Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

Milan and elsewhere (1484–9)

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3. Milan and elsewhere (1484–9).

While the Josquin in Milan from 1459 is now known to have been a different man, Josquin des Prez was indeed associated with the Milanese court in the 1480s; he may have entered Sforza service soon after his 1483 visit to Condé. On 19 June 1484 Josquin supplicated for the rectorship of the church of Saint Aubin in the diocese of Bourges, some 12 km south of Issoudun, asking for dispensation to hold the benefice without being ordained a priest (see Matthews, 1998). He is named in the supplication as a chaplain and member of the household of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, who had been elevated to the cardinalate in March 1484 and was residing for the time in Milan. Although the supplication wrongly gives his name as ‘Jacobus Despres’, it is plain from subsequent documents dealing with the same benefice that it is Josquin who was meant. In a document dated 19 August 1484 ‘Joschinus de Prattis’ appointed procurators to take possession of the rectorship of Saint Aubin (see Matthews and Merkley, 1998); these included Hector Charlemagne, a former singer in the chapel of René of Anjou, and François Guiberteau, secretary of the chancery of Paris (an association that lends support to the hypothesis of Josquin’s employment at the Ste Chapelle in the early 1480s).

Josquin must have accompanied Cardinal Ascanio to Rome in August 1484 because a document in the Vatican archives dated July 1485 states that he planned to leave the cardinal’s service and depart to attend to his affairs. He may have travelled to Paris: another Vatican document dated February 1489 indicates that Josquin and others had been involved in litigation before the Parlement of Paris with regard to the benefice in Saint Aubain (see Sherr, forthcoming). By this time – and probably earlier – Josquin had returned to Milan, where in January and February 1489 he witnessed documents resigning the rectorship of Saint Aubin. The last of these refers to him as ‘cantorem duchalem’, indicating that he was nominally in the service of the young Duke Gian Galeazzo Sforza; in fact Gian Galeazzo’s uncle Ludovico il Moro (Ascanio’s elder brother) controlled the government of Milan and must have been Josquin’s actual patron. Franchinus Gaffurius, who had been appointed choirmaster of Milan Cathedral in January 1484, seems to have been acquainted with Josquin during this period: in his Angelicum ac divinum opus musice (1508), he referred to discussions with Josquin and Gaspar van Weerbeke ‘many years previously’.

It must also have been during these years that Serafino dall’Aquila, who was in the service of Ascanio Sforza between 1484 and 1491, wrote his sonnet ‘Ad Jusquino suo compagno musico d’Ascanio’ (To Josquin, his fellow musician of Ascanio): in it he urged the composer not to be discouraged if his ‘genius so sublime’ seemed poorly remunerated. Zarlino positively identified ‘Jusquino’ with Josquin des Prez when he reprinted the sonnet in his Sopplimenti musicali of 1588. While it seems more probable that Josquin spent the early 1480s in French royal service, as described above, it has also been proposed that he may have joined Ascanio’s household as early as 1480. According to this hypothesis, he would have spent the years from 1480 to 1482 with Ascanio, who was banished from Milan for plotting against his brother Ludovico, fleeing first to Ferrara and then to Naples (see Lowinsky, 1971). If Josquin was indeed with Ascanio in Ferrara, this might account for the composition of the Missa ‘Hercules dux Ferrariae’ in honour of Duke Ercole d’Este, a mass that has been judged too early in style for Josquin’s period of formal service to Ercole in 1503–4 (see LockwoodMRF; Elders, 1998). Other evidence points to a renewed or continued association between Josquin and Ascanio Sforza in the late 1490s (see below).

A further speculation places Josquin in Hungary in the mid-1480s. In a late account from 1539, the papal nuncio in Vienna described the court of King Matthias Corvinus: ‘it had excellent painters and musicians, among them even Josquin himself’ (Király, 1992). Italian singers and instrumentalists had been imported to the brilliant court in Budapest in the 1480s, and a papal envoy reported in 1483 that its chapel was as accomplished as any he knew. No primary documents, however, attest to Josquin’s membership in the Hungarian chapel, and the nuncio may merely have been retailing an unsubstantiated rumour.

