Josquin: Missa Pange lingua

Josquin: Missa Pange lingua

Westminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)


Few great composers of the past are more elusive than Josquin Des Prez. No sooner had the facts of his life and achievement been established by pioneer musicologists such as Helmuth Osthoff and Edward Lowinsky than those same facts somehow began to melt, to trickle away through our fingers. There was a time, not many years ago, when at least the outline of Josquin’s biography was felt to be secure. Now much of that biography seems far less certain, and there is a nagging suspicion that the documents which might have told us more in fact no longer exist. For how many years did Josquin live and work in France? What truth is there in the reported sighting of him at the court of Hungary? During his last fifteen years, for whom was Josquin composing? Had we been dealing with a lesser talent, those questions might have been allowed to pass. But Josquin bears the reputation of being a towering genius of his age, music’s equivalent to Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo. How dearly one would have liked to know more about the man, beyond what the sound of his music can tell us.

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