Pierre De la Rue




There is little information on the youth and education of De la Rue. His father was likely connected to the Burgundian court as a trompetist. His first mention is as an adult tenor at Sint-Goedele in Brussels from 1469 to 1470. He consequently moved to the Sint-Jacobs church in Ghent (until 1472) and the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw church in Nieuwpoort which he left in 1477. 

Possibly, Pierre de La Rue was part of the choir of the Burgundian court from 1477 to 1485. Later he worked in Cologne and in Cambrai. The Illustere Lieve Vrouwe Broederschap, to which the painter Hieronymus Bosch also belonged, remunerated him for musical services during the period of June 1489 to March 1492. Here, he is mentioned for the first time in a document as a tenor for the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Evangelist. On November 17th 1492, he entered the service of the Habsburg-Burgundian court chapel of Maximilian I, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Here he held the role of ‘Cantor Romanorum regis’. Later he also served the emperor’s children, Philip the Handsome and Margaret of Austria and later his grandson, Charles V. After a quarter century of service De la Rue retreated to Kortrijk in 1516, where he later died. 


De la Rue composed 31 masses, 23 motets, Magnificats, arrangements of the Laments and chansons. He generally showed a greater genre diversity than most other composers of his generation, with Josquin Desprez as a possible exception. Some researchers have suggested that he only composed music during the last twenty years of his life when he was in service of the emperor. However, it has proven difficult to accurately date his work. It generally displays the style characteristics commonplace for music around 1500. The style of De la Rue’s pieces also corresponds more to that of Deprez than any other composer at the time, which has led to confusion on the assigning of authorship to pieces of which the authorship was not already established. 

Requiem for Philip the Handsome

On the 25th of September 1506, Habsburg-Burgundian archduke Philip the Handsome died in an unexpected and mysterious way in Burgos. Rumours of poisoning ran rampant. Philip’s wife, Joanna of Castile, wanted to move the corps to Granada, a journey of hundreds of kilometers in which she was followed by a number of singers of the Burgundian court chapel. As Pierre de la Rue was also presen, he presumably wrote his Requiem on the way to comfort Joanna. A year later, July 19th 1507, a formal funeral was held in Mechelen in honour of Philip (while his body still remained in Spain). Likely, the Requiem was sung there. The piece sounds sonorous with prominent colour and ambiltus contrast, and high and very low passages. In 1519 the piece was also performed in remembrance of Philip’s father, emperor Maximilian. This piece, alongside the works of Dufay and Ockeghem figures as one of the earliest polyphonic requiems. 

Choral works (selection)

  • Mijn hert altijt heeft verlanghen, for four voices, listen to it here.
  • Missa pro defunctis (1506), for four voices, listen to it here.
  • O salutaris hostia, vierstemmig, for four voices, listen to it here
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