristers; Dunstable evidently served John of Lancaster, Henry V’s brother and military commander. On account of Joan of Arc, England’s holdings almost as we say shrank, nonetheless now not forward of its tune had seeped into northern France and Belgian lands. Coincidentally or now not, this space introduced forth the subsequent main wave of musical exercise. A sizable quantity of fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century composers, Josquin incorporated, belonged to what’s right this moment called the Franco-Flemish College.

Leading the procession used to be Guillaume Dufay (circa 1397-1474), who introduced dancing magnificence to exalted masses and streetwise chansons alike. His motet “Nuper rosarum flores” used to be written for the consecration of Florence’s cathedral, in 1436, its stately sonorities echoing against Filippo Brunelleschi’s octagonal dome. Other mid- and leisurely-fifteenth-century composers expanded the sector of possibility. Antoine Busnois genuinely fair appropriate in a lucid interaction of motifs; Johannes Ockeghem in opulent, unpredictably flowing designs; Johannes Regis in intricate buildings that salvage epic energy from the calculated addition and subtraction of voices. (Josquin might perhaps enjoy based his setting of “Ave Maria” on Regis’s motet of the identical identify.) By 1500, dozens of Franco-Flemish singer-composers had radiated all the diagram in which by means of Europe, establishing a digital monopoly at sure Italian musical centers, the Vatican incorporated.

How a slightly tiny space in northwestern Belgium and northeastern France became so dominant is now not totally sure. Education used to be a element: singing faculties were current there, bringing in younger abilities from diverse classes of society. The dukes of Burgundy spent liberally on the humanities, in what grew to alter into out to be a ineffective strive and elevate themselves to kingly set aside. Once the Franco-Flemish composers obtained positions of have an effect on, they cemented their authority by making mutual gestures of praise and commemoration. Busnois wrote a motet hailing Ockeghem; Ockeghem memorialized Gilles Binchois; Josquin common a haunting song-motet on Ockeghem’s death; and when Josquin died he got tributes from five younger colleagues. Every so often, the network would be incorrect for a racket, as when composers helped one one more accomplish up portfolios of benefices—church positions that paid generously without requiring current attendance.

The Franco-Flemings were worldly in diverse solutions. Deft synthesizers, they wove secular traces into sacred pieces, giving them a level of current charm. In a widely studied English mass, the anonymous “Missa Caput,” a cantus firmus, or “mounted melody,” runs for the length of the cycle. To initiating with set aside, these unifying motifs were drawn from Gregorian chant, nonetheless composers also made spend of original songs, some of them risqué. A Gloria by Dufay deploys a ditty with the words “You perhaps can enjoy mounted me on my haunches and done nothing / Can also God carry out to you what has been done to me.” Such pranks seem subversive to stylish sensibilities, nonetheless on the time they might perhaps enjoy reinforced the Church’s energy to take in and control all kinds of culture. In musical terms, these earworms might perhaps well motivate listeners as they confronted a new form of nice-scale epic. One jaunty, belligerent shrimp tune, “L’Homme Armé,” or “The Armed Man,” impressed practically fifty masses, including two virtuosic efforts by Josquin.

In the support of the scenes, heady contrapuntal video games came into play. Emily Zazulia, in her drawing near book, “The set aside Stare Meets Sound,” writes about the every so often deliberately vague instructions that the singers had to decode in enlighten to worship the receive. Dufay’s “Missa L’Homme Armé” contains the instruction “The crab goes out in burly, nonetheless returns by half of”—that diagram that the road have to unexcited be sung first backward and then forward at double pace. In Ockeghem’s “Missa Prolationum,” voices bid the identical melody concurrently, nonetheless at diverse speeds. Josquin’s “L’Homme Armé” masses, in flip, echo and prolong Dufay’s reversed melody and Ockeghem’s multispeed canons. A diverse prize goes to Jacob Obrecht, whose “Missa Grecorum” gifts a version of the cantus firmus with the notes ordered in line with their durations: first the longest, then the subsequent longest, and at final the shortest. Fabrice Fitch, in his new book, “Renaissance Polyphony,” likens the final consequence to the decrease-up approach of William S. Burroughs.

