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Johannes Ockeghem


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Johannes Ockeghem (c. 1410, Saint-Ghislain, Belgium – 6 February 1497, Tours, France) was the leading composer of the second generation of the Franco-Flemish School. Ockeghem is often considered the most important composer between Guillaume Dufay and Josquin Desprez.

Recent research has shown that Ockeghem was born in the town of Saint-Ghislain; many older biographies state that he was either born in the town of his name or in the neighboring town of Dendermonde in East Flanders (now part of modern Belgium), part of the Duchy of Burgundy.

Details of his early life are lacking: even his birth date is unknown, and is usually inferred from a comment by the poet Crétin, at the time of his death, that “it was a great shame that a composer of his talents should die before 100 years old”. Like many composers in this period, he started his musical career as chorister, and the first record of his musical activity comes from the cathedral of Notre Dame in Antwerp, where he was employed in 1443 and 1444.

Between 1446 and 1448 he served Charles, Duke of Bourbon, in Moulins (France). Around 1452 he moved to Paris where he served as maestro di cappella to the French court, as well as becoming treasurer of the St. Martin cathedral in Tours. In addition to serving at the French court — both for Charles VII and Louis XI — he held posts at Notre Dame Cathedral and St. Benoît.

He is known to have traveled to Spain in 1470, as part of an attempt to arrange a marriage between Isabella of Castile and Charles, Duke of Guyenne (the brother of king Louis XI).


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