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The mingling of sacred and secular music was a common feature of the period, as two of the motets on tonight’s program demonstrate.The second part of Tu solus qui facis mirabilia opens with a musical and poetic quotation of Ockeghem’s song, D’ung aultre amer, one of the most widely disseminated songs of the late fourteenth century.Josquin, as he’s normally known, is the first composer to throw off the humble role of craftsman and take on an aura of “genius’”.“Other composers do what they can with the notes; Josquin does what he wants,” said Martin Luther, repeating the common view.
Secular music could contain sacred meaning, as in Petite camusette : the lovers Robin and Marion were traditionally connected to Mary and Jesus, described as lovers in the Song of Songs.
Josquin was so revered that dozens of dubious pieces were attributed to him, to give them extra lustre.
The motet Absalon Fili Mi, sung here by the Oxford Camerata, is one of them (it may actually be by Pierre de la Rue, but that doesn’t stop it being masterpiece).
But with the Flemish composer Josquin Desprez, we’re forced to sit up and take notice.
Josquin was born around 1450 in Northern France, landed various plum jobs in Italy, and spent his last decades in an abbey in what is now Belgium.