The relaxation feat used to be to cowl such arcana under an immaculate musical ground. Two esteemed values of the duration were varietas, selection, and dulcedo, sweetness. The theorist-composer Johannes Tinctoris wrote of leading the listener accurate into a vow of sensuous transport that culminates in non secular elevation. Now not each person authorized this proposition: Girolamo Savonarola, the censorious preacher of Florence, thought of polyphony a ploy of the Devil, its sonic luxuriance obscuring holy writ. On the tip of the sixteenth century, polyphonic filigree would depart forward of the incisive melodic thrust of Baroque trend. Yet Josquin and his contemporaries had precipitated a permanent revolution: composers of the long elope would plan freely from the well of the past.

Renaissance polyphony has long given me joy, nonetheless I’ve never felt sure of my ability to direct one composer from one more. In need of extra education, I reached out to Jesse Rodin, who teaches at Stanford and leads the vocal ensemble Decrease Circle. He oversees an on-line helpful resource called the Josquin Be taught Mission, which has an developed search characteristic permitting users to worth patterns all the diagram in which by means of hundreds of works. Rodin invited me to back his on-line Josquin seminar, and directed me toward a identical path taught by Joshua Rifkin, who is predicated at Boston University. Other Josquin consultants dialled in from all the diagram in which by means of the sector. My Mondays and Tuesdays were almost as we say full of debates about unnotated accidentals, contrapuntal interlocks, mensuration signs, and the enjoy.

I asked Rodin, who is forty-two, how he ended up in this contentious nook of the musicological field. “I’m a Jewish kid from the Upper West Facet,” he instructed me, with a giggle. “I didn’t develop up with Catholic polyphony. The dominant tune in the home used to be Pete Seeger and the Weavers.” Rodin didn’t gape Josquin unless he used to be in college, on the University of Pennsylvania, nonetheless he had relished all kinds of singing from an early age, and had developed a knack for memorizing vocal traces, which served him well when he grew to alter into to Renaissance tune.

“Potentially the most refined thing with this tune is attending to understand it from the inside,” Rodin talked about. “When I used to be an undergrad, I used to be taking the educate back and forth to Philadelphia, and I’d hearken to the Tallis Scholars recordings on repeat. I’d set on a Kyrie for, enjoy, an hour, repeatedly.” Though Rodin stays appreciative of the Tallis Scholars’ pioneering work in this repertory—their first recording of a Josquin mass regarded in 1986—he sees a downside to their trend: “It’s stunning, in tune, somewhat magical. However the slack tempos, the well off timbre, and the reverberant acoustic can enjoy a distancing pause—as in the event you’re reaching by means of the darkish to the notes.” Rodin, in his recordings with Decrease Circle, favors a livelier diagram, with a less rounded sound and extra form out moment-to-moment phrasing.

Josquin’s works fall into three categories: masses, motets, and songs. The masses don’t depart radically from the pattern vow forth by Dufay and Ockeghem, even supposing their refinement is uncouth. The motets experiment with arrays of five and six voices, balancing density and clarity. The songs, identified as chansons, are settings of secular texts. Despite their every so often saucy or mundane jabber—“Faulte d’argent” begins “Lack of money is sorrow unparalleled”—they adhere to cultivated ways of canon and imitation. (Incidentally, David Fallows, in his painstakingly researched 2009 book, “Josquin,” suggests that the composer himself suffered no monetary hardship: having got a noteworthy bequest from an uncle, he might perhaps were ready to jot down “when he needs to” as a consequence of he might perhaps enjoy ample money to.)

If Rodin had to deal with out a defining characteristic for Josquin, it’s far also obsessiveness—a mania for the working out of musical tips. In “Josquin’s Rome,” a see of the composer’s Sistine Chapel duration, Rodin notes the predominance of “spherical, recursive” melodic traces, and observes, “Obsessive repetition of this form often generates a heightened sense of stress that will perhaps handiest be resolved with a critical level of arrival. Certainly better than any of his contemporaries, Josquin’s tune is characterized by demanding, pregnant moments that ask decision, every so often in the make of exceptional climactic passages.”

Josquin’s supreme ritual of repetition comes in his “Missa La sol fa re mi,” the title of which specifies the five-indicate motto of the piece: A G F D E. That pattern appears in the mass some two hundred and fifty times, even supposing it undergoes ample variation that it never grows slow. In the latter share of the Credo, for the length of sections describing the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, the tenor repeats the motto relentlessly, but swirling exercise in the quite a lot of voices distracts the ear. The feeling of unity becomes subconscious—and thereby your full extra potent.

