Archivio Josquin Des Près 1
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21 October Oct 2016 1129 10 months ago

Josquin des Prés and the Duomo's Musical Chapel: a musical story

A page of history to be rediscovered, “Jusquino de Frantia” was a cantor greatly admired by the Duomo between 1469 and 1472

Over the course of more than six centuries the Musical Chapel of the Duomo di Milano has encountered many great musicians who have known how to listen to the emotions and the expectations of the Milanese people, giving voice to the choral prayer of a community united around its main symbol: the Cathedral. Since 1402, through the purity of the voices of its pueri cantores, the Cathedral has ceaselessly raised a hymn of praise and thanks.

Now, in October, a time in which the Veneranda Fabbrica is promoting “The Month of Music”, we would like to retrace another page in the Musical Chapel's great history, introducing the extraordinary figure of Josquin des Prés.

Josquin des Prés was, in fact, a cantor that was highly respected and admired by the Chapel from July 1469 to December 1472, under the name “Jusquino de Frantia” and with the title of biscantor. He then moved on to the Sforza Chapel, where he remained until 1479, before moving his business to Rome, to the French court of Louis XII, to Ferrara, and finally, beyond the Alps, to Condé sur l’Escaut, where he died in 1521. He composed holy music, including several masses, as well as secular music, especially frottolas, but his main compositions were motets, which, thanks to his work, became a highly respected art form.

In both his motets and his masses, Josquin des Près was the absolute master of polyphonic writing, and its wonderful to think that he had the Duomo to thank for his training and experience with Italian music, something which contributed greatly to his musicianship.

A testament to this brief yet important presence, in the Liber Capelle Franchini Gaffurii in the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo's Archives, Milan's daily log from 1387 and a priceless treasure chest, three of his masses are transcribed: an Ave Regina for 4 voices, a Sancti Spiritus adsit for 4 voices, and an Ave Maria for 4 voices, as well as several hymns to Saint Catherine for 4 voices.