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Thread: Guillaume Dufay

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    Senior Member humanbean's Avatar
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    Default Guillaume Dufay



    [Dufay (left) with Gilles Binchois (right.)]

    Born: August 5, 1397 (?) - Beersel, in the vicinity of Brussels (or Hainault) , Belgium
    Died: November 27, 1474 - Cambrai, Belgium

    Guillaume [Guillermus, Guiliemus, Gugliemus, Wilhelmus] Dufay [Dudais, Duffai, Du Fay, Du Fayt] was a Franco-Flemish composer and music theorist of the early Renaissance. As the central figure in the Burgundian School, he was the most famous and influential composer in Europe in the mid-15th century, and can be considered as the founding member of the Netherlands school which dominated European music for the next 150 years.

    Dufay's large musical output contained masterpieces of every genre, or style and type of music. Some types of his were:

    dramatic cycles
    cyclic masses
    isorhythmic motets
    simply ornamented hymns

    Dufay wrote eighty-seven motets, which were sacred vocal compositions in sontrapuntal style, without instrumental accompaniment. He also wrote fifty-nine chansons, which were songs, (originally ballad-like) most being French love songs. Seven Italian chansons were written as well. He made seven complete masses as well as thirty-five mass selections.
    Last edited by humanbean; Apr-30-2012 at 00:18.

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    Rob C. Wegman has noted that even in his 60s, Dufay was still carrying "every idiom to a plane of unprecedented artistic perfection." He deserves his place in music history.

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    Senior Member humanbean's Avatar
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    One of my favorite motets by him, and the one that instantly got me hooked on his music, is his Apostolo Glorioso. It sounds quite different from most works I've heard from the period. It has a very mystical quality to it:



    A few other favorites:

    Ce Moys de May
    Missa Sancti Jacobi
    Supremum Est Mortalibus
    Last edited by humanbean; Apr-30-2012 at 00:13.

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    Senior Member Giordano's Avatar
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    Missa Se La Face Ay Pale; Kyrie & Gloria - The Hilliard Ensemble
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOS81FeXGUY

    Missa Se La Face Ay Pale; Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei - Laudantes Consort
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZM_xrlPzeU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kE6NAhd8Gcg
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMYNfCLKTlQ


    Go to Spotify for Missa Se La Face Ay Pale performed by Diabolus in Musica, best recorded version, imo.
    Last edited by Giordano; Feb-06-2015 at 02:39.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    I will take the chansons over the sacred music. Dufay wrote some really wonderful tunes in the standard formes fixes, rondeau, ballad, and virelai.

    Here are two really good rondeau. The first has text for all four voices and uses imitation occasionally, which is unusual for chansons. The second is a three part chanson with text only in the superius and whole sections performed instrumentally:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD46dQIUpsM

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4esGXmuz4Qg
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Feb-06-2015 at 06:32.

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    Senior Member OboeKnight's Avatar
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    I really like this one. Although it is a Ballade, not a Ballata as the video says.

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    I love Dufay's use of harmony, really tasteful. I'm not sure I've really adapted to his use of form just yet but that Ballade sure knocked my socks off.

    At this point my favorite pre-Baroque composers are:

    Dufay
    Desprez
    Dowland
    Bull

    I like a mix of vocal and instrumental works.

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    Senior Member JSBach85's Avatar
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    Default Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474)

    Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474)



    Dufay was born near Cambrai around 1400, with recent documentary evidence presented by Alejandro Planchart suggesting the precise year 1397. By the mid-1420s, Dufay was already one of the most famous composers in Europe, having composed such landmark works as Adieu ces bons vins de Lannoys (in 3 parts) and Apostolo glorioso (in 5 parts), two of many compositions for which a specific historical occasion can be identified. The outlines of his career begin to take on greater clarity by 1428 when he was appointed to the Papal Choir, where he remained until 1433. The extent of Dufay's compositional activity during this period, including both hymns and plainchant along with more dramatic isorhythmic motets such as Ecclesie militantis (also in 5 parts), is only now being fully appraised. In the 1430s, Dufay is associated with some of the most important musical events in Italy, in Ferrara, Savoy, Florence, etc. By 1440, he returned to Cambrai to take up one of his absentee posts, only to go back to spend most of the 1450s in Savoy, and then return permanently to Cambrai. He continued composing there, including the cantilena motet Ave regina celorum (in 4 parts) as specified to be performed at his deathbed. Together with his activities as a composer, Dufay was a man of broad ability. He was a doctor of canon law, and was summoned to consult on numerous ecclesiastical events. He had documented contact with such other famous musical names as Binchois, Ockeghem and Squarcialupi, and owned various prebends and benefices over a broad area. By the time he settled permanently in Cambrai, he was a rich and powerful man, a truly cosmopolitan figure of keen judgement and broad influence.

