Guillaume Dufay

Guillaume Dufay

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Guillaume Dufay'
Start a new discussion about 'Guillaume Dufay'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Guillaume Dufay (August 5, 1397? – November 27, 1474) was a Franco-Flemish
Franco-Flemish School
In music, the Franco-Flemish School or more precisely the Netherlandish School refers, somewhat imprecisely, to the style of polyphonic vocal music composition in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, and to the composers who wrote it...

 composer of the early Renaissance
Renaissance music
Renaissance music is European music written during the Renaissance. Defining the beginning of the musical era is difficult, given that its defining characteristics were adopted only gradually; musicologists have placed its beginnings from as early as 1300 to as late as the 1470s.Literally meaning...

. As the central figure in the Burgundian School
Burgundian School
The Burgundian School is a term used to denote a group of composers active in the 15th century in what is now northern and eastern France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, centered on the court of the Dukes of Burgundy. The main names associated with this school are Guillaume Dufay, Gilles Binchois,...

, he was the most famous and influential composer in Europe in the mid-15th century.

Early life


From the evidence of his will, he was probably born in Beersel
Beersel
Beersel is a municipality located in the Belgian province of Flemish Brabant. The municipality comprises the towns of Alsemberg, Beersel proper, Dworp, Huizingen and Lot. On January 1, 2006 Beersel had a total population of 23,433. The total area is 30.01 km² which gives a population density of 781...

, in the vicinity of Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

. Circumstantial evidence claims him to have been born the illegitimate child of an unknown priest and a woman named Marie Du Fayt, though this suggestion is as of yet unproven. Marie moved with her son to Cambrai
Cambrai
Cambrai is a commune in the Nord department in northern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.Cambrai is the seat of an archdiocese whose jurisdiction was immense during the Middle Ages. The territory of the Bishopric of Cambrai, roughly coinciding with the shire of Brabant, included...

 early in his life, staying with a relative who was a canon of the cathedral there. Soon Dufay's musical gifts were noticed by the cathedral authorities, who evidently gave him a thorough training in music; he studied with Rogier de Hesdin during the summer of 1409, and he was listed as a choirboy in the cathedral from 1409 to 1412. During those years he studied with Nicolas Malin, and the authorities must have been impressed with the boy's gifts because they gave him his own copy of Villedieu’s Doctrinale in 1411, a highly unusual event for one so young. In June 1414, at the age of only 16, he had already been given a benefice
Benefice
A benefice is a reward received in exchange for services rendered and as a retainer for future services. The term is now almost obsolete.-Church of England:...

 as chaplain at St. Géry, immediately adjacent to Cambrai. Later that year he probably went to the Council of Konstanz
Council of Constance
The Council of Constance is the 15th ecumenical council recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, held from 1414 to 1418. The council ended the Three-Popes Controversy, by deposing or accepting the resignation of the remaining Papal claimants and electing Pope Martin V.The Council also condemned and...

, staying possibly until 1418, at which time he returned to Cambrai.

From Cambrai to Italy and Savoy


From November 1418 to 1420 he was a subdeacon at Cambrai Cathedral. In 1420 he left Cambrai again, this time going to Rimini
Rimini
Rimini is a medium-sized city of 142,579 inhabitants in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and capital city of the Province of Rimini. It is located on the Adriatic Sea, on the coast between the rivers Marecchia and Ausa...

, and possibly Pesaro
Pesaro
Pesaro is a town and comune in the Italian region of the Marche, capital of the Pesaro e Urbino province, on the Adriatic. According to the 2007 census, its population was 92,206....

, where he worked for the Malatesta
House of Malatesta
The House of Malatesta was an Italian family that ruled over Rimini from 1295 until 1500, as well as other lands and towns in Romagna.Malatesta da Verucchio The House of Malatesta was an Italian family that ruled over Rimini from 1295 until 1500, as well as (in different periods) other lands and...

 family. Although no records survive of his employment there, several compositions of his can be dated to this period; they contain references that make a residence in Italy reasonably certain. It was there that he met the composers Hugo
Hugo de Lantins
Hugo de Lantins was a Franco-Flemish composer of the late Medieval era and early Renaissance. He was active in Italy, especially Venice, and wrote both sacred and secular music; he may have been a relative of Arnold de Lantins, another composer active at the same time in the same area.Little is...

 and Arnold de Lantins
Arnold de Lantins
Arnold de Lantins was a Franco–Flemish composer of the late medieval and early Renaissance eras. He is one of a few composers who shows aspects of both medieval and Renaissance style, and was a contemporary of Dufay during Dufay's sojourn in Italy.Very little is known about his life, except...

