Stamp of the Month: February 2022

Belgium 21.1.2006
The stamp depicts a posthumous miniature from 1523 showing Johannes Ockeghem as “premier chappellain” with his singers.
Johannes Ockeghem
The singer and composer Johannes Ockeghem was born between 1420 and 1425 in Saint-Ghislain in Belgium. He died in Tours on February 6, 1497. February 2022 marks the 525th anniversary of his death.
Ockeghem probably received his musical training at the Saint-Germain collegiate church in Mons. He is personally documented for the first time in 1443 as the first of seven chapel singers at the court of Duke Charles I of Bourbon. From 1451 he was a singer in the court orchestra of the French king Charles VII. Numerous documents show that he held this position for more than 40 years, even during the reigns of the two following kings Louis XI. and Charles VIII of France. In parallel with his duties at court, Ockeghem was appointed by the king in 1459 as treasurer of the church of
Saint-Martin in Tours, which was then one of the most influential and best-paid offices in France. As an acclaimed composer, Ockeghem also made use of his travel opportunities. Several stays in different places in France as well as trips to Milan and Spain are documented.
Johannes Ockeghem is considered one of the most important composers of the early Renaissance. He was the first composer to devote special attention to the cyclic chants of the mass. His Requiem is the first complete setting of the requiem mass and he was probably the first giving the bass part in vocal music the importance it retained for the next 400 years. His compositions – numerous masses, motets and other sacred and secular works – show a remarkable stylistic range. Particularly noteworthy is his contrapuntal ability, which astonished connoisseurs such as Erasmus of Rotterdam even during his lifetime. For example, among the works by Ockeghem that have been proven to be lost is a 36-part motet (hardly any work by other 15th-century composers has more than 15 parts). In his works, Johannes Ockeghem developed the polyphonic style of Franco-Flemish music into the classical vocal polyphony that has shaped European music for more than a century.

The video shows a performance of Johannes Ockeghem’s “Ave Maria” at the Chelsea Music Festival at St. Paul’s German Lutheran Church, New York City, on June 8, 2019. The “Ghostlight Chorus” is a New York chamber choir founded in 2010 by conductor Evelyn Troester DeGraf.