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Josquin des Prez – Why We Care

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From conductor and instigator, Harold Rosenbaum

HaroldRosenbaum webWhat Josquin Des Prez’s music means to me:

When I entered Queens College as a freshman in 1967, I knew virtually no classical music. In graduate school I studied conducting with Paul Maynard, who had for many years been the keyboard artist with The New York Pro Musica, a vocal and instrumental ensemble that specialized in medieval and Renaissance music. I also sang in college and beyond with Paul’s Vocal Ensemble, where I learned the music of many Renaissance composers, especially that of Josquin des Prez. Upon completion of my M.A. degree, I had a love of hundreds of composers, but was most deeply drawn and attached to Josquin and Bach.

I formed my Canticum Novum Singers then, with the intent of performing only Renaissance music for a few years. My veneration of Josquin would now be linked with my aspiration to interpret his music as I heard it and wished it to be heard by others, and I was in heaven. Over the decades, I had the opportunity to conduct dozens of his works with multiple ensembles.

It is difficult to put into words what hearing and conducting his music does to me, and for me. As with Bach, I am immediately transported into a realm beyond human comprehension, where technical brilliance is perceived, perfection is witnessed and profound spirituality encases it all. Their music is unlike any other for me. Yes, the music of Palestrina, Senfl, Dowland, Monteverdi, Purcell, etc. grips, stuns, and transports me. However, Josquin and Bach immediately paralyze me; I am frozen in a world of saintly beauty from which I yearn not to be released.

Josquin des Prez is the greatest composer before Bach.


More information and inspiration about Josquin

Read Zachary Woolfe's article in The New York Times about Josquin: The Renaissance’s Most Influential Composer, 500 Years Later

GEMS is a non-profit corporation that supports and promotes the artists and organizations in New York devoted to early music— the music of the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and early Classical periods.