Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

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(ii) Complete masses.

A consideration of the sources again gives very little help to an attempt to trace the development of Josquin’s complete mass settings in a roughly chronological order, and for the same reasons that have been stated in connection with the motets. The two complementary manuscript choirbooks now in Vienna (A-Wn Vind.11778 and 4809) may well, as Fallows (1999) suggests, contain all the masses that their scribe Pierre Alamire considered to be by Josquin, but their internal arrangement does not suggest any chronological ordering. Of the three Petrucci volumes which together contain all but one of Josquin’s surviving masses, the first (1502) is the most homogeneous in style; the five works in it could all have been composed within the preceding 15 years (roughly speaking, Josquin’s Roman period). The Liber secundus (1505) combines evidently recent works such as Ave maris stella and perhaps Hercules Dux Ferrarie with others (L’ami Baudichon and Une musque de Biscaye) which are clearly earlier than anything in the former volume. And when, after his removal to Fossombrone, Petrucci assembled yet a third collection of Josquin’s masses, he was once again forced to include works from widely different periods: the Missa de Beata Virgine is, on both internal and external evidence (Glarean, again), a late work, but the Missa di dadi, if it is authentic, could only be an early one, and the remainder fall stylistically at various points in between (or, in the case of the Missa ‘Mater Patris’, to one side).

A categorization by genre is no more helpful. As has been noted, Josquin came on the scene at a time when the field for stylistic experiment was wide open. The strict cantus-firmus mass, drawing its musical unity primarily from a tenor part borrowed either from the Gregorian repertory or from that of secular song, was already beginning to show its limitations, while of the two techniques that were to become standardized in the 16th century – paraphrase of a plainsong melody, and so-called ‘parody’ (the transformation of a pre-existing polyphonic composition) – neither had yet become customary, let alone a matter of routine. Elements of all three types are mingled in many of Josquin’s masses, and in various proportions. Sometimes Josquin restricted his borrowed material strictly to the tenor, in the old-fashioned manner (L’ami Baudichon, L’homme armé super voces musicales, Hercules Dux Ferrarie), sometimes the ostinato principle inherent in that technique was allowed to permeate the texture (Faisant regretz, Gaudeamus, La sol fa re mi); in other works he seems to be moving towards ‘parody’ of a complete composition (Fortuna desperata, Malheur me bat), while in two (Ad fugam, Sine nomine) and in the last three sections of De Beata Virgine he elevated strict canon to the governing principle for an entire work. (In De Beata Virgine, too, the technique of paraphrasing the appropriate plainsong, with which Josquin often played more or less consistently in his settings of the Credo, is employed throughout a mass.) But none of these groups can be assigned at all convincingly to a single period of Josquin’s career. In general his instinct, at least in his mature works, seems to be to extract as much variety as possible from his given musical material, sacred or secular, by any appropriate means.

The relative poverty or wealth of resources that Josquin brought to his musical datum (of whatever kind) is therefore one of the criteria that have to be used in assessing the dates of his masses. Others are the extent to which that datum permeates the whole texture (a factor related to, but not identical with, the extent of imitative writing); the closeness or otherwise of the relationship between text and music, on both declamatory and expressive levels; the extent of agreement with the formal divisions that had become customary by the time of Josquin’s death (separate sections for the ‘Qui tollis’ in the Gloria, the ‘Et incarnatus’, or ‘Crucifixus’, and ‘Et in Spiritum Sanctum’ in the Credo); and the extent to which he sought or achieved a satisfactory musical climax in the final section or sections of the Agnus Dei – though it should be borne in mind that these were particularly vulnerable to liturgically motivated pruning, to judge by the surviving sources.

(a) The early masses.

(b) The mature masses.

(c) The last masses.

Josquin des Prez, §12(ii): Masses: Complete masses

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