Born: ca. 1455 in The Netherlands
Dead: ca. 1510
While many composers of the mid-renaissance are perceived as merely lurking in the towering shadow of Josquin des Prez, South Netherlands composer Johannes Ghiselin was a figure who may have had such status in life. Ghiselin's real name was Verbonnet; Guillaume Cretin identified Ghiselin as a student of Ockeghem, and the suggestion that Ghiselin was active in the court of Charles the Bold in the 1470s remains unsubstantiated. The first direct documentation of Ghiselin comes from 1491 when Isabella d'Este of the royal court of Ferrara sends Ghiselin to France to engage singers. In 1492-1493, Ghiselin was active in Florence, and in 1494 he composed a piece in honor of Margaret of Austria's departure from Paris, Le cueur la syuit; it appears Ghiselin was connected with the French royal court through at least 1501. That year, Ghiselin sent manuscript copies of music of Josquin to the court in Ferrara, and several of his own works through an intermediary; in 1503, Ercole d'Este called for them both. That year, Venetian printer Ottaviano Petrucci published a volume of masses of Ghiselin, the second music publication devoted to a single composer (the first was of Josquin's music) and only the fourth Petrucci print.
In 1505, Ghiselin and Josquin both fled Ferrara owing to an outbreak of plague; Jacob Obrecht, who had joined them at Ercole's court, did not get out in time and died there. Ghiselin ultimately sought refuge in the Dutch city of Bergen op Zoom, where his presence is recorded in 1507; afterward, there is no mention of his name in surviving registries, suggesting that Ghiselin died sometime before 1511.
Most of Ghiselin's extant music - six masses and two mass fragments, 13 motets, 20 secular chansons, and a pair of purely instrumental pieces - are known from the Petrucci prints. Ghiselin's whole output was edited by Clytus Gottwald for Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae between 1961 and 1968. As most of the secular chansons are missing their texts, it makes them difficult to date; however, most of Ghiselin's extant music appears to have been written in the last two decades of the fifteenth century with a few works belonging to the first decade of the sixteenth; Ghiselin's four-voice setting of the popular tune La Spagna is the earliest polyphonic version of that piece. According to Andreas Ornithoparchus, Johannes Ghiselin was among the most famous composers of his day, though remaining so in light of Josquin's titanic reputation has proven difficult for figures far more productive and aesthetically considerable than he.
-Uncle Dave Lewis (All Music Guide)