I made up my mind to deal with a Josquin work and burrow into it. I selected the “Miserere,” a five-disclose setting of Psalm 50/51: “Hang mercy upon me, O God, in line with thy loving-kindness.” Right here’s one of Josquin’s longest non-mass pieces, lasting about fifteen minutes in efficiency. He doubtlessly wrote it in Ferrara, around 1503. In a uncommon flip, none diverse than Savonarola, the castigator of polyphonic extra, might perhaps enjoy offered the occasion. Shining forward of the friar used to be set to death, in 1498, he wrote a meditation on Psalm 50/51, whereby the words “miserere,” “miseria,” and “misericordia” recur with agonized insistence. “Abyss invokes abyss,” Savonarola writes. “The abyss of misery invokes the abyss of mercy.” Ercole I, Josquin’s patron in Ferrara, revered Savonarola and have to unexcited enjoy welcomed a musical tribute to him. The musicologist Patrick Macey has proposed that Josquin took inspiration from the repetitions in Savonarola’s textual jabber. The “Miserere” is built around twenty-four iterations of the phrase “Miserere mei, Deus”; the first tenor does nothing nonetheless repeat the phrase, in shut to-monotones.

As in the “Missa La sol fa re mi,” a doubtlessly unimaginative device yields tune of fair appropriate selection. For one thing, the tenor’s central pitch is continuously provocative. In the first share, it moves stepwise down an octave; in the second share, it goes support up; in the closing share, it sinks but again. Furthermore, the collective refrains alternate shape and character. They final anywhere from three and a half of to eight bars, and the gaps setting aside them vary from three and a half of bars to twenty-eight. Toward the tip, the pleas for mercy are couched in stunning cascading patterns, even because the intervening gaps develop achingly long. Josquin, so often the most handsome of composers, right here uses asymmetry to support his listeners on edge, enjoy supplicants. For the student John Milson, the “Miserere” inspires a intelligent preacher who builds a sermon around a single phrase. This perhaps ironic memorial to Savonarola reveals how wrenchingly devout polyphony might perhaps well additionally be.

Joshua Rifkin is, at seventy-seven, a nice seigneur of early tune. A self-described “Jewish atheist from the Bronx,” he obtained youthful notoriety in the nineteen-sixties by taking part in John Cage’s nineteen-hour marathon efficiency of Erik Satie’s “Vexations,” and by issuing an LP of Baroque arrangements of Beatles songs. In 1970, Rifkin spurred a ragtime revival when he made a handiest-promoting recording of Scott Joplin rags; the movie “The Sting” ensued. In musicological circles, he is identified for his meticulous readings of documentary sources. In 1982, he unsettled the early-tune world with a radically pared-down recording of Bach’s Mass in B Minor; his argument used to be that Bach had written most of his sacred choral works for ensembles of handiest four voices, now not dozens. In the Josquin seminar, Rifkin spoke in a discursive, donnish manner, nonetheless his spell binding jabber of the cloth gave one a approach of having made an sizable intellectual hurry.

Full of life as a composer in his childhood, Rifkin came to Josquin by diagram of the musical modernists, who prized polyphonic complexity as an antecedent for their very possess cerebral video games. (Anton Webern, one of the founders of serialist composition, produced a doctoral thesis on Heinrich Isaac.) Rifkin instructed me, “I didn’t genuinely salvage Josquin, firstly set aside. The terms whereby of us were then talking about him—the sublimity, the exalted sense of textual jabber setting, and so forth—didn’t charm to me. However I saved digging in, seeking to resolve out how this tune worked, and in the approach I realized what a spectacular composer he genuinely used to be.” Rifkin began to discern what he called “motivicity”—an limitless interaction of tiny musical modules, outlined by every pitch and rhythm. In this sense, Josquin resembles Bach, Rifkin’s diverse nice obsession. “With every of them, you salvage a level of sustained craftsmanship that, on the identical time, yields moments of shiny, jaw-shedding drama,” he talked about.

