Johannes Ockeghem

illuminated opening from the Chigi codex featuring the Kyrie of the Missa Ecce ancilla Domini by Johannes Ockeghem


“He [Ockeghem] alone of all singers is free from all vice and abounds in all virtues.”—Francesco Flori

The Franco-Flemish composer Johannes Ockeghem succeeded Guillaume Dufay as the most celebrated composer of his period, and was praised for the “extraordinary sweetness and beauty” of his music.

Relatively few of Ockeghem’s compositions have survived, among them fourteen masses that were the most important of their time. The earliest of these masses were composed on the accepted pattern of the cantus firmus (an existing melody used as the basis for the polyphonic composition). Ockeghem later experimented with the pattern, freeing the cantus firmus from its usual tenor part; and he became the fist known composer to use melodies from his own songs as the cantus firmus in a number of his masses. Several of Ockeghem’s masses do not even rely on a cantus firmus, but are freely constructed from rhythmic and melodic fragments.