Renaissance: Ockeghem Missa prolationum

Essence of the Renaissance is a Spotify playlist with renaissance music.

Johannes Ockeghem was one of the greatest composers in the Renaissance era. He wrote both Masses, Motets and Chansons. During his lifetime he was known not only as a composer but as a singer choirmaster and teacher. He had a strong influence on other composers like Josquin des Prez, who honored Ockeghem after his death with the motet La déploration de la mort de Johannes Ockeghem.

Kyrie from Ockeghem’s Missa Ecce ancilla Domini in Chigi Codex.

Ockeghem was one of the true masters of counterpoint. Counterpoint is the relation between musical voices. The goal is that each voice is an independent melody and that the voices together form a harmonic polyphony. Counterpoint is one the of the craftsmanship that composers have to master, even today. The development of counterpoint was peeking during the Renaissance and Baroque era with Palestrina and Bach as the most famous masters. But two of Ockeghem’s pieces, Missa prolationum and Missa cuiusvis toni, is considered two of the greatest examples of counterpoint.

The Missa cuiusvis toni is written in such a way that it can be sung in any of four of the different types of modes that music was written in during the renaissance era.

Missa prolationum is special in that it is written entirely with mensuration canons. A ordinary canon consist of one melody and several imitations of that melody delayed in time. One famous example is Frère Jacques. A mensuration canon is a canon where the imitations have different speeds then the main melody. It is very difficult to compose and is therefor quite rare. Because of that Missa prolationum is considered one of the greatest contrapuntal achievements. It is also a very beautiful piece of music.

Enjoy! (click here to open the playlist in spotify).