Personalities | Johannes Ockeghem | Medieval Era | Classical

(Yo-an’-nes O’-ka-gem) c. 1425–97
Franco-Flemish composer

Born in St Ghislain near Mons (now in Belgium), Ockeghem is first recorded as a singer at the Church of Our Lady, Antwerp, in 1443. He joined the French royal chapel in 1451, becoming chapel-master by 1454. In 1459 King Charles VII appointed him treasurer of the abbey of St Martin of Tours. This prestigious royal post suggests a certain influence, and a document of 1471 refers to him as ‘counsellor of the king’, giving an indication of his importance. He retained all his titles until his death on 6 February 1497.

Ockeghem’s securely attributed output is small in relation to his reputation: scarcely more than a dozen Masses, barely 20 songs, only a handful of motets. Yet he was undisputedly the leading composer of his generation. His style is as memorable as it is difficult to describe. He frequently disguised the music’s usual points of articulation, thus creating a seamless impression. His songs show him to be a sublime melodist; his Masses reveal a formal imagination of visionary power but he is best known for feats of technical skill, such as the Missa prolationum (‘Prolation Mass’).

Recommended Recording:
Missa Mi-Mi, Salve Regina, Alma redemptoris mater, Clerks’ Group (dir) Edward Wickham (ASV Gaudeamus)

Introduction | Medieval Era | Classical
Personalities | Oswald von Wolkenstein | Medieval Era | Classical


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