, who were among the musicians of the Malatesta household. In 1424 Dufay again returned to Cambrai, this time because of the illness and subsequent death of the relative with whom his mother was staying. By 1426, however, he had gone back to Italy, this time to Bologna
Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

, where he entered the service of Cardinal Louis Aleman
Louis Aleman
Louis Aleman was a French cardinal.He was born of a noble family at the castle of Arbent near Bugey. A relative was the Papal Chamberlain. He was successively bishop of Maguelonne , archbishop of Arles and Cardinal Priest of S...

, the papal legate. While in Bologna he became a deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

, and by 1428 he was a priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

.
Cardinal Aleman was driven from Bologna by the rival Canedoli family in 1428, and Dufay also left at this time, going to Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. He became a member of the Papal Choir, serving first Pope Martin V
Pope Martin V
Pope Martin V , born Odo Colonna, was Pope from 1417 to 1431. His election effectively ended the Western Schism .-Biography:...

, and then after the death of Pope Martin in 1431, Pope Eugene IV
Pope Eugene IV
Pope Eugene IV , born Gabriele Condulmer, was pope from March 3, 1431, to his death.-Biography:He was born in Venice to a rich merchant family, a Correr on his mother's side. Condulmer entered the Order of Saint Augustine at the monastery of St. George in his native city...

. In 1434 he was appointed maistre de chappelle in Savoy
Savoy
Savoy is a region of France. It comprises roughly the territory of the Western Alps situated between Lake Geneva in the north and Monaco and the Mediterranean coast in the south....

, where he served Duke Amédée VIII
Antipope Felix V
-External links:*...

; evidently he left Rome because of a crisis in the finances of the papal choir, and to escape the turbulence and uncertainty during the struggle between the papacy and the Council of Basel
Council of Florence
The Council of Florence was an Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It began in 1431 in Basel, Switzerland, and became known as the Council of Ferrara after its transfer to Ferrara was decreed by Pope Eugene IV, to convene in 1438...

. Yet in 1435 he was again in the service of the papal chapel, but this time it was in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 — Pope Eugene having been driven from Rome in 1434 by the establishment of an insurrectionary republic there, sympathetic to the Council of Basel and the Conciliar movement
Conciliarism
Conciliarism, or the conciliar movement, was a reform movement in the 14th, 15th and 16th century Roman Catholic Church which held that final authority in spiritual matters resided with the Roman Church as a corporation of Christians, embodied by a general church council, not with the pope...

. In 1436 Dufay composed the festive motet Nuper rosarum flores
Nuper rosarum flores
Nuper Rosarum Flores or Recently Flowers of Roses/The Rose Blossoms Recently, is an isorhythmic motet composed by Guillaume Dufay for the 25 March 1436 consecration of the Florence cathedral, on the occasion of the completion of the dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi—although technically, the...

, one of his most famous compositions, which was sung at the consecration of the cathedral in Florence, while Eugene lived in exile in the city at the nearby church of Santa Maria Novella.

During this period Dufay also began his long association with the Este family in Ferrara
Ferrara
Ferrara is a city and comune in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy, capital city of the Province of Ferrara. It is situated 50 km north-northeast of Bologna, on the Po di Volano, a branch channel of the main stream of the Po River, located 5 km north...

, some of the most important musical patrons of the Renaissance, and with which he probably had become acquainted during the days of his association with the Malatesta family; Rimini and Ferrara are not only geographically close, but the two families were related by marriage, and Dufay composed at least one ballade for Niccolò III, Marquis of Ferrara
Niccolò III d'Este
Niccolò III d'Este was Marquess of Ferrara from 1393 until his death. He was also a condottiero.-Biography:...

