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Hobrecht and His Singers

by Robert Nosow

Collection « Épitome Musical », Brepols Publishers

Publication Year : March 2022

Hobrecht and His Singers frames the life of the illustrious composer Jacob Hobrecht (Obrecht) within a single institution, the Church of St. Donatian in Bruges. As a collective biography of the musicians at an important collegiate church in the late fifteenth century, the book will be of interest to readers of ecclesiastical, social, and urban history. Hobrecht twice served as succentor, or master of the choirboys, and twice was forced to leave the city—the first time in the wake of a devastating civil war, the second time in disgrace. The monograph focuses on the social and economic realities for the succentors and polyphonic singers, the Companions of Music, who worked closely together on a daily basis, during the years 1485–1505. Thick description provides a more comprehensive context for the lives of Jacob Hobrecht and seven musicians whose biographies are recounted here for the first time. Conflicts between the singers and the collegiate church to which they were pledged, driven in part by their emerging professional status circa 1500, helped lead to different career trajectories, in one case ending in tragedy. Numerous new documents add uncommon detail, both quotidian and dramatic, to the career of Hobrecht, necessitating original interpretations. Seven representative compositions written during his two periods in Bruges—both Masses and motets—demonstrate the kinds of work he undertook as succentor and the occasions for which he composed them, poised at the intersection of church and urban culture.


Robert Nosow has written widely on fifteenth-century Latin polyphony, the interrelationships of written and oral traditions, and the social history of early music, including “The Debate on Song in the Accademia Fiorentina” in Early Music History and “Song and the Art of Dying“ in Musical Quarterly. A monograph, Ritual Meanings in the Fifteenth-Century Motet, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012.

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