Assessing the authenticity of a Josquin piece involves two kinds of work: an evaluation of the sources whereby it first regarded and a comparative analysis of the tune itself. In the first stage of the approach, students must change into forensic detectives, analyzing watermarks, scribal handwriting, and quirks of notation. No customary Josquin manuscripts live on; the graffiti on the Sistine Chapel is the most handy worth of his hand (unless it’s far an vulnerable hoax). Instead, every little thing exists in copies, of diverse quality. Even the Petrucci editions that sealed Josquin’s fame have to now not above suspicion. For the explanation that composer used to be alive after they were published, it’s natural to prefer that he played a assignment in their manufacturing. Yet, Rifkin instructed me, Petrucci used to be it appears that evidently consulting secondhand sources, now not customary manuscripts: “His editions enjoy errors that you simply detect in diverse copies in circulation.” Of the seventeen Josquin masses that Petrucci published, handiest eleven create it into the “nearly sure” class of Rifkin and Rodin’s revised catalogue. Josquin, in retirement in Condé, might perhaps were both unaware of Petrucci’s questionable exercise or helpless to pause it.

“I disfavor summer season of us, nonetheless I enjoy drinking their rubbish.”
Comic strip by Zachary Kanin

The main take a look at case in Rifkin’s seminar used to be “O virgo virginum” (“O virgin of virgins”), a extensive, sombre six-disclose motet in praise of the Virgin Mary. The earliest copy is came all the diagram in which by means of in a manuscript on the Vatican. Since Josquin sang in the Sistine Chapel, this appears a reliable supply—excluding that no composer is specified. The first attribution occurs in a hand-copied anthology that doubtlessly originated in Venice and is now held on the Biblioteca della Musica di Bologna. Sooner than Rifkin delivered his verdict, he asked his college students to circulate seeking to salvage a digital scan of Bologna R 142 and capture it for themselves. “Everyone right here is popping into share of the canonical exercise,” he talked about.

I spent a a shrimp bit deranged weekend scrutinizing the scan, which used to be in black-and-white and a bit of blurry. R 142 contains twenty alleged Josquin pieces, copied by two diverse scribes. Scribe 1, who used to be guilty for assigning “O virgo virginum” to Josquin, rendered the composer’s identify in classy trend, with a rotten by means of the “q.” His diverse attributions contain five items indubitably by Josquin—nonetheless also one motet that is in diverse areas ascribed to the French composer Mathurin Forestier. Scribe 2, for his share, evidently went support and added Josquin’s identify to a number of pieces that had beforehand been anonymous: additionally, you will detect him squeezing it into pockets of empty home on the derive page. In all, R 142 feels enjoy a shaky supply; the scribes seem overeager to pad their compilation with Josquiniana.

In one more session, Rifkin expert attention on the tune itself. He compared “O virgo virginum” with a six-disclose motet that is assigned to Josquin in so many contexts that its authorship is believed of actual: “Preter rerum seriem” (“Right here’s no typical device of issues: God and man is born of a virgin mother”). The two pieces launch in strikingly identical trend. A pair of bass voices launch a canon, one imitating the quite a lot of at a limited distance, whereas the tenor unfolds a chant melody in slack circulate. The principle target then shifts to the upper voices: the superius takes over the mantra whereas two altos wind around every diverse.

On shut examination, even supposing, the resemblances spoil down. In “Preter rerum,” the superius continues to examine the tenor shrimp by shrimp. In “O virgo,” the two voices diverge: the superius carries on singing in long values whereas the tenor noodles away in faster-provocative figures. You perhaps can enjoy the sensation that the composer of “O virgo” took “Preter rerum” as a mannequin nonetheless almost as we say lost persistence with Josquin’s systematic solutions. Of path, that is also Josquin himself in a less rule-sure mood, but he would were unlikely to retract in the fuzzy contrapuntal moves that gash up in “O virgo.” Rifkin’s college students jumped into the dialogue, declaring dissonances, parallel unisons, and diverse imprecisions. Rifkin delivered the closing verdict: “Shut, nonetheless no cigar.”

The two sessions that Rifkin spent on “O virgo virginum” were a revelatory exercise in X-raying a composer’s identification. The discrepancies between this motet and better-attested Josquin pieces direct his musical physiognomy in startling detail. Right here’s the precise worth of Rifkin and Rodin’s revisionist dissection of the catalogue: it furnishes actual insights accurate into a resolve who stays mysterious to his core.

