Johannes Ockeghem (c.1410-1497)
Ockeghem was born in St Ghislain, near Mons, in about 1410. The first documented record of his employment was as a chorister in Antwerp in 1443, though he was likely to have been in choirs before that, possibly in Mons, where there were good music schools. He had a number of quite distinguished posts: from about 1451 he served at the French royal court under Charles VII and then under Louis XI, ultimately becoming premier chapelain of the royal chapel. The illustration above, from the Bibliothèque Nationale, depicts Louis’ chapel choir. From 1459 Ockeghem additionally served as treasurer of the abbey church of St. Martin in Tours; and from 1463 he was a canon at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
Not a great deal of his music has survived: not much more than 14 Masses, 5 motets and 29 songs. (Most of his Masses are in the Chigi Codex in the Vatican Library, the source of the manuscript page above.) But it was, and is, highly regarded; he is thought by many to have been the most important composer between Du Fay and Josquin, the latter of whom he was said by near-contemporaries to have taught, and who wrote a déploration on his death. According to a 15th century source he was influenced by English music, most probably Dunstable (c 1390-1453). He was well-known for his bass singing voice, and included more varied and active bass lines in his compositions than was common among the Netherlandish school.
Ockeghem died in 1497, probably in Tours; the church of St Martin where he may have been buried was destroyed in the French Revolution.
Fitch, F. (1997) Johannes Ockeghem, Masses and Models. Paris: H. Champion
Perkins, L. L. (1999) Music in the Age of the Renaissance, New York/London: Norton
Reese, G. (1959) Music in the Renaissance, New York: Norton