Session 12 (Themed Papers): Josquin’s late style

Tuesday, 6 July 2021, 9.00-10.30, Room 219 | Chair: Jesse Rodin (Stanford University) Respondent: Joshua Rifkin (Boston University)

Session Abstract

“Spätwerk”—the German word has ponderous connotations. Theodor W. Adorno and many others have written about the last works by Dead White (German) Males like Beethoven, Bach or Brahms in almost mystical terms; Edward Said devoted an entire book to the concept of “late style” in music and literature. So, by asking if there is a distinctive late style in Josquin’s works, do we contribute to the “apotheosis of Josquin des Prez” and apply questionable mythologies of musical genius?

Perhaps. And yet, strictly from a sober style-analytical point of view, the question makes sense. Several scholars have already reflected on what distinguishes late Josquin from the ostentatiously ingenious middle Josquin and the highly disputed, heterogeneous figure of early Josquin. Criticism of discourses and ideologies is a healthy approach, but discussing Josquin’s music still seems the only reasonable way to evaluate his canonized status from a musicological point of view.

Our panel will try to outline some criteria for further discussing “late Josquin”, that is, works that date arguably from after 1500 and especially from the Condé years— an endeavour perhaps especially appropriate at the quincentenary of his death.

Is there a late style in Josquin? Some (all too) preliminary reflections | Wolfgang Fuhrmann (Leipzig University)

Three aspects that may possibly help to put Josquin’s late style will be discussed: 1. Self-restraint: The “ostentation of the talented” that Glarean criticized seems to have been abandoned by Josquin as he was approaching old age. No more pyrotechnics, instead an ever-more deepening fascination with the endless possibilities of contrapuntal construction. 2. Hidden symmetry: a tendency to confirm and criticize the highly symmetrical procedures of some of his earlier works—often coupled with deliberate ambiguity. 3. New canonic strategies: Many of the “late” works are constructed around a two-voice canon. But this is no longer the traditional scaffolding structure; it is refined, restricted and at times almost hidden in an imitative structure that is more clearly focussed on text presentation and text expression than in earlier canonic works.

Josquin’s six-voice music, with an attempt to rehabilitate his six-voice Basiez moy | David Fallows (University of Manchester)

While five-voice music was relatively common throughout the fifteenth century, six-voice music is far rarer. Outside the English music of the Eton Choirbook, and the extraordinary eight-voice Ave mundi spes Maria/Gottes namen faren wir in Trent 89 (and Munich 3154), the only surviving six-voice music definitely from the fifteenth century is the version of Bedyngham’s O Rosa bella with three distinctly clumsy additional voices, also in Trent 89. In any case, nobody has suggested a date earlier than 1500 for any of Josquin’s six-voice motets or songs. Earlier dates have recently been argued for the six-voice Agnus III sections of his masses L’homme armé sexti toni and Hercules dux Ferrarie: these proposals I shall qualify. But my main aim is to show that the six-voice triple canon on Basiez moy, given in Petrucci’s Canti B but ascribed first in Susato’s 1545 collection, stands a very good chance of being by Josquin and—when viewed in the light of more recent views on tonal systems in the fifteenth century—is far better than any current scholarship has believed. Not just far better but marvellous music with a relatively strong documentary case for its being by Josquin.

Josquin and the culture of prayer and devotion: observations on his later motets | Michael Meyer (Trossingen Conservatory)

It is clear that Josquin’s compositional output is linked to the history of prayer and devotion. Also, it has been shown by Bonnie Blackburn and others that this is a topic difficult to deal with because of the prevalent lack of direct evidence. However, Patrick Macey convincingly argued that Josquin’s legendary Miserere mei, Deus could have been inspired by a psalm meditation written by Girolamo Savonarola. This contribution tries to expand Macey’s approach regarding the possible significance of the history of devotion regarding Josquin’s later and late motets. It is inspired by the fact that one can observe ostentatious repetition structures in many others of Josquin’s later motets and that repetition was an increasingly important habitus in the culture of prayer around 1500. After providing a brief survey of Josquin’s later motets using conspicuously audible ostinato tenors and often inconspicuous canons, works such as Illibata Dei virgo and Pater noster are compared with sources explaining devotional practices that can be regarded as contextually relevant.