    The survival of individual pieces within Dufay's impressive musical output has been somewhat haphazard. However, the many harmonized chants he wrote mostly early in his career form the bulk of it. These consist of frequently straight-forward elaborations on plainchant, setting it in a harmonic context. Although relatively simple music, Dufay's gift for beautiful melody and clear harmonic direction is frequently evident. This repertory, much of it associated with the Vatican, also gives a historical indication of the increased role of liturgical polyphony during the period. In addition, it has been discovered that Dufay wrote plainchant himself, further broadening the scope of his output. During this period, Dufay also wrote a wide range of secular songs as well as various mass sections and complex isorhythmic motets for special occasions. The songs are among his most consistent and characteristic creations, with nearly a hundred of them surviving from all stages of his career. Together with those of Binchois, Dufay's songs are among the most charming and indicative compositions of the early Renaissance, especially as they reflect more vertically-oriented textures and compact phrasings than those of the previous generation. Dufay's early songs already show this style with full mastery, illustrating his most facile & exuberant command of melody and counterpoint.

    Dufay was the last great exponent of the isorhythmic style, and his large-scale festival motets such as Nuper rosarum flores (in 4 parts) are among the most spectacular creations of the period. This is the area in which Dufay's music most directly continues that of the previous generation, and it is also an area in which his stylistic development is clear. The mass movements in particular show a progression from isolated works of varying complexity, to partially linked cycles, to cycles linked in relatively simple ways, to the four "cantus firmus" masses of Dufay's late career. These cantus firmus masses in four parts are his most famous works today, and were apparently instrumental in solidifying the position of this genre as central to the development of fifteenth century music. Dufay's style in these masses can be viewed as a combination of the complex & angular isorhythmic technique with the more fluid & straight-forward hymn writing. This was an important synthesis which he accomplished in some of his late motets (called "cantilena" motets to distinguish them from the isorhythmic variety), as well as in the later mass cycles such as the Missa Ecce ancilla Domini and Missa Ave regina celorum. They represent the definitive style followed by the next generations.

    Salve flos Tusce, isorhythmic motet for 4 voices: This solemn, outwardly earnest motet is one of Dufay's two compositions in praise of the Florentines, who were his protectors during one of his stays as a member of the Papal Chapel there from 1435 - 1437. Those years in Florence were one of the most fruitful periods of the first part of Dufay's career; it is no surprise that he was grateful to his keepers. The isorhythmic pattern seems to begin immediately, as there is no two-part introduction, and all four voices enter simultaneously. During the whole initial section, the two lower parts move so slowly that their note changes barely function melodically at all. Instead, the bottom parts are weighty pedals that give the music a terrible sense of grave heaviness that lifts only gradually throughout the piece as the music speeds up. That very heaviness increases the meditative lyricism of the music, and is the definitive aspect of its character.

    This is one of my favourite motets, sometimes reminds me the Cantus Firmus "L'homme Arme" setting in Renaissance Polyphony. My favourite performance is Paul van Nevel / Capella Sancti Michaelis with instruments doubling voices and a male choir:



    Other performances I like in order are Hilliard Ensemble (male choir) with the excellent bass-baritone Michael George and finally Lucien Kandel / Ensemble Musica Nova with excelent pronunciation and respecting Cantus Firmus:




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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    Interesting post about a composer I very much admire, thanks for the information. To my ears Machaut was the harmonic master of Medieval music and Dufay was the harmonic master of the Renaissance, and Bach the harmonic master of the Baroque.

    I love the beautiful harmonies in this piece:


    Here are some beautiful Isorhythmic Motets one could say are like a bridge between the Medieval and Renaissance eras of music. Dufay was this kind of transitional figure just as Monteverdi was the bridge between the Renaissance and Baroque:

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