. In 1437 Dufay visited the town. When Niccolò died in 1441, the next Marquis maintained the contact with Dufay, and not only continued financial support for the composer but copied and distributed some of his music.

Return to Cambrai


The struggle between the papacy and the Council of Basel continued through the 1430s, and evidently Dufay realised that his own position might be threatened by the spreading conflict, especially since Pope Eugene was deposed in 1439 by the Council and replaced by Duke Amédée of Savoy himself, as Pope (Antipope
Antipope
An antipope is a person who opposes a legitimately elected or sitting Pope and makes a significantly accepted competing claim to be the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Roman Catholic Church. At times between the 3rd and mid-15th century, antipopes were typically those supported by a...

) Felix V
Antipope Felix V
-External links:*...

. At this time Dufay returned to his homeland, arriving in Cambrai by December of that year. In order to be a canon at Cambrai, he needed a law degree, which he obtained in 1437; he may have studied at University of Turin
University of Turin
The University of Turin is a university in the city of Turin in the Piedmont region of north-western Italy...

 in 1436. One of the first documents mentioning him in Cambrai is dated December 27, 1440, when he received a delivery of 36 lots of wine for the feast of St. John the Evangelist.

Dufay was to remain in Cambrai through the 1440s, and during this time he was also in the service of the Duke of Burgundy. While in Cambrai he collaborated with Nicolas Grenon
Nicolas Grenon
Nicolas Grenon was a French composer of the early Renaissance. He wrote in all the prevailing musical forms of the time, and was a rare case of a long-lived composer who learned his craft in the late 14th century but primarily practiced during the era during which the Renaissance styles were...

 on a complete revision of the liturgical musical collection of the cathedral, which included writing an extensive collection of polyphonic music for services. In addition to his musical work, he was active in the general administration of the cathedral. In 1444 his mother Marie died, and was buried in the cathedral; and in 1445 Dufay moved into the house of the previous canon, which was to remain his primary residence for the rest of his life.

Travels to Savoy and Italy


After the abdication of the last antipope (Felix V) in 1449, his own former employer Duke Amédée VIII of Savoy, the struggle between different factions within the Church began to heal, and Dufay once again left Cambrai for points south. He went to Turin in 1450, shortly before the death of Duke Amédée, but returned to Cambrai later that year; and in 1452 he went back to Savoy yet again. This time he did not return to Cambrai for six years, and during that time he attempted to find either a benefice or an employment which would allow him to stay in Italy. Numerous compositions, including one of the four Lamentationes that he composed on the Fall of Constantinople
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

 in 1453, his famous mass based on Se la face ay pale, as well as a letter to Lorenzo de' Medici
Lorenzo de' Medici
Lorenzo de' Medici was an Italian statesman and de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic during the Italian Renaissance. Known as Lorenzo the Magnificent by contemporary Florentines, he was a diplomat, politician and patron of scholars, artists and poets...

, survive from this period: but as he was unable to find a satisfactory position for his retirement, he returned north in 1458. While in Savoy he served more-or-less officially as choirmaster for Louis, Duke of Savoy
Louis, Duke of Savoy
Louis I was Duke of Savoy from 1440 until his death.-Life:...

, but he was more likely in a ceremonial role, since the records of the chapel never mention him.

Final years in Cambrai


When he returned to Cambrai for his final years, he was appointed canon of the cathedral. He was now the most renowned composer in Europe. Once again he established close ties to the court of Burgundy, and continued to compose music for them; in addition he received many visitors, including Busnois
Antoine Busnois
Antoine Busnois was a French composer and poet of the early Renaissance Burgundian School. While also noted as a composer of sacred music, such as motets, he was one of the most renowned 15th-century composers of secular chansons...

, Ockeghem
Johannes Ockeghem
Johannes Ockeghem was the most famous composer of the Franco-Flemish School in the last half of the 15th century, and is often considered the most...

, Tinctoris
Johannes Tinctoris
Johannes Tinctoris was a Flemish composer and music theorist of the Renaissance. He is known to have studied in Orléans, and to have been master of the choir there; he also may have been director of choirboys at Chartres...

