Gilles Binchois

The Son of Jean and Johanna de Binche Binchois was born in 1400 in Mons, Belgium. Nothing is known about Binchois until 1419, when he became organist at the church of Ste. Waudru in Mons. In 1423 he went to live in Lille. Around this time he may have been a soldier in the service of either the Burgundians or the English Earl of Suffolk, as indicated by a line in the funeral motet composed in his memory by Ockeghem.

His music appeared in copies decades after his death, and were often used as sources for Mass composition by later composers. Most of his music, even his sacred music, is simple and clear in outline, sometimes even ascetic; a greater contrast between Binchois and the extreme complexity of the ars subtilior of the prior (fourteenth) century. Most of his secular songs are rondeaux, which became the most common song form during that century. He rarely wrote in strophic form, and his melodies are generally independent of the rhyme scheme of the verses they are set to. Binchois wrote music for the court, secular songs of love and chivalry that met the expectations and satisfied the taste of the Dukes of Burgundy who employed him, and evidently loved his music accordingly.

Josquin des prez

Josquin is often considered to be the central figure of the Franco-Flemish School. He is widely considered by music scholars to be the first master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music that was emerging during his lifetime. He was so admired that more than 370 compositions were attributed to him by copyists, probably to increase their sales. It was only after the advent of modern analytical scholarship that some of these mistaken attributions have been challenged, on the basis of stylistic features and manuscript evidence. Yet in spite of Josquin’s colossal reputation, which endured until the beginning of the Baroque era and was revived in the 20th century, his biography is shadowy, and next to nothing is known about his personality.

Josquin wrote both sacred and secular music, and in all of the significant vocal forms of the age, including masses, motets, chansons and frottole. During the 16th century, he was praised for both his supreme melodic gift and his use of ingenious technical devices.

In modern times, scholars have attempted to ascertain the basic details of his biography, and have tried to define the key characteristics of his style to correct misattributions, a task that has proved difficult, as Josquin liked to solve compositional problems in different ways in successive compositions. The late motet “De profundis clamavi” shows him at his most serene.