The 500th Anniversary of Pierre de la Rue's Death

Another musician celebrating a major anniversary in 2018 is Pierre de la Rue (ca. 1452, Tournai - 1518, Courtrai), who died 500 years ago today.

Pierre de la Rue was a Franco-Flemish composer and singer, a leading composer at the Burgundian court, and undoubtedly one of the last great figures in medieval music aesthetics. By 1492 he was a member of the Habsburg-Burgundian court music chapel and served first Maximilian and later Marguerite of Austria. He visited Spain twice with Philip the Fair and lived in England for several months in 1506. In 1516 he decided to end his active career in the court chapel and retired to Kortrijk. He died on 20 November 1518 in Kortrijk and was probably one of the most affluent composers of his time; at least his will indicates that he was a wealthy man.

The works of Pierre de la Rue that have survived are an unmistakable sign of his fame. Most of his works, especially his masses, are preserved in elaborate manuscripts that were written and kept at the Habsburg-Burgundian court in Mechelen, or went to other courts and prominent people as diplomatic gifts but also to churches, well-off music lovers, and book collectors. Pierre de la Rue is by far the most widely represented composer in this unique group of sources.

Pierre de la Rue's body of works mainly includes masses. He was also one of the first composers to write a complete Magnificat cycle. He is also credited with one of the earliest settings of a requiem. Many of his works are documented in the RISM catalog.

Image: Pierre de la Rue, “Et in terra” from Missa Nuncqua fue pena maior, Venezia: Ottaviano Petrucci, 1503; copy in Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (A-Wn) SA.77.C.11, RISM ID no. 990036505. Available online.


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