, and Loyset Compère
Loyset Compère
Loyset Compère was a French composer of the Renaissance. Of the same generation as Josquin des Prez, he was one of the most significant composers of motets and chansons of that era, and one of the first musicians to bring the light Italianate Renaissance style to France.-Life:His exact place of...

, all of whom were decisive in the development of the polyphonic style of the next generation. During this period he probably wrote his mass based on L'homme armé
L'homme armé
L'homme armé was a French secular song from the time of the Renaissance. It was the most popular tune used for musical settings of the Ordinary of the Mass: over 40 separate compositions entitled Missa L'homme armé survive from the period....

, as well as the chanson on the same song; the latter composition may have been inspired by Philip the Good's call for a new crusade against the Turks, who had recently captured Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. He also wrote a Requiem
Requiem
A Requiem or Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead or Mass of the dead , is a Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular form of the Roman Missal...

 mass around 1460, which is lost.

After an illness of several weeks, Dufay died on November 27, 1474. He had requested that his motet Ave regina celorum be sung for him as he died, with pleas for mercy interpolated between verses of the antiphon, but time was insufficient for this to be arranged. Dufay was buried in the chapel of St. Etienne in the cathedral of Cambrai; his portrait was carved onto his tombstone. After the destruction of the cathedral the tombstone was lost, but it was found in 1859 (it was being used to cover a well), and is now in the Palais des Beaux Arts museum in Lille
Lille
Lille is a city in northern France . It is the principal city of the Lille Métropole, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country behind those of Paris, Lyon and Marseille. Lille is situated on the Deûle River, near France's border with Belgium...

.

Music and influence


Dufay was among the most influential composers of the 15th century, and his music was copied, distributed and sung everywhere that polyphony had taken root. Almost all composers of the succeeding generations absorbed some elements of his style. The wide distribution of his music is all the more impressive considering that he died several decades before the availability of music printing.

Dufay wrote in most of the common forms of the day, including mass
Mass (music)
The Mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the invariable portions of the Eucharistic liturgy to music...

es, motet
Motet
In classical music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions.-Etymology:The name comes either from the Latin movere, or a Latinized version of Old French mot, "word" or "verbal utterance." The Medieval Latin for "motet" is motectum, and the Italian...

s, Magnificat
Magnificat
The Magnificat — also known as the Song of Mary or the Canticle of Mary — is a canticle frequently sung liturgically in Christian church services. It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn...

s, hymn
Hymn
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification...

s, simple chant settings in fauxbourdon
Fauxbourdon
Fauxbourdon – French for false bass – is a technique of musical harmonisation used in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, particularly by composers of the Burgundian School. Guillaume Dufay was a prominent practitioner of the form, and may have been its inventor...

, and antiphon
Antiphon
An antiphon in Christian music and ritual, is a "responsory" by a choir or congregation, usually in Gregorian chant, to a psalm or other text in a religious service or musical work....

s within the area of sacred music, and rondeau
Rondeau (music)
The rondeau was a Medieval and early Renaissance musical form, based on the contemporary popular poetic rondeau form. It is distinct from the 18th century rondo, though the terms are likely related...

x, ballades, virelai
Virelai
A virelai is a form of medieval French verse used often in poetry and music. It is one of the three formes fixes and was one of the most common verse forms set to music in Europe from the late thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries.A virelai is similar to a rondeau...

s and a few other chanson types within the realm of secular music. None of his surviving music is specifically instrumental, although instruments were certainly used for some of his secular music, especially for the lower parts; all of his sacred music is vocal. Instruments may have been used to reinforce the voices in actual performance for almost any portion of his output. In his lifetime, Dufay wrote seven complete masses, 28 individual Mass movements, 15 settings of chant used in Mass Propers, three Magnificats, two Benedicamus Domino settings, 15 antiphon settings (6 are Marian antiphons), 27 hymns, 22 motets (13 are isorhythm
Isorhythm
Isorhythm is a musical technique that arranges a fixed pattern of pitches with a repeating rhythmic pattern.-Detail:...

ic) and 87 chansons. Assigning works to Dufay based on alleged stylistic similarities has been a favorite pastime of musicologists for at least a hundred years, judging from the copious literature on the subject.

