GUILLAUME DUFAY (1397 - 1474)
Generally regarded as the leading composer of his time, Guillaume Dufay was born in Cambrai around the beginning of the 15th century. A chorister at Cambrai Cathedral, he was briefly in the service of the Malatesta family in Italy, and after a further period at home returned to join the papal choir in 1428. He was subsequently involved with a number of ruling families in Italy, including the d’Estes of Ferrara and the rulers of Savoy, before returning to Cambrai, where he retained a position as canon of the cathedral until his death. Dufay represents the generation influenced by the English composer John Dunstable and forming the so-called Burgundian or First Netherlands School of composers, flourishing in the territory ruled by the Dukes of Burgundy but widespread in its own influence as the predominant Renaissance musical style.
Dufay wrote a considerable quantity of church music. These compositions include a number of Mass settings, with one based on the most popular secular cantus firmus L’homme armé, one on his own secular ballade Se la face ay pale and another on his Marian antiphon Ave regina caelorum. He asked for the Marian antiphon-motet Ave regina caelorum to be sung on his death-bed. His isorhythmic motet (a work using a particular rhythmic structural device developed in the previous century) Nuper rosarum flores was performed at the dedication of the Brunelleschi dome in Florence in 1436. His motet O très piteulx / Omnes amici, a lament for the fall of Constantinople in 1453, was probably sung at the extravagant Banquet of the Oath of the Pheasant given by Philippe the Good of Burgundy at Lille in 1454, when an attempt was made to raise a Crusade to free the old Eastern capital of the Roman Empire.
Dufay wrote more than 70 chansons, setting verses in the fashionable forms of the time—the ballade, the virelai and rondeau. It would be invidious to make distinction between many of these, the majority in the form of rondeaux, although Adieu ces bons vins de Lannoys strikes a note of poetic nostalgia that may arouse sympathy.