Ludovicus Episcopius

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Born: 1520; Mechelen, Belgium   Died: April 29, 1595; Straubing, Bavaria  
Ludovicus Episcopius (Louis the Bishop) was a later figure in the Franco-Flemish school of composers that dominated the Renaissance and was one of the first to create secular songs in Dutch. Born in Mechelen, he was educated there by Theo Verlest, reputed to have instructed Cipriano de Rore; Episcopius, and Philippe de Monte may have studied with Verlest at the same time. After earning a degree in theology from the University of Leuven in 1541, Read more Episcopius took holy orders and in 1545 assumed the post of choirmaster at the Basilica of St. Servatius in Maastricht. Eight of Episcopius' secular songs appeared in the Maastricht Songbook published by Jacob Baethen in 1554; four more exist in other sources. A motet of Episcopius appears in a volume printed in 1560, and while the few manuscript sources of Episcopius are not reliably datable, it is reasonable to conclude that most of his surviving music dates from the early years of his long stretch at St. Servatius.

Due to some intrigue about which nothing is known, after providing 30 years of service Episcopius was dismissed as choirmaster at St. Servatius and replaced by a certain Jean de Chaynée. This situation did not last long as de Chaynée managed to get himself murdered in October 1577, and Episcopius was reinstated. However, in 1584, Episcopius resigned his post at St. Servatius and left Flanders for good, joining the choir in Munich led by Orlande de Lassus, apparently a friend to Episcopius. In 1591, Episcopius retired to Straubing in Bavaria and died there four years later.

Episcopius' extant corpus of work is disappointingly small -- the 12 Dutch chansons, a single setting of the mass, a Salve Regina, and five motets represent all of the music that is known by him. As no copy of the Maastricht Songbook is complete, some of Episcopius' chansons survive only in versions lacking the top voice in the texture. Nevertheless, Episcopius' bright, bawdy Dutch song settings represent a rare and major contribution to the Dutch Renaissance and give us an idea of what Lassus might've done had he created secular settings in his native tongue, rather than in the Romance languages spoken at court. Read less

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