Sacred Sunday: “Ave Maria,” Josquin Des Prez


I know, I know, I get it – “Great, another Renaissance polyphony piece, awesome, haven’t heard that in a while.”  Whatever.  Wrap your ears around this beauty and them come complaining.

Beyond the basics details of when and where he lived, not much is known about Des Prez (c1450 – 1521).  He was a Franco-Flemish composer who has about 370 compositions to his name, plus – allegedly – some graffiti on a wall in the Sistine Chapel.  I for one am dying to learn more about the man who wrote this triptych of a motet.  First, the canon of voices at the beginning; second, the unification of voices at 2:28; and third, the heart-breaking simplicity of the end – oh mother of God, remember me – at 4:00.  Three is a significant number in the Christian religion – the trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – and I wonder whether that was the purpose behind splitting the piece into three segments.  Whatever the purpose, thank heavens he wrote it at all.


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