Miniature from Le Champion des Dames, French, 15th century
Dufay, on the left, with a portative organ, and his fellow
composer Gilles de Binchois (c. 1400-1460) with a harp,
representing sacred and secular music.
Dufay was the
foremost Franco-Flemish composer of the fifteenth century.
Born near Cambrai in northern France, he began his musical
career as a choirboy in the city's cathedral. Here his
musical gifts came to the attention of the bishop, who
encouraged his development. He spent a large part of his
adult years living and travelling in Europe, including a
period between 1428 and 1436 as a singer in the Papal choir
in Rome. Dufay became the leading composer of the culturally
important Burgundian court, and his patrons extended to the
highest levels of Church and State, including the powerful
courts of France, the Netherlands, and Italy.
Dufay's development was, therefore, subject to several
influences. His musical style grew out of a synthesis of the
late-medieval French traditions (such as Ars Nova) and the
early Renaissance styles that he absorbed from his travels
in Italy. A further element derived from the influence of
England's John Dunstable, who was present with Dufay at
Burgundy. Dunstable emphasized a more natural, expressive
sound in polyphony; this fresh approach coincided with the
Humanist and Renaissance tendency towards the exploration of
Essentially, Dufay's good fortune was to be in the right
place at the right time and to possess the talent to make
the best of the situation; his position at the Burgundian
court allowed him to use the best singers and
instrumentalists available. Without being particularly
innovative, his compositions were technically sophisticated
as well as notably melodic. He wrote many of his works for
the noble families of Europe, for whom he undertook
commissions; these works often commemorated public or social
events, or accompanied religious occasions.
Utilizing ideas promoted by other composers, Dufay
established himself at the forefront of the changes taking
place in church music. During his lifetime, the Mass assumed
an increasing importance as the main form of sacred musical
expression; and Dufay composed a number of complete
polyphonic settings of the Mass, often merging secular with
liturgical themes (as was becoming common in the fifteenth
He also wrote a substantial amount of purely secular music,
particularly ron-deaux, which were smaller-scale, more
intimate chansons than the ballades favoured by
fourteenth-century tastes. Many of his rondeaux give clear
indications of Dufay's ability to embrace new technical
ideas — he uses dissonant sounds, for example, in Мои снег
те fait on the recommended recording. His chansons also
showed a new flexibility: this was due to the increased use
of higher voices (pioneered in part by Machaut), which meant
that composers could write for a wider vocal range. Often
his music is suffused with emotions of love and tenderness,
and would possibly have been accompanied by an instrument
such as the medieval harp.
In 1436 Pope Eugene IV granted Dufay the canonicate to his
home-town cathedral of Cambrai. He finally settled there
around the year 1458, and remained until his death in 1474.
Painting by the Master of the St Lucy Legend, с 1485 Detail
from Mary Queen of Heaven showing three medieval recorders,
a harp, a dulcimer, and a lute.
Missa l'Homme Armé
L'Homme Arme was a
monophonic melody with political and satirical strains.
Dufay made one of the first versions of it in a polyphonic
setting in his Missa L’Homme Arme. The beginning of the
cycle is designed so that, in the absence of instrumental
accompaniment, the cantus firmus is virtually
indistinguishable until near the end of the Gloria. The
tenor sings the cantus firmus, overlapped by the bass line
and other voices that conceal the melody of L'Homme Arme. If
this were played by instrumentalists, rather than vocalists,
the tone quality of the varying instruments would serve to
open up all the parts to the ear, thus illuminating the
cantus firmus as well. This hidden quality of Missa L’Homme
Arme suggests the playfulness of Dufay with his
armé' 1 - Kyrie 2 - Gloria 3 - Credo 4 - Sanctus 5 - Agnus Dei
The Hilliard Ensemble Paul Hillier
Guillaume Dufay : "Ave Maris Stella"
Missa ecce ancilla domini - Kyrie
Dufay: Salve, flos
flower of Tuscany, we salute you; hail, O rich mother, who feeds so many learned people, gives birth to so many great in wisdom and faith, so many who excel in righteousness, so many who shine in ecclesiastical grandeur.
Hail: each form of learning owes a tribute to you, everything concerning talent and literature. Hail: your fame has spread all over the world, you send out your sons and take them to the stars. Thus my song sounded, thus our melodious voices
received acclaim, without even trying to fetch a prize or reward. I never tire of composing and we sing unflaggingly, as long as you can live, sung in my song!
And you, girls, glory of Tuscany, we salute you! We have in our blood, no life without love! In their portals they stand, beautiful as nymphs, elegant as naiads, proud as amazons, like Venus, with abundant suitors. Each man fervently desires to embrace and kiss them blissfully; whoever sees them once, is caught in the net of love. This, you goddesses of the world, was sung forever after by me, Guillaume, your servant, born Dufay!
Guillaume Dufay -
Mon bien, m'amour et ma maistresse
Mon bien, m'amour
et ma maistresse Esse ce que m'avés promis? Mis m'avés hors du sens rassis, Six foys m'avés fait grande rudesse.
De ce vous requiers, ma princesse, Cesser: a vous seray toudis. Mon bien, m'amour et ma maistresse Esse ce que m'avés promis?
Dix ans a que vostre noblesse Blessié m'a au cuer et soupris; Pris m'a trop fort a mon advis: Advisez que j'aye lyesse.
Mon bien, m'amour et ma maistresse Esse ce que m'avés promis? Mis m'avés hors du sens rassis, Six foys m'avés fait grande rudesse.