Guillaume Dufay (c.1400-1474)

(Guillaume Dufay, on the left, and Binchois)

Guillaume Dufay was born arround the year 1400 in Cambrai, in France, and soon became a choir boy in his home town's Cathedral. Arround 1420 he travels to Bolonga and after that to Rime, in 1428, remaining there untill 1433, as a singer in the papal chapel. After, he returns to France, where he meets Gilles Binchois, one of the other great names of music of the time, and in 1439 he returns to Cambrai, perhaps due to a connection to the Borguogne court, but that remains uncertain.

In the beggining of the 15th century there was already a vas tradition of poliphonic composition in France, inherited from composers such as Machaut and Dunstaple, among others, and there this tradition developped further through the 15th century, and  we find Dufay in the middle of  this whirl of creativity and musical innivation, and indeed he is the one composer that in the 15th century more fame and esteem achieves in Europe, due to his talent in poliphinic writing. In fact, we find very often in several musical compillations all over Europoe copies and notes on his compositions. 

We have been left about 200 works by Dufay, among them about 84 songs and 4 masses, in which Dufay's great originality an harmonic creativity are so evident. The harmonies are delightfull and inviting, the melodies wharm, and in it's whole his works (mainly religious) result in a musical greatness that is indeed remarkable. His profane songs are poeticaly very well concieved, and its sensuality is quite according to the courtly taste of the time: they are the finest examples of the gendre in they'r time. 

Today, we have already a reazonable knowladge on the musical practices of the time, an both modern recordings and public presentations of his works in concert can give us a rewarding glimpse on the colourfull stained glasses that the works of Guillaume Dufay are.


Recommended recordings:

The complete isorrythmic motets (13 motets): Huelgas Ensembe, dir. Paul Van Nevel, Harmonia Mundi.

The complete profane works: " Dufay - Complete Secular Music", The Medieval Ensemble of London, Peter Davies & Timohy Davies, L'Oiseau-Lyre.   

"Cancioneiro de Montecassino": " Veni Sancte Spiritus", "Miserere Nostri", "Magnificat", La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Jordi Savall, AliaVox.


Guillaume Dufay: isorythic motet