On the identical time, the seminar left me in a vaguely depression mood. What happens to “O virgo virginum” if it will not be any longer stamped with the Josquin trace? Barring some new revelation, its composer is now a Renaissance ghost: Composer X. The commercial of tune doesn’t know what to carry out with anonymity. The “Missa Caput,” as an illustration, used to be once attributed to Dufay, and for that reason it outdated faculty to receive extra performances than it does now, even supposing it’s far unexcited the identical paradigm-altering piece. Too often, we simplify the historical past of the humanities by lowering it to a parade of grand personalities. When that good judgment is applied to tune forward of 1600, it consigns to oblivion sizable numbers of works that can now not be linked to 1 distinctive particular person.

Maintain in mind an anonymous newsletter from 1543 titled “Musica quinque vocum motteta materna lingua vocata” (“Tune in five voices, called motets in the mummy tongue”). The musicologist and conductor Laurie Stras, who has recorded this repertory with the British ensemble Musica Secreta, has floated the chance that the motets were written for singers on the convent of Corpus Domini, in Ferrara, the set aside Leonora d’Este, Lucrezia Borgia’s daughter, served because the abbess. Leonora used to be a noteworthy musical intellectual, nearly indubitably a composer. Some or all of these works would be hers. Nobles typically maintained anonymity in their ingenious endeavors; a noblewoman grew to alter into nun would enjoy had particular incentive to support her identification hidden. In a extra twist, the motet “Tribulationes civitatum audivimus” (“We now enjoy got heard the rigors of the electorate”) alludes to Josquin’s “Miserere,” with its Savonarolan subtext. The piece might perhaps perhaps also very well be, as Stras says, a notify from a rebellious metropolis that the Inquisition had in its sights.

In a approach, all composers of the Josquin technology were a minimal of partly anonymous. Shorn of biographical particulars, steeped in a shared language, they constituted an imaginative crowd, now not an alliance of audacious individuals. The student Wolfgang Fuhrmann, noting that “Josquin’s references to and confrontations with diverse composers are turning into ever extra tangible,” concludes that “the image of the genius standing on his possess appears ever extra improbable.” Rodin reveals how Josquin took cues from lesser-identified contemporaries, amongst them the wildly ingenious Marbrianus de Orto, one more member of the Sistine Chapel ensemble. In the closing Agnus Dei of Josquin’s “Missa L’Homme Armé nice voces musicales,” the “Armed Man” tune peals forth on top, in prolonged values. De Orto contains a identical flourish on the tip of his possess “L’Homme Armé” mass, producing an ambiance of festive triumph.

Maurice Ravel outdated faculty to direct his college students that they’d salvage themselves after they failed to repeat their items faithfully. Composer X is most compelling on the moments she ceases to be Josquinian. (It’s extraordinarily unlikely that “O virgo virginum” used to be written by a lady, nonetheless anonymity allows the imagination to hunch.) Contrapuntal eccentricities aside, the motet displays a sure take of formal architecture, its material marshalled in cresting and subsiding waves. Two minutes in, the tune comes to a shut to-standstill: first the upper voices and then the decrease ones launch rocking between what we would now name chords of G and C minor. That circulate offers technique to a current upward surge, over a liquid chain of chords that, if scored for orchestra, might perhaps well now not sound out of set aside in Berlioz. In the end, as in Josquin’s “Ave Maria,” your full voices ring out, with the superius tracing a high, piercing arc. Such hazy gorgeousness feels a bit of decadent next to Josquin’s crystalline constructions, but it has its possess attract.

What Josquin gave to tune used to be the honor of a lineage: a personified past against which successors might perhaps well define themselves. Over time, that tradition took on mighty, and every so often oppressive, weight: it used to be nearly exclusively male, it served the ruling classes, it furthered the politics of European domination. Josquin had been unimaginative handiest a couple of years when missionaries began to impose polyphonic singing on Aztec of us in Mexico. The Incas underwent the identical indoctrination, even supposing, as a chronicler seen, they possessed their very possess tune “of nice enlighten and harmony.” However Josquin might perhaps enjoy had shrimp inkling of that grander, darker future. A bequest in his will arranged for his setting of “Pater noster” to be sung exterior his home in Condé for the length of church processions. As far as he knew, he would be remembered in no diverse diagram. ♦


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The Musical Mysteries of Josquin