Music 2115

Study Guide for Chapter 10

"The Renaissance: Franco-Netherlands Composers"


General Background
Johannes Ockeghem
Jacob Obrecht
Josquin des Prez
Heinrich Isaac & Others

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General cultural background: The Renaissance

In music, c. 1430-c. 1600

Driven by Humanism, imported from Byzantine Empire

Era of expansion & exploration, geographical and scientific

Rediscovery of the cultures of ancient Greece & Rome

Concentration on Masses, motets, chansons, & vernacular secular songs in several languages

Style moving from treble or tenor songs in 3 parts to 4-6 parts with equal voices

Homogenous sound favored--development of families of instruments

Imitative counterpoint with single texts (more attention to understanding the declamation of the text)

The Taktus as a reference beat to keep the music together


Paper was coming into use; absorbed ink differently

So scribes started using "white" notation--same note shapes, but empty outlines

Johannes Ockeghem (1410-1497)

Worked at the French court from 1451; a very low bass singer

Maître de chapelle to the Kings of France from 1465

First to use the modern form of the F or bass clef

Masses (10; most in 4 parts)

Missa Prolationum: a cycle of double canons

Motets (only 9 are known)

A priest, and held important positions in the church as well

Visited and knew DuFay

His death was lamented by many poets and composers

Jacob Obrecht (c. 1450-1505)

Priest, worked mostly in the north; may be the only native Dutch speaker in this group, and only writer of songs in Dutch

Worked in Ferrara (northern Italy) in 1504; contacted plague and died there in 1505

Made Tinctoris' "best" list (along with Ockeghem, Dufay, Dunstable, des Prez)

26 masses, 26 (very long) motets, 27 (short) chansons

Secular music--most in 4 parts, most imitative & equal-voiced, most in Dutch (very unusual)

Motets and Masses: Into numerology; complex organization, but in a new way

Josquin des Prez (c. 1440-1521)

From northern France, traveled and worked in many places
Milan, the Papal chapel, the French court, Ferrara, Hainaut

Called the best singer, the best composer, and the best teacher

Martin Luther: Josquin was "Master of the notes" while other composers were mastered by them

His music used as examples in theory books, and as models by other composers

1st composer to absorb and unify 2 different styles (Ockeghem & Obrecht)

Defined Renaissance style with equal voices, pervading imitation, points of imitation for each new line of poetry

68 secular songs

Used cantilena style early; later went to equal voices

3 to 6 voice parts; imitation, canon, paired canons

18 or 21 masses

Conservative, showing understanding & mastery of all techniques of his predecesors

95 motets

His best and most progressive works

Innovative, chose texts freely, borrowed freely, used text painting

Heinrich Isaac (c. 1450-1517)

The Northerner who carried the new musical style to the Germanic lands

Worked for the Medici, then court composer to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, then the last years of his life in Italy

Huge output: 40 Ordinaries, 100 Propers, 50 motets

One of the few composers to compose Propers as well as Ordinaries

Commissioned by the church at Constance to write cycles of Mass Propers,printed in the second volume of Choralis constantinus


The next generation of Franco-Netherlands composers

Jacob Clement (non Papa) (c.1515-c.1556)

Nicolas Gombert (c.1495-c.1560)

Adrian Willaert (c. 1490-1562)

Served at Ferrara, then in 1527 appointed Maestro da cappella at St. Mark's church in Venice

One of the first madrigal composers

Established the Venitian polychoral style and brought the northern style to Venice

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