Chant settings and fauxbourdon


Many of Dufay's compositions were simple settings of chant, obviously designed for liturgical use, likely as substitutes for the unadorned chant, and can be seen as chant harmonizations. Often the harmonization used a technique of parallel writing known as fauxbourdon
Fauxbourdon
Fauxbourdon – French for false bass – is a technique of musical harmonisation used in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, particularly by composers of the Burgundian School. Guillaume Dufay was a prominent practitioner of the form, and may have been its inventor...

, as in the following example, a setting of the Marian antiphon Ave maris stella:

Dufay may have been the first composer to use the term fauxbourdon to describe this style, which was prominent in 15th century liturgical music, especially that of the Burgundian school.

Secular music


Most of Dufay's secular songs follow the formes fixes
Formes fixes
A Forme fixé is any one of three fourteenth and fifteenth centuries French poetic forms, the ballade, rondeau and virelai...

 (rondeau
Rondeau (music)
The rondeau was a Medieval and early Renaissance musical form, based on the contemporary popular poetic rondeau form. It is distinct from the 18th century rondo, though the terms are likely related...

, ballade, and virelai), which dominated secular European music of the 14th and 15th centuries. He also wrote a handful of Italian ballate
Ballata
The ballata is an Italian poetic and musical form, which was in use from the late 13th to the 15th century. It has the musical structure AbbaA, with the first and last stanzas having the same texts. It is thus most similar to the French musical 'forme fixe' virelai...

, almost certainly while he was in Italy. As is the case with his motets, many of the songs were written for specific occasions, and many are datable, thus supplying useful biographical information.

Most of his songs are for three voices, using a texture dominated by the highest voice; the other two voices, unsupplied with text, were likely played by instruments. Occasionally Dufay used four voices, but in a number of these songs the fourth voice was supplied by a later, usually anonymous, composer. Typically he used the rondeau form when writing love songs. His latest secular songs show influence from Busnois and Ockeghem, and the rhythmic and melodic differentiation between the voices is less; as in the work of other composers of the mid-15th century, he was beginning to tend towards the smooth polyphony which was to become the predominant style fifty years later.

A typical ballade is Resvellies vous et faites chiere lye, which was written in 1423 for the marriage of Carlo Malatesta and Vittoria di Lorenzo Colonna (Carlo was a son of Malatesta dei Sonetti, Lord of Pesaro. Vittoria was the niece of Pope Martin V). The musical form is aabC for each stanza, with C being the refrain. The musical setting emphasizes passages in the text which specifically refer to the couple being married.

Writings on music theory


Two written works by Dufay have been documented, but neither has survived. A note in the margin in a manuscript held in the Biblioteca Nazionale Palatina in Parma
Parma
Parma is a city in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna famous for its ham, its cheese, its architecture and the fine countryside around it. This is the home of the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world....

 refers to a Musica which he wrote; no copy of the work itself has been found. Nineteenth-century musicologist François-Joseph Fétis
François-Joseph Fétis
François-Joseph Fétis was a Belgian musicologist, composer, critic and teacher. He was one of the most influential music critics of the 19th century, and his enormous compilation of biographical data in the Biographie universelle des musiciens remains an important source of information today...

 claimed to have seen a sixteenth-century copy of a Tractatus de musica mensurata et de proportionibus by Dufay, last seen in a bookshop in London in 1824. The contents of neither work are known.

Influence


Dufay was one of the last composers to make use of medieval techniques such as isorhythm
Isorhythm
Isorhythm is a musical technique that arranges a fixed pattern of pitches with a repeating rhythmic pattern.-Detail:...

, but one of the first to use the harmonies, phrasing and expressive melodies characteristic of the early Renaissance. His compositions within the larger genres (masses, motets and chansons) are mostly similar to each other; his renown is largely due to what was perceived as his perfect control of the forms in which he worked, as well as his gift for memorable and singable melody. During the 15th century he was universally regarded as the greatest composer of the time, and that belief has largely persisted to the present day.

The early music ensemble Dufay Collective
Dufay Collective
The Dufay Collective is an early-music ensemble from the United Kingdom, specializing in Medieval and Renaissance music. Founded in 1987, it was named after the Renaissance composer Guillaume Dufay. The group is directed by William Lyons...

 is named for the composer.

Sound samples







External links