Although it is no longer necessary or appropriate to account for Josquin’s works of the 1470s in terms of Milanese styles and practices, these do seem to be reflected in some works, which should therefore be dated in the 1480s. The motet-cycle Vultum tuum deprecabuntur, in particular, seems to be a set of motetti missales (see Osthoff, 1962–5; Macey, 1996) – motets that substitute for individual sections of the Mass. This genre was especially cultivated at the court of Galeazzo Maria Sforza in the 1470s by Weerbeke and Compère, but it evidently continued in the 1480s; Gaffurius composed one such cycle and a number of hybrid masses, and his choirbooks preserve Weerbeke’s and Compère’s cycles along with several motets from Josquin’s Vultum tuum.

Josquin des Prez

4. The papal chapel (1489–c1495).

Josquin joined the papal chapel in June 1489, not long after his last appearance in Milanese documents. He may have gone to Rome as part of an exchange of singers between Ludovico Sforza and Pope Innocent VIII involving Gaspar van Weerbeke, who had served the Sforza court from 1472 until 1480 and then moved to the papal chapel in 1481, remaining there until mid-April 1489, when he returned to Milan. Josquin served as a papal singer at least until early 1495 (see Noble, 1971), at first under Innocent VIII, from 1492 under the Borgia Pope Alexander VI. It was believed until recently that he had joined the papal chapel a few years earlier in September 1486, and then was curiously absent from February 1487 until June 1489 (with a one-month appearance in September 1487), but the ‘Jo. de Pratis’ named in the paylists in 1486 and 1487 has now been securely identified as Johannes Stokem (see Starr, 1997). How long Josquin remained in the chapel is unknown, since the accounts from 1495 to 1500 are lost; when they resume, Josquin is no longer listed. Recent restorations to the cantoria of the Cappella Sistina have revealed his name, ‘Josquinj’, carved into the wall (see Pietschmann, 1999), though it is hard to be sure whether he did this himself.

Like his colleagues, Josquin took advantage of his tenure at the papal chapel to pursue benefices. He laid claim to a canonry at Notre Dame, Saint Omer, and a parish in the gift of the Benedictine monastery at Saint Ghislain (1489), to the parish church of Basse-Yttre and two parishes near Frasnes in Hainaut (1493), as well as to a canonry at St Géry, Cambrai (1494) (see Noble, 1971; Sherr, 1994). Although there is no evidence that Josquin ever obtained possession of these benefices, they do reveal a pattern of intent, since all fell within Burgundian–Imperial territory and all were within his home diocese of Cambrai except for Saint Omer, in the diocese of Thérouanne. Josquin’s applications for benefices in Burgundian lands can be explained by the fact that although he was apparently born in French territory, perhaps Picardy, this region had been under Burgundian control almost continuously from 1435 to 1477. Josquin, as a cleric of the diocese of Cambrai, apparently demonstrated his allegiance by seeking benefices in Burgundian rather than French lands; in this context his previously mentioned negotiations over a benefice in the French diocese of Bourges in the late 1480s may be viewed as an anomaly.

For the papal chapel Josquin composed the tract for Ash Wednesday, Domine, non secundum, also set in polyphony by other papal composers including Marbriano de Orto and Bertrand Vaqueras (see Sherr, 1988); all three settings are found in the earliest choirbook copied in the papal chapel (I-Rvat C.S.35). He also composed stanzas from the hymns Ave maris stella and Nardi Maria pistici as part of the papal chapel’s enlargement of Du Fay’s hymn cycle. Josquin’s five-voice tenor motet Illibata Dei virgo nutrix may also date from the same period, since it is found in another late 15th-century Vatican choirbook (Rvat C.S.15), and other composers in Rome, notably Weerbeke, cultivated the tenor motet around this time (see Sherr, 1988).

Josquin des Prez

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